5 Litter Box Training Tips

5 Litter Box Training Tips

Adopting a cat can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences life has to offer. Kitties are soft, playful and fiercely loyal to the ones they love. But along with the joys of owning a cat come some minor misfortunes, including dealing with the occasional hairball and having to wake up at the crack of dawn to serve kibble. For most people, this is as bad as it gets with their bewhiskered bedfellows.

Unfortunately, some people have to deal with a cat that cannot or will not use the litter box. Understandably, this is considered a pretty serious problem. The good news, though, is that it’s usually also a fixable one. Most cats are naturally tidy animals with a strong instinct to bury their waste. This makes litter box training a breeze. Assuming, that is, that you take into consideration a few important feline personality quirks. Read on to learn more about five essential litter box training tips for cats.

Choosing the right litter box can mean the difference between immediate litter box training triumph and life-long cat box blues. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the type of litter box you choose is really important. Here are a few points to keep in mind when making your selection:

1. Kittens need a box with sides low enough to allow them to enter and exit easily.

2. If your cat has bad aim, choose a box with higher sides. This helps keep litter and waste off the floor.

3. The best material for a litter box is heavy, durable plastic since it’s easy to clean and holds up well over time.

Another important consideration for a litter box is that it be large enough for your cat to turn around and give the litter a few good kicks. According to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, cats have a natural tendency to cover their waste, so be sure to buy a box that allows them to do so.

A general rule of thumb for litter boxes is that the number of litter boxes in your house should equal the number of cats you have, plus one. In other words, if you have one cat, there should be two litter boxes in your home. Two cats need three boxes, and so on. This is especially important for a cat that is having trouble using a litter box.

Another significant thing to consider is where the litter box is located. You should place your cat’s box in an area of the house that is both quiet and easily accessible. Cats are skittish creatures, and they won’t go in a box that’s in a high traffic or chaotic spot. One exception is for a formerly outdoor/newly indoor animal. In this case, it may be best to place a litter box near the door if that’s where your nature-loving feline is lingering.

Learning to use a litter box is pretty much instinctive for cats. Still, there are some helpful tips for making the process goes as smoothly as possible. The first is to show your new pet the litter box as soon as you bring him into your home for the first time. Don’t worry if he hides at first — this is normal. Experts at Washington-based animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation center PAWS recommend just placing the litter box wherever your cat feels comfortable and then gradually moving it to your preferred location.

You should also place your pet in the litter box after naps, meals, play sessions, and whenever you think he appears inclined to “go.” Keep this up during the first few days of your relationship with your new pet, and you should achieve litter box success in no time.

There are a few dos and don’ts that are vital to litter box success. Probably the most important is that you keep the box clean. Scoop the poop from the box at least once a day and clean it with soap and water once a week. Cats are finicky creatures, and many will turn up their noses at a filthy litter box.

On the other hand, don’t try to cover your cat’s scent with perfumed litter; according to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, many cats will be repelled by the perfume’s odor. A cat also needs to be able to locate the litter box by his own scent. If he can’t smell it, chances are he won’t find it.

The last tip is to find a litter your cat seems to like and stick with it. Test out a new brand and watch your cat’s reaction. If he paws at it a few times and then leaps out of the box with a disgusted look on his face, chances are he doesn’t like it. Finding one he does like — as exampled by his willingness to use it — may require trial and error, but your efforts will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.

The most important thing to keep in mind when training a cat to use the litter box is not to punish or scold him while he is in the litter box, since, as the Humane Society of the United States advises, this will almost certainly create a negative association with the box itself. If your pet makes mistakes, pick him up and place him the litter box. He’ll make the connection soon enough. It also helps to praise him when he uses the box successfully.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of cats will successfully learn to use a litter box. According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, cats that don’t are likely avoiding it because of litter preference, litter box dirtiness or some sort of stress in their environment. Whatever the cause, litter box problems are usually fixable with a bit of time, attention and TLC.

Litter Box Training a Kitten: 5 Tips to Follow

Cats are naturally inclined to excrete in soil or sand, having been taught by their mothers sometime after birth. However, if your cat was separated prematurely from its parent, if she grew in the streets and is therefore feral, or if there were sudden changes in her immediate environment that stressed her, she might end up peeing or pooping outside the box.

How do you correct this problem and encourage your new furry family member to use her litter box? Just follow these simple tips…

Litter Box Training a Kitten: 5 Tips to Follow

Cats are naturally inclined to excrete in soil or sand, having been taught by their mothers sometime after birth. For that reason, most people don’t need to learn the right ways of litter box training a kitten.

Litter Box Training a Kitten: 5 Tips to Follow

However, there are instances wherein you will need to acquaint your new feline family member with the litter box and teach her how to use it. This generally applies when the kitten was separated prematurely from its parent, if she grew in the streets and is therefore feral, or if there were sudden changes in her immediate environment that stressed her, causing her to pee or poop outside the box.

The Right Method for Cat Litter Box Training

Regardless which situation you are in, you will certainly see a positive difference when you follow these tips for litter box training a kitten:

Know Your Cat before Training

Tip 1: Get to Know Your Cat

Kittens are much like babies. They can’t tell you in words what makes them happy or anxious, but if you spend enough time with them, you will be able to tell what a simple syllable or purr means.

To choose the right method for litter box training a kitten, you must know your specific kitten’s background and personality. Does she normally act the way she does? Is she frightened by her new home or family? Was her cat mom able to teach her the litter box basics before coming to your home? Does she have a preference when it comes to litter box placement or material? Is she silently suffering from an illness? Knowing these things and more will give you a clear idea in how you should go about teaching her to use and love the litter box.

