If you’ve just welcomed a new kitten into your home, you’ll be happy to hear that, usually, litter training is relatively straightforward. Kittens typically learn good bathroom habits from their mother, and they’re instinctively drawn to soil-like substances that they can bury the ‘evidence’ in. This doesn’t mean you can just sit back and let them get on with it though, you need to be prepared with the right supplies and willing to offer them the guidance they need. Cats are intelligent creatures, so it shouldn’t be long before they’ve got it all figured out.
Basic supplies you'll need
Before your kitten can master their litter training, you’ll need to get your home set up and ready for them with all the necessary supplies:
A full-sized litter box can be intimidating for a little kitten, so start with one that is smaller in size and has low walls they can easily climb over. It’s best to have more than one litter box in your home, especially if you have more than one cat. In fact, a general rule to follow is to have one more litter box than there are cats (so three litter boxes for a household with two cats). Of these, at least one should be kitten-sized while they’re little.
There are a few types of cat litter, including clay litter, which forms clumps when wet for easy disposal, crystal litter, which locks in odour and moisture, and natural eco-friendly litters. As your kitten was probably introduced to some sort of cat litter by their breeder, you may want to find out what it was, so you can offer them some consistency. Remove any soiled litter at least daily and give their litter box a thorough clean each week to maintain good hygiene.
Rewarding your kitten when they use their litter tray can be a really valuable litter training technique, as it helps them to associate it with positive experiences. You can reward them by feeding them kitten treats, offering lots of praise, and by presenting them with their favourite toy to play with.
How to litter train your kitten
The earlier you start litter training your kitten, the better. You can begin this training from around 4 weeks old or whenever you bring your kitten home. By following a few simple steps, you should have it covered.
Create a designated space for them
The most important rule when it comes to finding a home for your cat’s litter box, is to position it far away from their food and water bowls, as well as their bedding. Cats don’t like to soil where they feed or sleep and may refuse to use the litter box if it its placed too close by. If you have more than one litter box, place them in different locations around your home, such as one on each floor. Choose spots that can be easily accessed, while also offering an element of privacy (without pinning them into a corner). Noisy areas or those with lots of traffic (people or pets) can feel distracting or even unsafe to a cat when they’re trying to do their business. In multiple cat households, ensure that all cats can access the litter boxes.
Introduce them to the litter box
Once you’ve decided where the litter boxes will live, show your kitten where each of them is located and let them have a good sniff. Going forward, you should physically place them in one of their litter boxes after all meals, playtime, and naps, or if you notice them behaving like they need the toilet (sniffing, crouching, etc.). This will help to build an association between their litter box and needing the toilet.
Clean up accidents quickly
If your kitten ever has an accident somewhere around your home that isn’t in their litter box, make sure you clean it up quickly. It’s important to never punish them, but if it’s left untreated and their odour lingers, it could encourage them to go to the toilet there again.
Be patient with them
Praising good behaviour is much more effective than punishing accidents. For starters, scolding your kitten can create anxiety around needing the toilet, which may exacerbate the problem. By offering positive reinforcement through praise or reward immediately after your kitten uses their litter box, it will teach them they’ve done a good thing. They’re only learning, so you need to be patient with them through the process.
Issues your kitten might face during litter training
Sometimes, litter training a kitten isn’t as smooth sailing as hoped. Holdups can occur for a few different reasons, but the sooner you figure out the issue the sooner you can come up with a solution.
Cats like their privacy as much as humans do. So, if your kitten prefers to find a quiet spot in the home to do their business in, it could be because they feel exposed in their litter box. In this case, moving the litter box to a different location that isn’t so on view could help.
Stress or anxiety
Your kitten may become stressed or anxious about going to the toilet if you scold them when they have an accident, or if other cats in the household are intimidating them. If you think your kitten’s anxiety is holding them back, make sure you give them lots of love and praise to encourage them to use it without concern. Try to keep your cats’ litter trays as far apart from each other as possible, so if they don’t want to share, they don’t have to encroach on each other’s space.
Potential medical complications
In rare cases, your kitten going to the toilet around your home could be a sign of an underlying medical issue. This could be a condition that makes them need to urinate more frequently, such as a urinary tract infection or feline interstitial cystitis (a neurological disease that affects the bladder), or even kidney stones or a blockage. You may also notice that your kitten meows or cries when urinating, due to discomfort or pain these conditions can cause. If you suspect your kitten could be unwell, get them seen by a vet straight away.
If you own more than one cat, you may discover that they urinate around the home to ‘urine mark’. This isn’t a litter box issue and rather a communication problem, as cats will leave their scent to mark their territory to other cats in the home. You can often tell the difference between genuine accidents and marking by the pungent smell, as the urine used for the latter contains extra communication chemicals. There will also usually be a lot less urine than their usual amount. Now that you know all the basics of litter training, you should be all set to guide your kitten through the process. As long as you’re patient with them and give them the support they need, they’ll have their litter training figured out in no time. For more information about training and caring for your kitten, check out our petcare blog.
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