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Safe Disposal of Radioactive Cat Waste From a Hyperthyroid Cat

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Safe Disposal of Radioactive Cat Waste - Step 1 - The Law and the Dilemma
Picture of California Sea Otter in Monterey Bay

California Sea Otter in Monterey Bay

Photo Credit: © i-StockPhoto/David Gomez

Problem: Complying with state laws regarding the disposal of radioactive waste in a multi-cat household.

My hyperthyroid cat Joey recently had radioactive iodine therapy, and is recuperating nicely at home, however he and his bodily excretions (urine, feces, and vomit) will be radioactive for awhile. The instructions for disposal of his waste as dictated by California law are:
  1. For one month post treatment clumpable, flushable litter must be used and all waste disposed of in the sewer. Absolutely no waste or soiled material can be disposed of in the garbage. All garbage dumps have sensitive radiation detectors which will detect the radioactivity and can trace the garbage load back to your location (with subsequent heavy fines). Any waste not disposed of in the sewer must be bagged and held for three months, prior to disposal.
  2. It is recommended that the litter box be kept in a minimally occupied area such as a bathroom, laundry room, or garage.
  3. Wash your hands after disposing of waste in the sewer.
  4. Pregnant women and children should not handle the soiled litter.
  5. Should your cat soil or vomit inside your house, clean the area thoroughly while wearing rubber gloves. If paper towels are used for cleanup, the towels must be bagged and held for at least 80 days prior to disposal in routing trash. If rags are used for clean up, the rags must be washed separately in a washing machine. If the urine or vomit has soaked into garments, carpets, or furniture, the items should be washed thoroughly. Garments may be washed separately in a washing machine.

The Dilemma:

Two factors make it unfeasible to comply to the letter of this law with regard to flushing the waste into the sewer.
  1. In a four-cat household it is impossible to confine Joey's waste to one litter box, and flushing the waste of four cats down the toilet numerous times a day poses potential plumbing problems.
  2. California state law strongly suggests NOT disposing of cat litter through the sewer, because sewage treatment plants are not presently capable of eliminating the Toxoplasma gondii virus which might be present in cat waste. As part of a bill passed to protect the coastal sea otters from infection and death from toxoplasmosis, CA law mandates this warning on bags of flushable cat litter:

    "The State of California encourages the disposal of cat feces in trash and discourages flushing cat feces in toilets or disposing of them in drains."
Since radioactive cat waste must be held for 90 days before disposing in the trash, I devised a sanitary, workable arrange for compliance with both laws.

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