Congratulations on your new kitten! If this is your first time having a brand new kitty cat, teaching a kitten how to use the litter box is an essential part in the basics of caring for a cat.
Luckily, litter box training is a natural process that many kittens adapt to very easily. When you do it the right way, it’s not difficult at all. Litter training cats probably won't be too much of a headache. Here are some simple steps to follow to have your kitten mastering litter box training with ease and avoid litter box problems down the road.
Choose the Right Kind of Litter
Have at least 3-4 inches of kitten-safe litter in the box for them to comfortably dig through. Like human babies, kittens tend to explore the world through their mouths. While clumping litter and scented litter are popular options among adult cats, these litter types can be dangerous to kittens if ingested and should be avoided until a kitten is at least three months old.
Choose a Kitten-Friendly Litter Box
Kittens require a shallower litter box than adult cats so that they can walk in and out of it easily. You may want to use a covered litter box eventually, but at first, it’s easier to have it open so that you can place your kitten in the box rather than sticking them through a tiny opening that may be scary for a kitten.
Know Your Kitten's Schedule
Litter training kittens means following a schedule. Most kittens will use the bathroom:
Shortly after waking up (naps included)
After eating (all meals)
Following a period of being active – playtime seems to get things moving through their systems
Keep your kitten on the same eating schedule each day to help predict their bathroom habits. It’s natural that after they eat, your little kitten will usually have to eliminate.
Bring Your Kitten to the Litter Box at Regular Intervals
Every two hours is a good baseline for bringing them to the litter box. This is important to practice until the kitten heads to the litter box on their own. When they wake up (even from naps), after a meal, and after playtime, bring them to the litter box. Consistency is key to helping them learn to use the litter box on a regular schedule.
Show Your Kitten How to Use the Litter Box
Place them into the litter box and show them how to scratch at the surface of the litter with your fingers. They will watch what you do and imitate the behavior. If you have a mother cat around, she’ll show the kittens how to use the litter box, but if you’ve adopted a kitten from a shelter or breeder this won’t be the case. Don’t worry, they will learn to use the litter box on their own even without a mother cat around.
Use Positive Reinforcement When Your Kitten Uses the Litter Box
Give them love and affection, praising them when they do their business in the litter box. They will understand that positive reinforcement is a great part of the process that they’ll look forward to receiving from you. If you want to use treats as a reward, that’s fine as well.
Designate a Space for the Litter Box
Place the litter box in a specific area of your home, but away from their food. Cats, like most animals, don’t enjoy using the bathroom near their food. Position the litter box somewhere that’s easy for them to get to and preferably on the floor where they spend most of their time. You may want to hide the litter box away in the basement, but that makes it hard for a smaller kitten to have access to.
Pro Tip: Until you’re confident that your kitten is completely trained to use the litter box successfully, don’t let them have free run of your entire home. When you aren’t around, confine them to a smaller area, like your bathroom or in their crate if you have one.
If Your Kitten Goes Outside the Litter Box
If you see a kitten using the bathroom where they shouldn’t, gently bring them over to the litter box and place them inside.
Don’t Yell or Act Aggressively Towards Them
That will only make litter training your kitten more complicated. They may start to hide from you or go in all the wrong places, like your closet. Gentle guidance and praise are best throughout this whole process.
Do Not Rub Their Nose in the Accident Spot
You don’t want your cat to become afraid of you in any way. Clean the spot immediately with a vinegar-based solution to get rid of the odor. This will keep your kitten from returning to the same spot to use the bathroom.
Leave Some of their Business in the Box
It’s also helpful if their litter box isn't completely cleaned out during training since the smell of their own urine or eliminations will remind them that’s where they need to go to the bathroom.
Above all, be patient and kind to your kitten through the process. Know that eventually being litter trained will be like second nature to them. It just takes a little time for them to learn.