How to Litter Train a Kitten
Establishing good litter box behaviors early on in your cat’s life is essential to the long-term health and happiness of your home. Teaching kittens to use the litter box is one of the first training exercises for new kitten parents.
Luckily, using the litter box comes naturally to most kittens, and with a few tips and techniques, your young feline will establish proper litter box behaviors in no time.
“Cats are typically happy to use a litter box because they like privacy for bathroom habits and are accustomed to a sandy surface (or similar) to go to the bathroom,” says Dr. Stephanie Liff, veterinarian and owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York City.
7 steps to litter training kittens
To learn how to litter train a kitten, follow these steps:
1. Pick the right litter box
Choosing the best litter box for your cat is the first step to successful litter behaviors. Kittens are tiny, so pet parents can start with a small litter box that will accommodate their new feline companion and gradually work up to a larger box as their pet grows. Cats should be able to stand up, turn around and squat comfortably without touching the sides of the box. Look for a litter box that is easy for cats to enter so that there are no barriers to getting into the box.
2. Choose your litter
There are a variety of cat litters available at pet retailers, so finding the one that works for your kitten may take some testing. Cat litter is usually made up of clay, pine, corn, recycled newspaper or silica gel. Litter also comes in scented and unscented varieties. Start by using the litter that your kitten was using prior to coming into your home. If a change is needed, gradually introduce the new litter slowly by mixing it in with the old litter.
“There is no one-size-fits-all version of this, so it largely depends on your needs,” says Liff. “Cats with respiratory illnesses or allergies can be sensitive to certain types of litter, so you should just monitor and discuss with your veterinarian.”
3. Start litter training in a confined space
When beginning to litter train your kitten, keep them in a confined room—such as a bedroom—and show them where the box is. It may be helpful to gently place your kitten in the litter box to encourage them to use it. Once your cat gets used to using the box regularly and is no longer confined to one room, you can move the box to a low-traffic, quiet space in your home.
4. Pick the right spot for the litter box
Choosing the placement of the litter box in your home is important. It should be in a quiet, low-traffic area, but not one that is too far away from human interaction. A bathroom is usually a good option. Never place the litter box directly by a cat’s food and water bowls and make sure the area is relatively noise-free. Laundry rooms with loud washers and dryers are not an ideal litter box room. It’s also a good idea to have one easily accessible litter box on every floor of your home.
5. Choose the right number of litter boxes
“Behavioral vets recommend having one box per cat, plus one,” says Liff.
If you have more than one cat, make sure you have enough litter boxes to accommodate all of them, and avoid territorial issues by not placing multiple boxes in the same room or near each other.
6. Clean the litter box regularly
Cats are neat and tidy animals, so keeping your kitten’s litter box clean is an important part of litter training. Cats may avoid using a messy litter box, which can lead to accidents in the house.
Pet parents should scoop their cat’s litter box at least once every day and thoroughly clean the box using mild, unscented soap and warm water at least once per month. Placing a litter disposal system by the litter box is an easy and convenient way to remove waste. Litter boxes should be replaced every year.
7. Monitor litter box behavior
Once your kitten starts using the litter box, it’s important for pet parents to monitor litter box behaviors and watch for changes. “Any change in litter box behavior warrants a vet visit, but the most common one we see is lack of using the box for defecation or urination,” says Liff. “This behavior change can indicate underlying medical issues.”
If you notice your cat relieving themselves outside litter box, make sure to visit a veterinarian to rule out possible medical causes.
Can cats be toilet trained?
There are several cat toilet training kits on the market that gradually help cats learn to use a toilet instead of a litter box. Cat toilet training is possible, but pet parents should exercise caution and talk to their veterinarians before making this decision.
Toilet training a cat may be difficult for older, adult cats who are used to using a litter box, and cat parents should never force their cats to use the toilet if it causes stress or anxiety. Additionally, senior cats may have a difficult time jumping up to use the toilet.
Liff adds that toilet training a cat can be detrimental to monitoring your cat’s overall health, and she doesn’t usually recommend it. “It is important to be able to confirm that your pet is using the bathroom regularly and that the urine and fecal matter appear normal,” she says.
It’s hard for pet parents to monitor urination and defecation behaviors when their cats use the toilet.