My neighbor’s cat used my vegetable garden as a litter box. Is it safe to plant and eat the vegetables from this garden?
I am writing with a question about gardening in cat poop. I have a neighbor whose cat (which I consider feral due to negligence both medical and otherwise) used my newly expanded garden as his litter box all last fall, and will likely this spring. I am concerned about parasites and toxoplasmosis as well. Is it safe for myself and my family to garden in and eat from these gardens? I would remove any ‘chunks’ that I see, but wonder if it would it be best to replace the soil? My children likely won’t wash all their veggies before consuming them. They are free to pick and eat beans, cukes, tomatoes, etc., and always have been. I don’t believe it would be an easy habit to break. Thank you so much for your time!
Lynne M. Holland, Community Education Assistant, Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties
I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that if the “litterbox” activity ended last Fall then after a “scoop” of any visible piles you should be fine. Anything in the soil itself has been killed by the winter weather extremes.
The bad news is that unless you stop the cat from getting in there once the snow melts this spring, you will not be able to use this bed for edible plants. I suggest covering the entire bed in a mulch fabric as soon as possible (even if there is a little snow). Normally, I would say newspaper or seaweed could work, but, I think in this case a material such as landscape cloth or landscape plastic would be best. Then I would get some chicken wire or some hardware cloth and surround the garden bed completely so the cat moves on to other spaces. It doesn’t appear that talking to the neighbor is an option so you might also want to consider covering any sandbox-type play areas early in the season as well.
Cats are creatures of habit so if you can deter them early in the season you can make them learn a new habit. The secondary benefit is that you will have a mulched bed and if it is a dark color mulch, your soil will warm up soon. When it is time to plant, cut a small hole in the fabric or plastic where you want to plant, dig a hole, and place the plant in the hole.