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Training

How To Train Your Cat To Use A Litter Box

Training your kitten how to properly urinate and defecate in a litter box is an essential skill that they must master. Litter box training isn’t the most exciting part of owning a new kitten, but it is a crucial one. 

There is a lot to learn about training your new cat to correctly use a litter box. While cats may have a reputation for being strong-willed, using a litter box is usually quite instinctual. 

If you are starting to train your cat to use a litter box, this article will prove to be a solid guide or refresher course. Keep reading to learn more about when you should begin litter box training your kitty, the necessary supplies, and the steps you will need to tackle to achieve proper training.

When should I litter train my cat?

It is critical that you begin litter box training your new kitten at the correct time. During their first few weeks of life, mother cats will stimulate their kittens to eliminate waste. Then, they will clean themselves up afterward. During these early few weeks, cats do not have to use litter boxes. 

It’s the right time to begin training a kitten once they reach about four weeks old. You can begin by offering them litter boxes that are kitten-friendly. There are several different types of litter boxes, so you might have to experiment to find the right one for your new addition. 

Kittens begin the weaning process at four weeks but are considered fully weaned at around six to eight weeks. However, research now suggests that waiting until 12 weeks to wean helps lower rates of feline aggression as they age. 

Alternatively, if your new kitten is a bit older when you bring them home (or an older cat entirely), you can start to litter box train them as soon as they arrive at your house if they are not already trained. 

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What supplies will I need?

First, it is important to note that all cats have their own litter box preferences, so you might have to try a few different tries to figure out what works best for your pet. Largely the litter itself is what will vary—you and your cat will certainly have a preference. 

The right sized litter box

The first thing that you will need is the right-sized litter box. Considering the size when you are picking a litter box is essential. No kitten or cat enjoys feeling cramped, so be sure to account for their current size. Alternatively, if your kitten outgrows their litter box when they age, you can simply purchase them a new, larger one. 

You will want to choose a litter box that is large enough for your new cat to fit inside with some room to spare. Your cat should have space to both move around and dig in the litter box, as your cat might participate in both habits regularly. 

In addition, there should be enough room in the litter box for your pet to avoid previous defecations that are still present in the litter box. Your cat’s litter box should be at least as long as they are and also at least as wide as your cat is long. 

A second litter box

Even if you only have one cat in your home, the reality is that you should still have more than just one litter box. It’s better for your cat to have options.

You should have one more box than you have cats if you have multiple felines. Therefore, if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes in your home; three litter boxes would be appropriate for two cats. 

If you do not have enough litter boxes, you are at risk of having some “toileting problems” with your pet. This could lead to inappropriate elimination. For the best chance of litter box training success, your best bet is to provide an additional litter box for your pet. 

Litter

You cannot have a litter box without the appropriate cat litter. There are several different types, and it might take some experimentation to figure out which your cat prefers. Clay cat litter has been the oldest option since the inception of litter. It was unique in that it allowed cats to dig while the litter successfully absorbed urine. While it is still available today, there are many other variants on the market. 

You should select your cat’s litter based on the absorbency, how well it clumps, price, odor control, amount of dust, scent, and availability. 

Treats and toys

You can purchase treats and toys for your new cat to reward them for a job well done. When they are done using the litter box, you can supply your cat with a treat to indicate that your cat did something that deserves a reward. Additionally, you can treat them to some playtime after they go to their litter box and eliminate. 

It’s important to remember that you should never, ever punish your cat for failing to correctly use the litter box. While you can reward them for doing the right thing, you should not ever yell at your cat for doing something incorrectly. 

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How do I litter train my cat?

Litter box training your cat does not have to be an arduous task. First-time cat owners might find that it is less work than they initially anticipated. The first step is to select the right location and show your pet where the box is located in your home so that they will be able to find their way to it. 

Once you’ve done that, you will have to remember to clean out the litter box frequently, rid the area of distractions so your cat can focus on the task at hand, and be patient. 

Pick the right location

When it comes to litter box training your new cat, location is everything. You should select quiet, accessible places where your cat will be able to get to their litter box whenever they might need to. Cats are known for their skittish tendencies and won’t often go in a litter box that is in a chaotic or high-traffic location. 

There is an exception to this, however. If you are adopting a previously outdoors cat, it might be wise to put their litter box close to the door if that is where they spend a significant amount of time. 

Show your cat where the box is located

Guiding your pet to the litter box can be helpful when it comes to achieving desired results. For instance, after your cat plays, takes a nap, or has a meal, you can place them in or near the litter box to suggest that they utilize it.

Also, showing your cat to the litter box is a helpful way to get them to understand where it will be located. 

Clean the litter box often

Cleaning a litter box is one of the less appealing parts of pet ownership, but it’s a reality that all cat parents have to deal with. There are some “self-cleaning” litter boxes available on the market.

However, if your cat has already been trained to use a litter box in their previous home, you won’t want to transition them to this. That’s because sometimes self-cleaning litter boxes have features that ultimately keep the cat from using the litter box. 

Therefore, it’s up to you, the pet owner, to take care of this. You should ensure that you scoop the poop out of your cat’s litter box every day. There are several factors that impact how frequently you change the litter itself.

This depends on how many cats you have, the type of litter you use, and the number of litter boxes. Generally speaking, for clay litter, you will want to replace it twice a week.

Of course, this depends on your cat’s individual habits, so there is some variation. Also, if you notice there is an odor or a significant amount of the litter is clumped up, it is time for a change. 

Every time that you change the litter, you must be sure to scrub the litter box itself. Use a dish detergent for this — and make sure it’s mild. Using a product with either citrus oils or ammonia could make a cat shy away from using their litter box.

Also, be sure that the product you are using is not hazardous or toxic to cats. You should also replace the box itself yearly. 

Get rid of distractions

As mentioned earlier, cats are not fond of highly chaotic situations, especially when they need a serene environment to use their litter box. Reducing distractions can help you achieve better results in the training process. 

Be patient

It could take your cat up to four weeks to become reliably litter box trained, so do not panic if you feel it is taking longer than you expected it would. Patience is essential, as is gentleness. Never yell at your feline, or punish them, even if they are not correctly using their litter box.

Dr. Sylvalyn Hammond, a Pawp veterinarian, recommends that “If your kitten hasn’t figured out the litter box by 3-4 months of age, consult a veterinarian or feline behaviorist for assistance.”

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Litter box training your cat should be intuitive

Training your cat on how to correctly use a litter box is well worth the investment of time and energy in training.

If you get the proper supplies and complete these steps, you will likely see tremendous success in your cat’s training. And if you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, a trip to the vet (or an online telehealth visit with one of Pawp’s reputable vets) would be worth the effort. 

LITTER TRAINING SOURCES: 

Potty Training Your New Pet | Texas A & M Veterinary Medicine

Choosing and Caring for Your New Cat | Cornell University  

The Behavioural Effects of Innovative Litter Developed to Attract Cats | MDPI  

How to train your cat to use a litter box | CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital  

Preventing litter box problems | Humane Society  

Feline Behavior Problems: House Soiling | Cornell University  

Early weaning increases aggression and stereotypic behaviour in cats | Research Gate

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