Cats have a natural propensity to eliminate in sand or soil, and kittens learn from their mother's example. Kittens often begin learning to use the litter box at 3 or 4 weeks of age, so your kitten will most likely be familiar to using one when you bring her home. If you buy a kitten too soon after it has been weaned or adopting an abandoned kitten, she may not be litter trained yet, and this is where we can assist you.
When to Start Training
The best time to introduce potty training to your kitten to use the litter box is between 3 and 4 weeks old. This usually coincides with weaning. For an adopted kitten, training should start the day you take it home.
Cleanup is usually not an issue for newborn kittens. After birth, your mama cat stimulates her kittens to eliminate. She also cleans them up afterward. This means that your newborn kittens won't require any litter boxes.
But what if a mama cat is not with her litter and the kittens are below 3 weeks of age? That’s when you need to intervene and be a parent. You have to create an elimination routine for the little ones. After every feeding, gently rub their excretion area with a tissue for 30 seconds. This will stimulate them to poo and pee at a set time.
Kittens are fast learners. Soon, they can apply this training and find discreet ways to relieve themselves.
How to Prepare for Litter Training
Regardless of whether you are bringing a kitten or an outdoor cat home litter training should be fairly simple. However, several factors have an impact on this process. These include changes in the environment and your cat’s personality.
Preparation is key to dealing with these factors. Here are some things that you can do to ensure the success of litter training.
Buy the Right Litter Box
Research and prepare early. Don’t just get the first litter box you encounter and avoid the last minute rush. The right litter box can do wonders and save you from a lot of unnecessary cleaning.
What Are the Different Types of Litter Boxes?
If you go to the pet shop near you or online pet store, you’ve probably seen an overwhelming range of litter box designs. They all boil down to 3 standard designs:
Uncovered litter box
What’s the difference? Uncovered litter boxes provide sufficient privacy without making your cat feel vulnerable. If you want a higher success rate for litter training, an uncovered litter box should be your first choice. For starters, a simple and low-profile uncovered litter box works best for kittens for easy access.
Once they are 6 months old, you may want to consider a larger and more durable litter box, such as our Pottybox, as their permanent litter box.
The basic design allows your cat to observe its environment while doing business. Not only that, but the open design will also motivate you to change the litter frequently. Your cat will appreciate doing its business in a clean box.
Image: PottyBox JUMBO Cat Litter Box
Covered litter box
Covered boxes are usually more visually appealing. They also provide more privacy for cats as they do their business. However, they also give cats the feeling of being trapped. By nature, cats don't like being kept in an enclosed area.
Self cleaning litter box
Automatic cat litter boxes are self-cleaning: they detect when your cat has used the litter box and automatically rake the waste into a sealed receptacle. They can save you time and hassle by removing waste every time your cat goes. However, they are very expensive and can be difficult to clean.
Make sure you observe your cat after you introduce the new litter box. Ultimately, your cat will let you know if it prefers the covered or uncovered version. If you have several cats at home, each animal might choose a different litter box.
What’s the Correct Size for Your Cat’s Litter Box?
For kittens, the recommended standard size is 38 x 28 cm. Get one with lower sides so that your kittens can easily get in.
When your cat is fully grown, transition them to a larger cat litter box. Better yet, buy a litter box that’s 1 ½ times your pet’s body length. Make sure to measure your cat and follow this tip each time you get a new litter box.
Should You Have More than One Litter Box?
Personally, we believe that having one litter box for one cat is sufficient, especially if you live in an apartment. Yes, you do need more than one litter box unless you have a larger home or one with multiple floors.
This will also be beneficial for older cats who might be suffering from urinary issues. You don't want your old tabby risking a fall or further injury because of the lack of litter boxes.
Additional litter boxes also benefit cats that have been recently neutered. Post-neuter cats need quick access to a litter box while they are healing. Some of them may suffer from incontinence, so they may not make it if the litter box is too far away.
Use the Right Cat Litter
Cat litter is designed to be deodorizing and absorbent, a boon for households with indoor cats. Standard cat litter is usually made from clay. As you shop, you may see products labeled as “clumping” or “non-clumping.” Clumping litter is easier to scoop and clean. Non-clumping litter works for cats of all ages, but it needs to be changed more frequently.
However, it is never too late to switch to safer products for your kitten and start them young. Choose alternative cat litter made from non-toxic and biodegradable materials like:
● Plant-based cat litter (mainly tofu)
● Pine wood litter
● Paper litter
Choose a Good Litter Box Location
Surprisingly, placement is a deciding factor for whether or not your cat will use a litter box. Litter boxes placed in a quiet and private location works wonders because cats like to do their things in private. They prefer not to have an audience when they are doing their toilet needs.
