Animal shelters and rescues are still flooded with cats and kittens at this time of year, so if you’ve been thinking of adopting a fluffy ball of love, now’s a good time! If you love the idea of adopting a kitten but your one concern is how to litter train, you’re not alone. The good news is, litter training is very straightforward in most cases.
In many cases, kittens are litter-trained by their mothers. Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in a dirt-like material, so sometimes, litter training is as simple as providing a litter box and showing the kitten where it is.
How do I litter-train my kitten?
- Pick a container that is the right size. If your kitten is very small, you will need a box with low sides so he can climb in and out. As your kitten grows, you can get a bigger box. Some cats like covered litter boxes, but some do not. If your kitten has strong preferences, you will have to accommodate him.
- Choose a litter material. There are so many options available, including clay, plastic pearls, silica, recycled newspaper, and clumping types. Some studies show that the vast majority of cats like clumping litter, so that is usually a safe option. Some cats dislike scented litter.
- When you bring your new kitten home, confine him to a single room at first. Put the litter box in a corner so the kitten feels safe, and make sure it is at the far end of the room from the food, water and bedding. Cats don’t like to eliminate where they eat or sleep – which is understandable!
- Remove anything else from the room that has loose material like dirt – potted plants, for example.
- Show your kitten the litter box. If he doesn’t catch on right away, feed the kitten at specific meal times (as opposed to leaving food out all the time), and place the kitten in the litter box when he finishes eating.
In the vast majority of cases, that is all there is to it!
If, for some reason, your kitten won’t use the litterbox:
- Don’t punish the kitten if you find an soiled area outside the litter box – the kitten will not know what he is being punished for. If you actually catch him in the act, simply pick him up and place him in the litter box.
- Try putting a little bit of the kitten’s own feces or urine in the box – the smell will attract the kitten back to that area.
- Clean up any accidents promptly, and be sure to use a cleaner specially designed to remove pet odors so the smell does not attract the kitten back to the wrong place.
- If the kitten is consistently using one spot outside of the box, after cleaning it, place the box in that spot.
- Make sure there is nothing around the litter box that could be making the kitten feel insecure, such as a pipe behind the wall or furnace that makes sounds.
- Consider trying a different litter material or a different box.
- If none of this works, call your veterinarian because there could be a medical reason for the litter box aversion, such as an infection or parasite.
Once my kitten has full access to the house, where should I put the litter box?
In order to avoid the cat developing a litter box aversion, you want to make sure the box is somewhere that he always feels safe. Keep in mind:
- Only place the litter box in a laundry room or near a furnace if the cat is not bothered by the sounds of the machines.
- If you have a dog, but the box somewhere that the dog can’t go so it can’t bother your cat there.
- If you have a covered box, make sure the opening faces the entrance to the room so no one can accidentally startle the cat.
How often should I clean the litter box?
- Cats are very clean and fastidious, so you should clean the litter box often. Scoop out soiled litter as soon as you notice it; if the box is somewhere you don’t walk by regularly, make a point of checking it twice a day.
- Change the litter in the box weekly if you are not using clumping litter; with clumping litter, you can change the litter less often, but remember to top it up to replace the clumps that have been scooped out.
- Sometimes it helps to have more than one litter box in more than one location, especially if you have more than one cat. Many behaviorists recommend one litter box per cat, plus one extra.
If you ever have problems with house soiling, consult your veterinarian. Remember, there are reasons for a cat to stop using the litter box, but spite is never one of them.