Should a child clean the cat litter box? It depends 😃. Hardly an answer. But it depends on:
- The age of the child
- How well they have been trained to do the task
- Whether they take precautions.
My gut feeling is that it is beneficial for a child to clean the litter box as it educates on the issue of taking responsibility for the family cat. It is vital that children learn as soon as possible that the world is a tough place and that things are not just there, free. Life is not always fun. A good learning process is to clean the litter box. But it is a personal choice of the parents.
A lot of moms would disagree. The authors of the website ‘Hello Motherhood’ say with complete conviction, “Do not assign this responsibility to younger children. Have an adult or teenager tend to litter duty.” After listing all the hazards. And there are hazards but sometimes they are overstated and exaggerated.
Cats use the litter box!
We let our cats use the litter tray all the time. Cats have a similar anatomy to humans. Very few cat owners think that their cat should not use the litter tray because it is dangerous. Same difference.
Age of child
The age bracket of 7-12 is considered by some to be acceptable for a child to clean the litter tray provided they’ve been trained correctly. What do you think?
Training a child on litter tray cleaning must include the topic of toxoplasmosis. A domestic cat might have an endoparasite infestation and for example tapeworm segments can be passed in their stool but I don’t see a great danger here except with toxoplasmosis. People are frightened of it and many domestic cats have it asymptomatically.
I think we need to briefly address the risk and fears. Cats become infected by Toxoplasma gondii through eating infected birds or rodents and rarely by ingesting oocysts in soil. Or they get the disease by eating raw or undercooked pork, beef, mutton, veal and sometimes unpasteurised milk.
Reading this brief summary, it would seem unlikely that the millions of full-time indoor cats feeding on standard cat food will become infected.
Most adults don’t take any particular precautions but a child can be taught to be more careful in protecting their health which is more fragile. What should they do? I’d do the following:
- Wear disposable gloves
- Use cleaning materials such as a scrub brush, or sponge that is only for litter box cleaning to avoid cross contamination of other objects that need cleaning using the same equipment and
- Wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling litter dust. This is moot point because we allow kittens and adult cats to inhale litter dust. Strange❓ I think cat owners need to check that the litter substrate they buy is not dusty like lightweight litter which is convenient for humans but arguable dangerous for cats.
I rate Jackson Galaxy highly. He is very sensible and experienced. What does he say? In his words from Total Cat Mojo:
“Should a six-year-old be scooping a litterbox? It depends on the child. But generally, you can a least have your child assist you with the food, water and litterbox duties.”
There you are: a neat compromise. And he does accept that some children will be okay is cleaning litter trays. Like I said, it depends.
Perhaps in following Galaxy’s advice in sharing these cat caretaking duties a thoughtful and caring child will learn what to do and how to eliminate risks. Then they will be ready to go it alone and one day when they are independent be an excellent caretaker.
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