Litter Boxes and Crawling Babies: An Apartment-Dweller’s Dilemma

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 9:00am
Baby and cat napping on blanket

Guest blog by Alicia Meulensteen, a mom of two who works in Development at the ASPCA.

Just when you think you’re getting a handle on the whole baby thing, your little ones change the game as they become mobile.

A crawling, standing and cruising baby turns formerly harmless items into hazards. Children have an uncanny ability to find things you didn’t even know were on the floor—and shove them into their mouths. Pet toys, cat hair and other odds and ends became increasingly difficult to keep away from our little ones.

Then there was the litter box. I could tolerate my children eating a bit of sand at the playground, or sampling the odd fistful of cat hair (it builds immunity, right?), but the thought of baby’s hands anywhere near a litter box was too much. Our family lives in an apartment, so we don’t have the option of putting the box in the basement or elsewhere—we needed to be a bit more creative.

Our solution was probably best summed up as “out of sight, out of mind,” and it was quite effective. While renovating our apartment, we created a special space within a low cabinet for the litter box. Pointing away from the living room, you don’t know it’s there unless you see a cat entering or exiting. The box is located near our little “mud” area where we also keep shoes, coats and the stroller. We initially put up a baby gate to keep the whole area out of bounds to our toddler, and the cat quickly learned how to get around the gate when she needed access to the box.  I’ve seen other variations of this in catalogs: litter boxes disguised as end tables, for example, that keep most of the box covered so access from most sides is limited. Some even have pet doors to cover the entrance.

As my son got older, we removed the gate but kept a watchful eye on him. We explained that the litter box is the cat’s potty to help him learn that it is definitely not a sandbox. So far, so good.

Do you share a small space with kids and pets? If so, how do you handle the challenge of keeping kids away from your pets’…personal items? Share your experiences in the comments.

Cat and baby playing with toys

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