Cat pooped in compost pile...

Asked April 8, 2020, 4:15 PM EDT

I am trying to figure out whether it would still be safe to use my compost in my food garden beds, after my cat pooped in it. This is a compost pile that I have not tended in about two years, and as far as I know there has been no new cat poop in that span of time. I removed what little there still was off the top layer, and sifted through it to ensure there was no more. If I were to properly tend it for the next year, would it be safe to use next season? Or perhaps safe to use already? I would hate to waste the compost, as its looking pretty good. Thanks for any insight.

Jackson County Oregon

1 Response

Hi,

Cat feces can contain a parasite that causes Toxoplasmosis. Because you know that the compost is contaminated it does pose a human pathogen risk if used on edible plants. The safest option would be to use this compost on non-edible garden plants (avoid breathing in the dust and make sure to wash your hands after handling the material). You could also carefully apply the compost to edible plants where the edible portion does not come into contact with the ground, for example around the base of fruit trees. Another option would be to incorporate this compost into a new compost pile that you manage appropriately to kill pathogens. One scientifically validated process for a turned compost pile involves maintaining aerobic conditions at a minimum of 131°F for 15 days, with a minimum of five turnings, followed by adequate curing. This can be difficult to do in a home compost pile.

For more information about food safety in the home garden this publication from the University of California is a good resource: https://ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk7366/files/inline-files/203224.pdf