How to Litter Box Train Your Kitten
The secret to litter box training your kitten is actually very simple! All you have to do is start with a mother cat who has already been trained to use a litter box. Wait eight to twelve weeks and Mama Cat will have done all the work for you. Some Mama Cats will even show kittens other than her own what to do. Congratulations, you now have a perfectly housebroken kitten!
If only it were that simple. While this is the most ideal way to litter box train your kitty, it’s admittedly not always feasible. Situations are seldom ideal.
Mama Cat might be feral and not know how to use a litter box herself. She maybe couldn’t take care of her kitten. Whether the problem is she just didn’t have much maternal instinct, not enough milk for the entire litter or illness or death, it often falls to caring humans to parent a kitten.
It will take some time and lots of patience, (and maybe some elbow grease) but yes, you can train your kitten to use a litter box!
Step One: The Introduction
You can start the training when the kitten is four weeks old when she’s ready to explore the world beyond Mama Cat’s nest. She’s both strong enough to walk and dig on her own and is eager to learn. A cat any younger than this needs to be stimulated in order to eliminate. At this point, you can show them what the litter box is.
Put the box somewhere quiet, calm and easy to reach. Use a litter box with sides low enough for a kitten to get over by herself. She won’t need anything very big. Use litter with a consistency of garden soil or beach sand and no scent, see here for some choices. Not only is it more pleasant to sensitive paw pads, it won’t hurt her if she decides to eat some. You don’t have to fill the box completely. And inch or two thick should do it.
Place Kitty in the box every once in a while, particularly after she eats or wakes up. If she scratches or paws at the sand, let her. If she doesn’t, encourage her to do so by scratching in the sand with a finger or gently taking her paw and scratching the sand.
She’ll soon get the idea. She may even think it’s a game. Be very calm and quiet about it so that Kitty knows this is meant to be relaxing. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You may have to do this several times over a few weeks. Which brings us to….
Step Two: Practice Patience
If Kitty eliminates outside the litter box, quickly but calmly put her in the litter box. Don’t yell or treat her roughly. Kitty has to realize that the box is a place to do her business, not a form of punishment. Soiled areas can be cleaned with an enzyme-based cleaner.
Consider putting the waste in the box to help Kitty realize what she’s supposed to do here. Remember that this is a natural act that even cats prefer privacy for. Leave Kitty to figure it out for herself. When she does what she’s supposed to do in the litter box, tell her she’s a good girl and give her a treat.
Remember to clean the tray out regularly. Not only will you hate the stench, but cats don’t like using dirty litter boxes. Scoop it out once a day and change the litter as needed. Some cats prefer the kind of box with a lid. Some feel claustrophobic about these things can even be toxic. Just use hot water and detergent.
Do not clean the litter box if you are pregnant. Not only could you do with fewer chores to worry about, but handling cat’s fecal matter carries a risk of toxoplasmosis. Get someone else to do this.
Step Three: Troubleshooting
Ask yourself “Why doesn’t Kitty want to use the litter box?” As said before, some cats prefer covers and some hate them. Adjust accordingly. Make sure the sides aren’t too high. Kittens don’t kick sand as hard as adult cats, so it’s more important that Kitty can get in than whether sand can stay in right now.
If you have a multi-storied home have at least one box on each floor. (More can’t hurt.) Make sure the location is clean, quiet and doesn’t smell strange. Remember that something a human likes the smell of may smell awful to a cat. If Kitty suddenly stops using the litter box, a urinary infection may be the culprit. It may be time to take Kitty to the vet.
If Kitty stubbornly refuses the litter box, you might have to confine her to a small space for a while with just enough room for her bed, food, water and litter box. With fewer choices available, Kitty will realize that there are certain places for eating, sleeping and eliminate.
If all else fails, consider using an attractant spray to draw your kitten to the litter box. Your vet or pet care expert may be able to suggest something.
Related: Check out our reviews and buying guide for the best automatic litter boxes by clicking here.
Above All: Remember Your Duty!
No pun intended. Your duty as a pet parent is to make sure your kitten knows basic good toilet habits that will make it easier for her to get along in a household of people and perhaps even other felines. This may require putting her in the box again and again until she learns what it’s for. Show Kitty kindness and patience.
Praise her when she does what you want. Even when Kitty learns her lesson, be prepared for clean up. Situate things so that your kitten is more likely to use her litter box. Most importantly, pay attention to your kitten. A little perception can go a long way into helping your kitten grow into a mature feline.
- Litter Box Training Your Cat College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Colorado State University
- Toxoplasmosis U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
- Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy Shahnaz Akhtar Chaudhry, MD, Nanette Gad, and Gideon Koren, MD FRCPC FACMT Can Fam Physician. 2014 Apr; 60(4): 334-336.
- Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease American Veterinary Medical Association
- Feline bacterial urinary tract infections: An update on an evolving clinical problem. Litster A, Thompson M, Moss S, Trott D. Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, 625 Harrison St., West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. Vet J. 2011 Jan;187(1):18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2009.12.006. Epub 2009 Dec 30.