Cat used our vegetable garden as a litterbox.
October 16, 2013 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Can we still eat it? The vegetables, I mean.

A few months ago, we were told to clear several newly planted containers (the long rectangular plastic ones) off our balcony as part of preparing for the entire building to get repainted. We put them in the backyard, which is shared by the downstairs units, and when we retrieved them three weeks later discovered that the neighbors' indoor/outdoor cat had left solid presents in one of the pots. It might have peed in there too, I don't know - we're in San Francisco and soil tends to dry out fast.

Only one thing (I think it's a carrot) ever sprouted in that pot (we aren't the most attentive gardeners anyway), but is the soil still safe for growing edible things? Leaf vegetables only? Fruiting vegetables only?
posted by casarkos to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sure. Nature's fertiliser. This is why you wash vegetables.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:29 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Weelllll....while manure is a great fertilizer in general, domestic pet feces is not the best manure. There are a number of viruses and parasites they can carry, and I personally don't think it's worth the risk to try to grow vegetables in soil that might harbor that stuff. I'd toss out and start over.
posted by Miko at 9:45 PM on October 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Some poop makes great compost, some doesn't... namely things that eat meat like people and cats/dogs. Using cow manure, either as its or in compost is pretty straightforward. Google Humanure or something like 'compost cat poop' and things start getting complicated.

Our cat peed in our potted plants too, until we gave her a decoy. I think she just liked the nice loose potting soil. (Yes, she has an indoor litter box too!)
posted by jrobin276 at 10:25 PM on October 16, 2013


I would not re-use that soil for growing food, no. Why risk it? Cat feces can have bad stuff in it, it's not just an irrational "yuck" factor.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:28 PM on October 16, 2013


I would decide based on the volume of soil and how much it would cost to replace. In this case, it looks pretty minimal, so I would start fresh before starting a little vegetable garden.
posted by pracowity at 12:57 AM on October 17, 2013


If you decide to keep growing things in it, I'd avoid offering those vegetables to pregnant women, or any women of childbearing age without warning them first. Toxoplasmosis is a problem for pregnant women and fetuses.
posted by lollusc at 1:03 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was going to advise washing and eating until I got to the containers part. No, I wouldn't eat that. It's a pretty closed system. Replace the soil and start over.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:17 AM on October 17, 2013


If cat poo was as bad as some people here claim it to be we'd all be long dead. Cats have been going in gardens since they first learned how to piss people off. Remove the solids and go to town. FYI the soil is probably a bit rich in nitrogen at the moment.
posted by Gungho at 7:08 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


A container? I would replace the soil.
posted by fancyoats at 7:08 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


If cat poo was as bad as some people here claim it to be we'd all be long dead.

Perhaps not death, but how about insidious or horrible? Toxoplasmosis, for example. Incidence of congential toxoplasmosis is evident in 1/1000 and 1/10000 live births in New England.

Clinical manifestations of toxoplasmosis in fetuses and neonates vary. The typical triad of hydrocephalus, chorioretinitis, and intracranial calcifications does not always occur. Hepatosplenomegaly, thrombocytopenia, microcephaly, convulsions, fever, and small-for-gestational-age newborns all suggest Toxoplasma. Nevertheless, most neonates are asymptomatic at birth on routine pediatric examination. Deafness, mental retardation, and learning difficulties are often detected only later in life.

Then there are the nematodes. A zoonotic infection of roundworms or hookworms can result in visceral larval migrans or cutaneous larval migrans. It may not be death, but I'd consider parasitic worms living in my eye or under my skin to be bad.

And it's all easily avoidable. The soil should definitely be discarded, and the container cleaned out. Wear gloves.
posted by Seppaku at 7:27 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since it's a container, it is only mildly inconvenient to dump and refill from fresh.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:35 AM on October 17, 2013


If you think that the farms where supermarket veggies come from don't have cats, dogs, rats, humans, etc pooping in the fields, you're wrong.

Wash em and eat em.
posted by windykites at 9:09 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, misread the question, thought there was already veg growing.

If it's going to stress you out, you might as well change the soil.
posted by windykites at 9:11 AM on October 17, 2013


If you think that the farms where supermarket veggies come from don't have cats, dogs, rats, humans, etc pooping in the fields, you're wrong.

Industrial pesticides on large commercial farms generally render animal waste in farm fields a complete nonissue, sadly. The feces that turns up on commercial produce is usually from one of two sources: human (agricultural workers), or runoff from nearby animal processing.
posted by Miko at 9:28 AM on October 17, 2013


Perhaps not death, but how about insidious or horrible? Toxoplasmosis,

We are talking about eating something yet to be grown, so unless these toxins can grow in tomatoes I think it'll be alright.
posted by Gungho at 1:25 PM on October 17, 2013


windykites: "If you think that the farms where supermarket veggies come from don't have cats, dogs, rats, humans, etc pooping in the fields, you're wrong."

If you think that dilution of poop works the same in a small plastic container as it does in a field, you're wrong.

I have a sizable container garden and grow nothing but edible plants, and I typically err on the side of salvaging any vegetable and not getting alarmist about the messiness of nature. But cat poop is actually a for-reals risk, and one container isn't such a large volume of potting mix that it can't be easily replaced.
posted by desuetude at 7:04 PM on October 17, 2013


unless these toxins can grow in tomatoes I think it'll be alright

The concern is intracellular parasitic protozoa (ie. Toxoplasma gondii, cystosporidium, giardia) that linger for quite a long time in the soil. They are not toxins that will be integrated into a vegetable grown in the soil, but rather living, infectious agents contaminating the soil.

So next spring, when planting a new crop of carrots or what have you, you could be wrist deep in soil containing millions of encysted protozoa. Then you wipe the corner of your mouth, or rub your nose, or leave a titch of soil underneath your fingernails, ingesting an oocyst, and it's game on for team protozoa.
posted by Seppaku at 6:41 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


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