Litter box training starts with choosing the right box size and type of litter for your cat. You might have to introduce him to the box several times before he recognizes that it’s his. Location matters, too—giving him a quiet, relatively private place to go will help him feel calmer. Finally, clean his litter and litter box regularly so it’s comfortable for him to use.
- Preparing the Litter Box
Choose a litter box
Not every cat automatically feels comfortable using a litter box. Some cats are finicky (surprise) about the shape of their litter box and the type of litter inside. The first step of litter training is choosing the right sized box.
For kittens, this means a much smaller container than an adult litter box. While they’re young, kittens are often more comfortable in an open box than an enclosed one. You can try setting up one of each and let your cat choose the one he prefers.
Whether you’re training a kitten or an adult, choose a litter box with sides that are tall enough to prevent spills but low enough to allow your cat easy access. If your cat is comfortable with it, a clear, covered litter box with a swinging door provides the best protection from spills.
The ideal litter box size is about 1.5 to 2 times longer than your cat. In other words, he’ll be happiest in a bathroom that’s big enough for two—though you’ll never see two cats in the litter box at the same time.
You and your cat might not agree on the best location for his litter box. Maybe you’ve chosen a quiet, low-traffic area that seems perfect but your cat has other ideas. You can’t force him to go in a place where he’s uncomfortable. However, you can move the box around until you find a location he agrees with. Then, you can try to gradually move it closer to where you’d like it to be.
Your cat will probably prefer having his bed and bathroom in different areas of the room or different rooms altogether. Putting the litter box in a room with hard floors and no clutter will make it easiest to keep clean, especially while you and your cat are training.
If you have more than one cat, it’s a good idea to set up one litter box for each cat plus another, extra box that they can use to alternate. This way, your cat can use whichever box he wants without being tempted to find his own spot somewhere in the house.
Choosing a type of litter
The right litter is another factor that you can research and shop for but that will ultimately be your cat’s decision. If he seems uneasy about stepping into the litter box or has had accidents around the house, the litter could be to blame.
There are many different kinds of cat litter, some scented and some flushable. Sometimes, scented litter actually overwhelms cats and makes them avoid it. Other times, the texture might be uncomfortable to step on. By trying different litters and watching your cat’s reactions, you can find the one he prefers.
Cats are sensitive to changes in routine. Once you’ve found a litter he likes, be consistent and continue to use the same one.
- Training Your Cat To Use the Litter Box
How to litter train a cat
Litter box training begins as soon as your cat arrives at home for the first time. Whether he’s a kitten from a breeder or an adult cat from a shelter, you should show him where his litter box or boxes are located right away. It can help to put a few pieces of kibble or some catnip near the box to make a positive association.
During the first few days, carry your cat to the litter box after every meal to show him that it’s his area. You can also take him there after he wakes up from a nap or finishes playing with his toys, further reinforcing the behavior.
Most cats quickly learn how to use the litter box once they’ve understood that it’s theirs. With patience and guidance, you can teach your pet to use his personal bathroom area without any fuss.
Always remember to praise him when he uses the litter box. Verbal praise, petting, playing and small treats are all good ways to show him that he is behaving well.
Handling spills and accidents
Your cat’s habit of “covering his tracks” might accidentally scatter litter across the floor outside the box. If this is a persistent problem, your cat might need a larger box (with more room to find clean spots) or one with a different shape.
Sometimes, after your cat seems to have gotten used to using the litter box, you’ll suddenly find… an accident! It’s normal for pets to have the occasional accident, even after they’ve been well-trained. A variety of things can cause your cat to miss the litter box or ignore it altogether.
Regularly check his box to make sure it’s clean. You can also try moving it to a spot where he consistently has accidents. If there is lots of litter on the floor outside the box, it could be because your cat doesn’t like the litter. A different material or size of litter could be the solution.
Most importantly, don’t punish your cat for accidents. Instead, try to determine why he didn’t use the litter box. Then, you can make changes for a smoother potty routine.
- Cleaning the Litter Box
It takes more than a daily scooping to keep your kitty’s litter box fresh and clean. Even a subtle odor can put off a cat’s sensitive nose. If you scoop the litter every day, changing it once a week should be enough to satisfy your picky cat.
He will also be grateful if you scrub his litter box at least every other time you change the litter. Even a quick wipe with hot water and detergent will help keep his toilet sanitary. And a quick sweep around the outside of the box will keep your room tidy, too.
You can make litter box training easiest for your cat by having patience and being consistent. Paying close attention to his preferences will help you set up his litter box in the way he likes. And when accidents happen, calmly correct him by carrying him to his box. With regular cleaning, you can make his potty breaks easy and comfortable, making both of you happy.
- “5 Litter Box Training Tips.” Animal Planet, Discovery Communications, 15 May 2012.
- Stregowski, RVT, Jenna. “How to Train Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box.” The Spruce Pets, Dotdash, 16 Oct. 2018.
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