Something Stinks: The Litterbox Lie


Hunter Vasey, Staff

“Schools are putting litterboxes in the bathrooms for kids that identify as cats.” Shocked? Disgusted? Thinking it’s too insane to be true? Well, that’s because it is. If you’ve been following any political discourse on social media or mainstream news recently, you’ve most likely heard these claims repeated by high-level GOP politicians to show examples of how acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, specifically transgender children, has “gone too far.” But the truth is, there are no schools with litterboxes or kids that identify as cats, so why did it get repeated so much? 

The rumor seems to have originated from outside the US, in the small Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. A Facebook post claiming that a school in the province had started putting litterboxes in the bathrooms and classrooms at school sparked outrage. Soon, the school was dealing with hundreds of calls, emails, and social media posts from outraged parents. Eventually, the district made a public Facebook post debunking all the claims and even stating that they “are causing unnecessary stress to students and staff.” Officials also reassured that they do try to cater to every student’s special accommodations and create a safe environment.  

This pattern then continued to spread into the United States, though the main difference in the purpose of disinformation was in how it was used as a political tool. According to NBC, over 20 Republican politicians referenced the litterbox issue, sometimes even citing specific schools or school districts. Every single school referenced responded by debunking the claims, either through social media accounts or talking directly to news outlets. There has never been any documented proof or statement by school officials perpetuating the rumor.  

There was only one school that was able to confirm that they did actually carry kitty litter in their classrooms, but the reason was much more tragic. In Colorado, Republican candidate Heidi Ganahl stated in a radio interview that school districts were “tolerating students that identified as cats.” Of course, the claim was disputed by almost every school district in the state. However, Jefferson County school district, the home of Columbine High School, did admit to having kitty litter in some of the classrooms. Why? As part of a “go kit” in case students are stuck in a classroom for hours during an active shooter situation. Which is, in my opinion, much bleaker. 

So, if there’s so much proof that these claims are false, and in fact, there never was a case of students identifying as animals, why did the lie permeate Republican officials talking points? I see it as one of two possibilities. First, maybe the politicians in question genuinely did think that the claim was true, meaning that there are some serious issues in how they gather information. It took very little fact-checking to debunk the claim, and yet, they chose not to. How indicative of their work ethic. 

The second reason this litter myth took hold so widely across Republican politicians and their constituents is much darker. I think that these Republican officials knew that these claims were fake, or at least didn’t care if they were. They saw this propaganda as a perfect chance to target an already vulnerable community. With attitudes around gender nonconforming people changing in recent years, conservatives needed a way to scare up support for their hateful agenda. We’ve seen this in the recent trend of “grooming” accusations by parents taking their children to drag queen story hours. What other reason could they have for knowingly spreading a false and harmful narrative around gender identity? 

At the end of the day, lies like this may seem harmless or even foolhardy, but the truth is much scarier. Several of the Republicans that used this lie as part of their campaign actually were reelected in the 2022 elections. Some of these include conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene and self-identified Christian nationalist Lauren Boebert. These people used one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, who are more likely to experience violence, abuse, and suicide than any other demographic in the world, as a way to win their elections.  

Something stinks here.