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23 February 2021
Training a kitten to use the litter box is typically easier than potty training a puppy to go outside, regardless of whether they are domesticated or not. Most kittens will instinctively use the litter box at the young age of 3-4 weeks old by observing and imitating their mother, so by the time you bring your kitten into their new home, they may already be trained. However, if your new kitten has not been trained, you will need to begin training them as soon as possible. If you are unsure how to train your kitten to use the litter box, follow our list of suggestions below to ensure that your kitten develops good habits.
There are two main types of litter boxes: open and covered. We suggest using an open litter box with a shallow lip since this makes it much easier for your kitten to enter and exit the box. Make sure that whichever litter box you pick, your kitten can easily go in and out without having to jump. Should you decide to go with the covered option, be sure that the opening is not too small or out of reach for your kitten.
As your kitten grows older, we recommend switching the litter box for one with higher sides, especially if you have a cat that kicks up a lot of litter when covering their leavings. Once you have chosen the box, it is essential to choose a litter that is safe for your kitten’s health. Make sure that the litter you choose does not contain any fragrances or harsh chemicals. Once you have your litter, pour about an inch of litter in the pan. Do not make it too deep, or your kitten might not use it. Avoid changing the litter and box type because a sudden difference in texture or smell might upset your cat and cause them to avoid their litter box.
Tip: A good rule of thumb is to provide one litter box per cat plus an extra box.
Like us, cats enjoy their privacy, so it is best to set up your litter box in a quiet and remote area in the house so that your kitten may use it comfortably and privately. Areas that are too noisy such as near laundry appliances might startle your cat and create a negative association with their litter box. In turn, this could make them stop going in the litter box altogether. If you have space, it is also best to offer multiple litter boxes so that your kitten will always be close to a litter box. Be sure to place your kitten’s litter box far away from their feeding area since cats do not like to soil beside their food.
Tip: Make sure that you keep the litter box in the same location to avoid any confusion. If you have more than one cat, avoid putting litter boxes side by side as litter boxes can be territorial for cats.
Any new cat or kitten should be introduced to their litter box as soon as you bring them to their new home so that they will be aware of its location. Once you have everything in place, you are ready to teach your new kitten how to use the box:
Tip: As mentioned previously, avoid moving the box to a different location once you have shown it to your kitten.
Cleaning your kitten’s litter box should be done daily. If you are pregnant, make sure to avoid changing your cat’s litter yourself if possible, to diminish any contact with your cat’s feces which can carry toxoplasmosis. Kittens are at the highest risk of carrying the Toxoplasma parasite. If no one else can change the litter for you, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands immediately after.
Cats will often refuse to use the litter box if it is not kept clean. Not only does a clean litter box keep your cat happy and healthy, it is also less likely to harbor bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other microorganisms. Ensure to clean the litter box with mild soap and avoid using any disinfectants or harsh chemicals such as ammonia. Make sure to completely replace the litter with fresh litter every week.
Finding a single cause for inappropriate elimination outside the litter box can be quite challenging. Even with the best training, kittens can sometimes have accidents outside their litter box. If your kitten persists in soiling outside the litter box, make sure to first rule out any medical conditions before concluding that the reason is behavioral. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to identify if your kitten has any underlying medical conditions and how to manage the problem. You may also need to experiment using different strategies, such as changing the litter box’s location or switching the type of litter you use, before finding the right combination that will make your kitty feel comfortable.