Training Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box

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Key Takeaways:
  • Having the right supplies, such as multiple litter boxes, kitty litter, etc., is essential for successful litter training.
  • When attempting to litter train your cat, avoid punishing or scolding if they make mistakes.
  • Cleaning the litter box is important, as it will make your cat feel more comfortable while going.

 

If you're reading this, chances are, you have a new feline friend or will very soon, and you need to know how to litter train a kitten. Fortunately, litter box training is easy for most kittens because domestic cats are clean mammals. Their ancestors buried their excrement to hide from predators or competitors, and modern-day cats have retained this trait, instinctively burying their poo in litter boxes. This not only provides you with the benefit of easy cleanup, but litter boxes also give cats a predetermined quiet, sandy place to eliminate, which is mentally and physically beneficial to them.

While most cats already know how to use a litter box, sometimes you have to train them if they've never used one before. Here's how to litter train a kitten.

How to Litter Train a Kitten

Gray striped tabby kitten sits in front of bright yellow litter box.Follow these steps for how to litter train a kitten:

  1. Assemble supplies: At the very least, you'll need a litter box and litter. You can place a mat under the litter box to minimize mess. Choose fine, sandy, unscented, clumping litter. If you have a kitten or a cat with mobility issues, choose a box with low sides that's easy for them to get in and out of. Place the box in a quiet, warm, low-traffic area of your home. If you have multiple floors in your home, place a box on each level, and have one more box than the number of cats in your home.
  2. Show your kitten: Once you have the litter box(es) set up, it's time to introduce your kitten. Set your kitten in the box to allow exploration and sniffing. Avoid interacting or distracting your kitten while they're in the box, and don't move the box once you've shown them where it is. Put your kitten in the box after meals and naps to encourage normal elimination. In addition, any time you see your kitten sniffing or crouching, like they're about to go, is a great time to jump in and get them to the litter box for litter training — so be vigilant!
  3. Be positive and patient: While you're litter box training, there are bound to be accidents. Don't punish or scold your kitten; just clean up the mess with an enzymatic cleaner and keep reinforcing the training. Some kittens will get it right away, but some can take a month to figure it out. When you do see your kitten using the box successfully, reinforce the behavior with treats and praise.

Troubleshooting Litter Box Training

Quick Fixes

Some cats can be quite picky about the conditions in which they're willing to go. If you've followed the guidelines suggested above, but your kitten doesn't seem to be getting the hang of using the box, there could be a few possible explanations. For example, your cat might dislike:

  • The size or shape of the box
  • The smell or texture of the litter
  • The location of the box
  • Sharing the box with other cats
  • A covering on the box — they might find it too confining. Alternately, they might feel too exposed and would prefer a covered box.
  • The cleanliness of the box — you may need to scoop it out more often. Cats prefer clean boxes, so it's recommended to scoop any time your cat goes number two, and scoop urine clumps daily or every other day.

You might need to experiment until you find the right combination of factors that makes your kitten comfortable enough to use the box. You may also need to confine your kitten to a small space, like a bathroom, until they start using the box regularly.

Orange and white cat sites behind cabinet, poking head out.

Medical Explanations

If you try all of this and are still struggling, consult with your veterinarian or a certified feline behaviorist. Sometimes cats won't use the litter box due to medical reasons. A few examples include:

  • Urine spraying: Kittens who have yet to be spayed or neutered might spray urine throughout the house to mark their territory, even after being fully litter box trained. Spaying or neutering your kitten often stops this behavior.
  • Age: If you have an older cat, they may be dealing with joint pain or stiffness that makes accessing the box difficult to navigate. Consider whether the sides of the box might be too high to comfortably climb over, or whether your cat has to climb stairs or jump up on something to get to the box.
  • Stress/anxiety: If your kitten uses the box consistently over a period of time and then suddenly stops or does so inconsistently, there might be an underlying problem. Stress and anxiety can cause a cat to stop using the litter box, so consider whether there have been any major changes in the environment and talk to your vet.
  • Medical issues: Often, no longer using the litter box can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, such as cystitis or a urinary tract infection, which will need to be treated. If you suspect an underlying medical issue, reach out to your vet.

Fortunately, most kitties take to a litter box like a duck to water, so now that you know how to litter train a kitten, you're well on the road to a happy, harmonious relationship with your new furry family member. Have fun!

Contributor Bio

Amy Shojai

Amy Shojai, CABC

Amy Shojai, is a certified animal behavior consultant, and nationally known authority on pet care and behavior. She began her career as a veterinary technician and is the award-winning author of more than 35 prescriptive nonfiction pet books. 

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