My 7-year-old peach tree has so much fruit this year but I am so afraid to eat it because a dead cat was found near it. It was on a winter night when we heard some noises of animals that seemed like they were attacking each other. I did not know it until I started cleaning dried leaves that had somehow buried the cat for a while. I am afraid that the cat’s decomposed matter may have gone in the dirt surrounding my tree and might cause the tree to be unsafe to eat. Is it unsafe to eat my peaches?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Telly in California: I can understand your concern but in nature this is what happens and to my knowledge there is nothing that the plant would be able to take up that would make the peaches unsafe to consume. As the cat goes through different decomposition phases it will release different nutrients into the soil. The time frame of this process obviously depends on the time of the year the death occurs and how much insect/scavenger activity there is but ultimately, this is beneficial in terms of nutrient levels of the soil. It can increase the nitrogen, potassium, ammonium, calcium, and chloride, among other essential elements to improve soil fertility. It may seem a bit unorthodox but if this happened in the “wild” and we ate the peaches they would taste normal and have no adverse side effects, so go ahead and enjoy your homegrown peaches. If you are interested in reading a scientific article on the decomposition of mammals and the affect on soil conditions check out http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1256&context=entomologyfacpub&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar_url%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fdigitalcommons.unl.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1256%2526context%253Dentomologyfacpub%26sa%3DX%26scisig%3DAAGBfm2HbdvOxbyrvfUAYCFcdYUetaVcgQ%26oi%3Dscholarr#search=%22http%3A%2F%2Fdigitalcommons.unl.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1256%26context%3Dentomologyfacpub%22