Should a child clean the cat litter box?

Child of 7 cleans litter box successfully and leaves things tidy
Child of 7 cleans litter box successfully and leaves things tidy. The picture of the child comes from the Irish Times. The litter box picture is from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. The final image is by MikeB after quite a lot or ‘processing’ 😎.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Should a child clean the cat litter box? It depends πŸ˜ƒ. 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.

No

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

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.

Precautions

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:

Jackson Galaxy

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.

Below are some more articles on cat litter boxes:

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