pets and permaculture: composting poo

So my kid wanted a pet. This was discussed for quite awhile before we agreed that she was responsible enough to take care of a small animal herself. Because, if it’s your pet, you are cleaning up after it. That’s the way it goes around here.

The next task was to figure out what kind of small animal. Fur was high on the priority list (skinny pigs, anyone? UGH), as was a personable personality. We have friends with rats; they are personable enough (both the friends AND the rats) but I was looking for MORE. I didn’t want to have a pet that was JUST a pet.

I’ve been doing some more in-depth learning about permaculture for the past year or so, and one of the tenets concerns the functions of the items allowed in a system. If all the parts of our living arrangement – house, land, indoors and out – are all segments of a living system that we create to serve our needs, then it makes sense that we would consider the functions of every single thing that we allow into our system.

pets and permaculture - stacking functions‘Stacking’, in permaculture, is the idea of things having more than one function. It’s a tree that provides shade as well as fruit, or a bench that also has built-in storage space for the plethora of kids’ toys clogging up the system. The more functions the better, right? Especially when dealing with limited space, as we are, in the city. When it comes to pets, it only makes sense that they should also have more than one function. 

We considered the system. We are expanding our garden space (in the front yard!) but we have limited space for year-round composting. This is why we ended up getting a rabbit. He is fluffy and cuddly and mostly house trained, which suits my daughter’s preferences. His poops are mild enough to be used on the garden straight from the source, which suits MY preferences. I had fantastic peppers this year, grown in rabbit manure from a friend’s compost pile. I’m looking forward to next season, when I can use Bunny’s contribution in our front yard garden.

Would you like to use your pet’s waste in your garden? Dogs and cats can contribute their waste as well, but it needs to be composted first because it will burn plants when fresh. And could also spread disease.

Here are some links to other sites that show you how:

DIY Dog Waste Composter

How to Compost Your Cat’s Litter

Rabbit manure can be put in the garden right away, but my growing beds are not ready for that yet. For now, we’ve got some straw bales set up as a sort of square corral in the backyard, and that’s where the waste is dumped when the cage gets cleaned. In the spring, when we build up the beds, we will use the straw as well as the rabbit manure. The straw will be mostly used for mulch and pathways, and it will gradually work its way into the soil and add nutrition.

Spring seems like a long time away from now, but I’m sure it will be here before we know it!