Training your new kitten to use a litter box might sound like a real challenge, requiring lots of time and repetition, but litter box training a kitten is usually nothing at all like house training a puppy. Cats instinctively seek out dirt and sand to relieve themselves in, and they prefer to bury their waste. In that sense, your work is made easier.
As long as your kitten knows where the litter box is, and you’ve found a set up that works for them, they should begin using it on their own in no time.
What do I need to buy?
Start with the basics. There are automated boxes and other high tech options available, but when you’re just beginning to train your kitten, it’s best to stick to products that are least likely to make them averse until they’re fully comfortable.
- Unscented litter. Some types of litter are perfumed to mask the scent of waste, which can throw cats off. Also make sure to choose a litter that is as “dust-free” as possible as well as non-clumping. Too much dust can irritate your cat’s lungs and clumping litters can cause gastrointestinal issues if ingested in large amounts.
- A big litter box with a low edge. Your kitten may be tiny, but their litter box should not be. They need plenty of space to turn around and bury their waste. Make sure the edge is low enough that they can climb in—if not, they’ll need a temporary ramp until they’re big enough to climb in by themselves.
- A scooper and drop cloth. A scooper will allow you to pick up waste without having to get too close and a drop cloth put under the litter box can help protect your floor in case your kitten is a particularly enthusiastic digger.
How do I train them?
Your kitten should be at least 12-14 weeks old before you begin litter box training. Once your kitten can feed themselves and walk on their own, it’s the perfect time to start helping them figure out how to use the litter box.
- Choose the right location for your litter box. Cats prefer peaceful, private locations free from foot traffic or sudden noises that might startle them. Make sure your litter box is in an area that will always be accessible to your kitten.
- Let your kitten get to know the litter box. Place them gently in the litter box as soon as possible so they can get a feel for the scent and location of it.
- Put them in the litter box whenever they might need to relieve themselves. Each time your kitten eats, drinks, or wakes up from a catnap, put them in the litter box to relieve themselves. Also, if you see them squatting to pee, put them in the litter box immediately.
- Show them how to dig. Most kittens will probably bury their waste instinctively, but if your kitten seems hesitant, you can gently take their paw and show them the digging motion in the litter until they get the idea.
- Offer praise, not punishment. When your kitten starts using the litter box on their own, make sure to reinforce that good behavior by petting them and making soft, comforting noises. Do not punish them while they are in the litter box or for having accidents—they might begin to fear it and show avoidance.
What else should I do?
You can do a few more things to make litter training easier for you and your kitten. That includes keeping the box and surrounding area clean and tidy, and being watchful for any behavior that could cause health issues.
- Scoop your kitten’s waste out of the litter box at least twice daily.
- Add new litter as needed, always keeping 1-2 inches of fresh litter in the box.
- Once a week, clean the box entirely with baking soda or unscented soap and water.
- If your kitten is eating the litter, call your local vet. A little nibbling is normal, but eating large quantities of litter isn’t good for their digestive systems.
- Do not clean up your kitten’s accidents with an ammonia-based cleanser. Because urine contains ammonia, cleaning with an ammonia-based product could tempt your cat to urinate in the same spot again. Instead, use a product specifically for cleaning pet accidents.
As always, if your kitten is having trouble with litter box training, let your veterinarian know. Our team at Noah’s Ark is experienced and knowledgeable, and we can help you raise a healthy, happy, litter-trained kitten.