Dear Beth

Parenting problem--Child's Pet

Happiness is: gorgeous wild flowers adorn Ontario meadow

Dear Beth,
My ten-year-old son has a cat, and he is supposed to empty the litter box every weekend. We have to remind him over and over. My wife gets really angry and has threatened to give the cat away, and our son gets really upset, but he is still not doing the job. Now she has told me she is fed up with it and that she is going to give the cat away and tell him it ran away. I said she can't do that, and she started to cry and said she can't do it all. I see that she is very busy and stressed, but I remember how devastated I was as a child when my dog was run over. What should I do?

Beth answers: What your wife is suggesting would be a betrayal of trust which might be even more devastating to your son than the loss of his pet. A similar thing happened to a friend of my son. For about a year afterwards the boy searched for his cat, listening at doors and thinking he recognized his cat's meow. It was heartbreaking.

Clearly there are some problems in your family, and removing the litter box will not solve them. You and your wife need to look at why she is so stressed and what can be done about it, and think about how to get a more co-operative relationship with your son. If you have already tried and been unable to find solutions, I suggest you get some help from a good marriage or family counsellor without delay.