Can I Use Worms To Compost Dog (or Cat) Poo?
People love their pets and most are responsible owners who pick up their dog’s poo. A minority of pet owners still don’t. Those who do not subject others to potential health hazards and those who do are stuck trying to figure out how to responsibly dispose of it.
Sending dog poo to the landfill (even in biodegradable bags) can send high nitrogen runoff into water sources and cause algae blooms that rob fish and other water creatures of oxygen.
So today’s discussion is about one responsible method to dispose of pet poo that can also be safe with a few precautions…vermicompost it.
The short answer to the question can I use worms to compost dog poo? is YES. Worms have been eating and composting poo of all types for millennia, dog poo isn’t anything new for them. HOWEVER, there are some health precautions that should be followed. Dog and cat poo can contain some nasty microorganisms that can potentially make someone very sick. Toxoplasmosis, E. Coli, salmonella and potentially helminth (parasitic worms) eggs for example. Precautionary measures should be used such as:
- Wear gloves
- Never touch poo barehanded and preferably use tools.
- Keep pet poo tools separate from those used in your other worm bins or vegetable garden,
- Use good hygiene, soap and water and a good hand washing is still necessary.
- Never use the compost from dog or cat poo on edible plants.
- Keep pet poo composting bins away from water supplies.
- Feed ONLY pet poo to pet poo bins.
- When doing this with cat litter box contents DO NOT add the entire contents (litter). You’ll end up with a ball of clay that becomes anaerobic and could harm your worms. The exception is if you’re using a non clay litter like Yesterday’s News Brand made from newspaper.
When you’re stooping and scooping, think about the bags you’re using.
Regular plastic bags are a poor choice, they don’t decompose well so you’ll have to rip and empty all the bags into your bin.
Compostable bags are designed to decompose in the presence of heat (a compost pile). A worm composter doesn’t get hot enough.
Degradable (as opposed to biodegradable) break down into smaller pieces but the remnants of plastic will remain.
Biodegradable bags should be your #1 choice. These decompose through microbial action and there should be plenty of that in your worm compost setup.
So How Do I do it?
Vermicomposting pet poo should be done outdoors, well away from water supplies (leaching), away from outdoor living spaces, and away from edible garden crops and away from your other worm bins. In colder climates digging a hole 2-3 feet (0.6-1m) deep and partially burying an old trash can with the bottom cut out is a good start. Place a layer of old soaked leaves or shredded and soaked cardboard in the bottom, add your worms if you wish (or let the native worms work on it) and begin adding your pet poo as you collect it. Cover each poo deposit with a handful of leaves or cardboard (to avoid odours and lower the number of flies buzzing around).
When the can is almost full you can start another can or lift the original can off the pile of partly composted poo and start a new hole. Cover the pile with a tarp or something to cure for a few months, then spread it on ornamental bushes or flowers.
This video show a very similar backyard pet poo composter to what I described. Skip the Rid-X or septic starter when using worms.