Wondering how to train a kitten to use a litter box? The training process should start as soon as you bring your new kitten home. Getting in early will save you from clearing up pee puddles and wondering how to get stains and smells out of your furniture.
When someone visits your home for the first time, they might ask you where the bathroom is. Save kitty having to wonder the same and show them where the litter tray is as soon as they arrive at their new home.
Researching this before you head to the shelter to pick up a new fluffball? First, read our advice on how to find out if you’re ready to adopt a cat.
Training a kitten to use a litter box
The first step in training a kitten to use a litter box is creating some encouragement. Motivate by showing them where the box is and gently scratching the litter with their paw. Cats have an innate instinct to dig and cover up pee and poop. Helping them to scratch the litter box can encourage this.
You can speed up the process of training your kitten to use a litter box by keeping their environment smaller while they’re learning. This makes it easier to find the litter tray in their moment of need! When kitty first comes home, keep them in a small area until they’ve tried and tested the box a handful of times.
Once you’ve trained your kitten to use a litter box in this one specific area, you have two choices. Move it elsewhere or keep the litter box there. Just be aware wherever you choose will likely have a bit of a litter box smell and some bits and pieces of litter.
So maybe the kitchen isn’t the best place? Plan ahead for the location with the least obvious mess and smell…
Tips and tricks for training a kitten to use a litter box
To help get the training process right, try the following too:
- Take your kitten to the litter box after they’ve eaten
- Show them the litter box after a nap and first thing in the morning
- Ditto for any “I need the toilet” behaviour like crouching
Once your kitten has started using the litter box, they’ll begin to associate the smell of the litter box with the need for toileting. The idea is that after this association has been formed, kitty will continue to return to the litter box whenever they need to go.
When your kitten goes in the litter box, praise them and give them affection. Cats thrive on reward, not punishment. Your kitten will associate the behaviour with good feelings, and they’ll want to go in the litter box next time.
However, the opposite is also true. If they learn to use your favourite curtains as a toilet place, they can start to make the same association. Obviously, you’ll need to help them unlearn that particular one.
Getting it right from the start can set you up well for the rest of kitty’s (and your) life.
If you’ve got a new pup rather than a kitten, the principles are similar. Here’s a guide to toilet training your puppy.
How to pick the best litter box for your kitten
When you’re training a kitten to use a litter box for the first time, use a shallow one with no doors or lids. The idea is to make it really easy for those tiny legs to access, without anything scary or hard to navigate.
Once your kitten is a bit older and has grasped the idea of a litter box, you can go wild. Most pet stores have multiple options. Choose one that works for you – maybe you want a deep one with a door, or maybe you want an open and shallow one.
The one thing to keep in mind is that your kitten’s litter box needs to be big enough for them to turn around in easily. If it’s too small, you might end up cleaning up pee or poop from outside the perimeter of the box.
Choosing what to put in your kitten’s litter box
There are two main varieties of cat litter: clumping and non-clumping. It’s normally best to try out both and see which you both prefer. Once you know whether you want clumping or non-clumping, the exact choice of brand or type comes down to individual preference based on ingredients, cost and biodegradability. And of course, what works for your cat.
Ingredients in cat litters are varied. They range from clay and minerals to things like wheat, corn, or pine. Many are composed of synthetic crystals from silica.
A plant or paper-based litter is the safest choice for your kitten. Plus, they’re the best choice for the environment. It’s better to avoid clay and scented litters for kittens – if curiosity gets the better of them and they eat the litter, it could cause complications.
If your kitten doesn’t seem to be taking to the whole litter box thing, they might not like the litter type or texture. Try swapping it for something else to see if it makes a difference.
How many litter trays do I need?
The fewer litter trays for you to manage the better, so start small and go from there. When it comes to adult cats, you’ll need one litter box for each cat. You can add one extra litter box if you’d like them to have a choice of toilet.
When you’re still training a kitten to use a litter box, you might want to have a box in each room they access. This helps to prevent them from going somewhere else when they can’t find the litter box. At this stage, you can even use DIY cardboard litter boxes to keep costs down.
Keep your litter tray in a corner wherever possible. It’s not just humans who like to maintain their dignity! Cats like to toilet in ‘privacy’ too – but we’re not sure what the science behind this is.
How do you change cat litter?
Anyone who’s seen a cat obsessively licking themselves will agree that cats like things to be clean.
So, if you don’t clean their litter tray, they’re going to look for somewhere else to toilet. Cat parents need to keep the litter box fresh and clean for their kitties.
- Check the litter box daily after mealtimes and remove any clumps ASAP
- Once a week, do a deep clean and remove all the litter
- Before you add new, clean litter clean the box thoroughly with unscented soap and a mild solution of warm water (and bleach if you really want to be stringent)
- Let the box dry thoroughly before adding brand new litter
You can also sprinkle some baking soda under the litter when you change it. Baking soda is a great all-round item to keep in your cupboard for household cleaning, and it’s excellent at removing odours.
If your cat stops using the litter tray, it might be down to your cleaning process. Some of them don’t like baking soda. Others are offended by certain soaps. Some don’t like the bleach mixture, especially if you made it too strong.
Tough crowd. Welcome to the life of a cat parent.
Pet insurance for parents training a kitten to use a litter box
They say cats have nine lives. But who wants to take that risk?
Consider taking out cat insurance to help your cat land on their feet, every time. If your cat gets sick, hurt, or injured you can get the treatment they need without fretting about costs.