It's a beautiful feeling to bring home a new cuddly kitten: the excitement of welcoming a companion into your life, the playful, uncoordinated antics, the gently purring presence cuddling up next to you. It's a great time.
Until it isn't, and you're growing weary of cleaning up 'accidents' on carpeted areas (why must it always be on a carpeted area?!), and you're wondering if Sir Pounce will ever find the litter box in time.
Fear not! We've got your back with this handy guide on how to litter train a kitten. With a bit of patience and some nifty tricks, you'll have your floof using their litter box like a pro in no time at all.
How to potty train a kitten: What you'll need
Before we get started, here's a handy list of the things you're going to need when litter training kittens:
- Litter boxes
Can cats share a litter box? Well, it's not the best idea. Make sure you get a litter box for your kitten and one extra for good measure. So, if you only have one kitty, then two litter boxes are ideal. Felines aren't known to be good at sharing generally, and they're certainly not going to start with their most private space.
Choose a suitable size litter box. A litter box that is too small will put your cat off using it. The general rule of thumb is that the box needs to be at least 1,5 times longer than the cat. As your kitten grows, you'll likely need to get a bigger box.
Open box or a closed one? This is heavily dependent on what your kitty prefers. A closed box may be too confining for some felines, while an open box may leave your kitten feeling vulnerable and exposed.
Make sure you select a quiet spot that's easy to reach. Felines are very private and won't be happy to use a litter box in an area where they don't feel safe or will be disturbed.
- Kitty litter
There are a wide variety of litter options to choose from, ranging in price and texture. Your purr-friend will let you know which litter they prefer. Some kittens have very particular preferences for texture and smell.
You can experiment with kitten litter containing herbal attractants. Either way, when you begin litter box training, you might need to try out a few litter options until you find one that works for your cat.
- Treats and toys
These are great
bribes motivational aids for litter training kittens. When your kitten uses their litter box, make sure to reward the behavior for ensuring that they will be more likely to repeat it. Toys can be used to create a positive association with the litter box.
How to litter train a kitten: Steps to follow
Most kittens will learn to use the litter box from their mother and replicate the behaviors they see mom doing. But if your kitten doesn't know how to use a litter box, you'll need to step in and show them how. Ideally, you'll want to train them as early as possible before bad habits have a chance to develop.
1. Give some thought to where to put the litter box
Choose good locations for your litter boxes. Litter box placement is a critical step in ensuring success in potty training your kitten.
If your house is on more than one level, make sure there's a litter box on each floor. Do your best to make litter boxes easy to find and access.
It's also essential to make sure that the litter box isn't in an area that is hard to get out of. Cats enjoy having an escape route, so if they feel too constricted or wedged in, they're unlikely to want to go there.
Kittens can sometimes be easily distracted, so it's a good idea to keep the litter box somewhere with minimal temptations, and things can seem far more attractive and exciting.
2. Introduce your kitten to their litter boxes
Show them where they are and let them sniff around and get used to it. It's not recommended to change the location of the boxes once you've introduced your kitten.
3. Gently place your kitten in the box at strategic times
A good plan is to place your kitty in their box after meals and on waking. Cats will usually instinctively start pawing at the litter and may even use it right away.
Pay attention to your cat’s body language. You'll soon pick up the tell-tale signs that your kitten is getting ready to do their business. Once you know what those signs are (sniffing around, crouching in a certain area), pick up your kitten and place them in their litter box so they can begin associating the box with relieving themselves.
4. Reward successful litter box use
Felines respond very well to positive reinforcement. Treats, praise, and playtime are your best tools to ensuring that your cat keeps using their litter box and develops a positive relationship with it.
That said, the opposite is less effective. Potty training is a process and will require some patience. Your cat may have an accident occasionally, but it's important not to scold or shout at them. Disciplining your cat for a wee on the carpet will work against you when it comes to potty training.
Never physically punish your kitty. This will not dissuade them from urinating outside their litter box, but it will undoubtedly damage your relationship.
5. Keep that litter box clean at all times
Felines are meticulous about hygiene and will flat-out refuse to use a litter box that they deem unclean. How often to clean a litter box? Scoop the solids out daily and make sure to regularly replace litter to avoid sogginess and stink that will get on your cat's paws and make them unlikely to want to return.
Give the box a clean when you change the litter. Don't use bleach or harsh chemicals as these may be harmful to your cat, and any strong odors might deter your cat from using the box. Instead, use mild soap and water.
If you're wondering how often to change cat litter, the general rule is to clean the litter box weekly. Clean out the poops daily, top-up litter in between if you need to, and then do a complete litter replacement and clean box weekly.
It's no secret that cats can be fussy and very particular about things. They can be incredibly picky about where they prefer to do their business. Make sure that the litter box is regularly cleaned. Nothing will deter a kitten faster than a stinky, dirty litter box.
If you have some trouble with litter training kittens, reexamine your setup. It may be that your kitten won't use the litter box because it feels too exposed or vulnerable, or even that they feel too cornered.
Examine the size of the litter box – this will need to adjust as your kitten grows. Maybe the box is too small, or too big. Some cats will prefer a closed box, while others will feel too hemmed in and would prefer an open one. Look at your litter – does it have a smell? Is it maybe too rough on your kitten's soft little paws?
Do some experimenting with the size, location, and litter of the box, and this may help get your kitty to use their box. Consider trying a pheromone diffuser that will help your cat feel less anxious and more at ease using the litter box.
Cats that are stressed will often urinate outside of their box in response to significant changes in their lives. Other causes for not using the litter box include undiagnosed urinary tract infections, so it might be a good idea to visit the vet to rule that out.
Sometimes, kittens will display strange behaviors around their litter box. Some owners can see a cat lying in a litter box, while some kittens may eat their litter. If your cat is sleeping in a litter box, they may be feeling threatened or anxious. A cat's litter box is marked with their scent, so they will feel safe there. If you see your kitten eating litter, it could be a potential sign of pica, a type of eating disorder in cats, or another health condition. Don't delay a visit to a vet if you observe this behavior for too long.
There's no miracle best way to litter train a kitten. Training your kitten to use the litter box is a process that shouldn't be rushed. A little patience, the right tools, and some positive reinforcement will go a long way in ensuring success.
You may need to try a few different litter boxes or types of litter before you find what works best for your kitten, but don't give up. Success is possible with a bit of patience and perseverance.
If, for any reason, you're concerned that your cat won't use their litter box, always visit your veterinarian to rule out the possibility of any urinary tract infections or parasites. Your vet may recommend that you spay or neuter your cat, which may help prevent your cat from peeing outside of their box in an attempt to mark their territory.