Tip 2: Ponder the Litter Box

Now, we move on to all the things that concern the cat litter box. First and foremost, felines need a box that allows them to move about before, during, and after the potty break. The box must be high enough that there is enough litter to fully cover their excrement, but the sides must be low enough that the kittens can easily go in and out.

The cat litter must feel natural and correspond to what the kitten has been used to, at least in the beginning. Once she becomes accustomed to using the litter box, you can slowly change litters until you find one that both you and your cat like.

Also take note of the box placement. It shouldn’t be in a closed-off room; it must be in a more open space where your kitten is given multiple escape routes. If you are training several cats, make sure there are more than enough litter boxes for them. If you have three cats, you must have four boxes in different areas around the house.

Tip 3: Clean It Like You Mean It

Your cat litter box training will be in vain if you keep the box dirty and smelly. Surely, you won’t use a toilet that has piled up pee and poop in it, right? So don’t make your kitten endure it. Scoop the excrement often, change litter once a day, and clean the entire box at least once a week using unscented agents. By keeping the litter box clean, you are encouraging your cat to use it over your carpet or other furniture.

To further reduce your cat litter problems, you can also use mats such as our Easyology Premium Cat Litter Mat. This huge mat, made with durable patterned PVC, is designed to catch sand that may have been stuck between your cat’s paws during her bathroom break. This effectively reduces cat litter spreading and the resulting cleaning time.

Don't Get Mad at Your Cat

Tip 4: Don’t Be a Mad Man

Litter box training a kitten can’t be completed in a day, so don’t get mad when you see your cat still peeing or pooping outside the box after a training session. She might feel your angry energy, but she won’t understand your words and actions.

Don’t spray her with water, hit her, or hurl angry words at her. That will just worsen the situation. Rather, entice her to use the litter box by doing digging motions in the sand. If she doesn’t cover her feces, encourage her by pushing sand toward them with your fingers.

Offer Tasty Cat Treats

Tip 5: Offer Some Tasty Treats

One way to hasten the cat litter box training process is to offer treats to your kitten after using the box. Of course, this means you must be present while she’s doing her business. Generally, cats use the bathroom after eating, playing, or a nap. By observing when your cat usually does these things, you will be able to time your cat treats and greatly encourage her through positive reinforcement.

Have you tried litter box training a kitten before? What others tips can you offer to new cat owners? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!

5 Shortcuts for Litter Training Your Kitten in Record Time

If your kitten hasn’t learned from Mom the finer points of using a litter box, you can help with these steps.

You never have to teach kittens to use the litter box, I’d tell people. The mom cats take care of that. And I’d back up my argument with stories about how my Dawnie used to walk kittens — her own and others — to the litter box. Or how Phoebe would show the foster kittens how to cover up after themselves.

Well, I’ve come to find out that I wasn’t absolutely right. Not all kittens are quick studies, and not all mother cats make a point of putting them through litter box maneuvers. In fact, Dawnie and Phoebe were overachievers in that respect.

I currently have 3 kittens and their mom in my study. She looks after them with great tenderness, but she is also blithely indifferent about whether they ever figure out what that purply pink plastic box is for.

Early (Non) Training

“Cats do not come into this world knowing how to use a litter box,” observe Elizabeth Teal and Micky Niego of the ASPCA. “Cats learn what and where the ‘bathroom’ is from their mom at about 4 weeks of age.”

So the kittens watch and imitate mom. Their training “can happen so quickly that the casual observer may be unaware that any active instruction has taken place.”

The word “active” is key. Some mother cats are indeed more active than others. Or, as Teal and Niego point out, a kitten born outdoors may learn to regard “a clump of leaves or soft garden earth as the bathroom. Imprinted on that texture, recently homed feral and stray cats may have to be actively trained to use a box filled with clay litter.”


How to Encourage Litter Box Use

Here are a few things you can do to help your kitten(s) along:

1. Fencing In

Use a modified variation of the crate principle. First, section off part of the room. Then place the litter box, bedding, dishes and toys in there and add kittens. This forces them to use the litter box, explains Susan Graham of Aksum Abyssinians.

Still, there may be setbacks along the way, especially as the kittens get used to new foods. So stock up on paper towels, cleaners and patience. (By the way, Lysol may kill germs, but it can be poisonous, especially to a tiny animal. Go nontoxic.)

2. Litter Matters

Your kitten should be comfortable when using the litter box. Foster & Smith advises using a litter “that has the consistency of beach sand or garden soil” and that is unscented.

Sometimes, young kittens eat bits of cat litter, which can lead to dangerous blockages. For this reason, Graham recommends using the corn-based World’s Best Cat Litter. They might still eat it, but it won’t harm them the way the clay litter will.

A cheaper alternative when litter training your kitten is chicken “crumbles” or feed. It, too, is corn-based and you can find it at feed stores.

3. Less Is More…

…except when it comes to litter boxes. Once the kittens leave their enclosure, be sure to have more than 1 litter box around. If your house has more than 1 floor, have at least 1 litter box per floor. Place the boxes in quiet, private places. And don’t fill the boxes to the top; a couple of inches of litter should more than do the trick.

4. Going Through the Motions

If you are the mom cat by default, this means placing the kitten in the litter box upon waking or after his meals. You then gently take his paw in your hand and show him how to properly hide the evidence.

“The kitten should get the idea from doing this,” according to Cats of Australia. “If this doesn’t work, scratch at the litter with your fingers. Try to make it look like a fun game so you attract his interest.”

5. A Little Help From the Doctor…

…or from Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant (affiliate link), to be exact. A little goes a long way, and it draws the kittens to the litter box like a magnet.

In a few weeks, my kitten friends will go to their forever homes. They are healthy, well socialized and utter charmers. And they’ve got that litter-box thing down pat.

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