Additionally, they don't like their litter boxes near their eating area. Therefore, place the litter box away from feeding bowls. Make sure it is still accessible enough for your cat to go to at any time.
While it is tempting to hide litter boxes from view, consider your cat’s needs. Head on HERE for the best locations to place your cat litter box at home.
Quick Guide to Litter Training
The first step toward having a happy cat in a happy home is to properly guide your kitten's litter training. Believe us when we say that this is the most important milestone for both you and your kitten to reach before anything else.
Introduce the Litter Box
Let your cat sniff the litter box and feel its contents. What's important is to keep the litter box exactly where you have shown your cat. Don't move things around, as it might confuse your tabby.
Kittens would usually need their litter box upon waking up and after eating, so make sure that you put the litter box in the same place. This will reinforce to your cat that toilet functions mean getting into their litter box.
Adult cats, meanwhile, might sniff around the litter box after you show it to them. They like to explore on their own and would eventually go back to it. Then they will decide if they want to use it or not.
Establish the Purpose of the Litter Box
Initially, you need to place your cat inside the litter box. Given their instincts, they should start pawing at the litter before using it. If they don't, run your fingers through the litter to mimic a pawing action.
If you notice your cat sniffing around and crouching in a specific spot, then help by carrying your cat on the litter box right away. These are usually these indicators, especially after nap time or after eating. Repeat daily.
Reward Your Cat’s Efforts
Always acknowledge your cat for attempting to use the litter box, especially during the learning phase. Give your cat cuddles, praise, toys, or treats.
This way, your cat will view using the litter box in a positive light. For this to work, reward your cat immediately after leaving the litter box.
Never Punish Mistakes
Potty or litter training your cat does not happen instantly. It is a learned behavior, so lapses are part of the process.
Don't get mad at your kitten for accidents because this can lead to stress for both of you. It also causes anxiety in your kitten, which can make training harder.
Remember that kittens or cats don't associate punishment with a particular incident, unlike dogs. Getting angry won’t contribute to litter training success. On the contrary, it might cause your cat to be turned off by the entire process.
It will not always be smooth sailing. But soon, your cat will get into the habit of using a litter box without any prompting.
Challenges in Litter Training
Litter training comes with challenges, most of which are dictated by your cat’s personality. Keep in mind that cats don't score that high when it comes to obedience.
Here are the top issues you might have to deal with and the recommended solutions.
As your kitten grows older, and especially if you have a boy, he will enjoy spraying things with his urine to mark his territory. Unfortunately, this is also their natural method of establishing rank in your household, especially if there are other cats or pets in your household.
This is probably more of a problem for you as the cat parent. You’ll find yourself searching for the origin of that pungent smell and doing a lot of tidying up. Plus, these territory indicators leave nasty stains on carpets, rugs, and furniture.
The solution is to get your kittens neutered once they are old enough.
Litter box and litter selection
At first, your cat may go to the litter box for its toilet needs. But what if your kitten decides to do its business somewhere else?
Your cat may turn away from a litter box for a lot of reasons. It can be the smell of the litter, the disinfectant you use to clean the box or changes in your home. Perhaps your cat is just not comfortable with being inside a covered litter box or the location may also be too public or noisy for your pet.
If you’re in this situation, do an elimination process and determine why your cat refuses the litter box. You have to reassess the litter box's location, size, and litter contents.
To find out if it’s just a litter problem, use a different type of litter but the same box. Pottyaid, a special type of litter for litter training, may be beneficial.
If that does not work, try replacing the cleaning solution you use. You can also change the location of the litter box. As a last resort, replace the box itself.
Self-Assigned Toilet Area
Despite having several potty areas, your cat may insist on doing its toilet business in the same spot. What if your cat chooses an area that does not work for your household? It may be a busy hallway, a corner of your kitchen, or near your bed.
When this happens, you will have to discourage your cat from using that spot. Put your kitten's bed or feeding bowls in that area. Remember, cats won't soil the places where they sleep and eat. After this, re-introduce litter training in a better location.
Grounding for Cats
Is your cat still not getting the hang of using a litter box? As a last resort, confine your cat to a room with a litter box, and it may spend the night with you during bedtime or in an empty room while you're at work.
Remember that cats generally like their surroundings clean. Given the limited space, they will soon learn to use a litter box.
“Grounding” cats may force them to do the right thing when it comes to relieving themselves. Keeping your fingers crossed!
Refusal to use the litter box is a valid reason to give your veterinarian a visit as litter box avoidance can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
For example, if your cat is suspected to have a urinary tract infection and with this condition, they experiences pain when urinating, which soon becomes associated with using the litter box. As a result, your kitten will stop going near what they consider a source of pain.
Once this medical issue is resolved, re-introduce the litter training process and use a non-toxic cat litter for best results.
Potty training is all about forming a lifelong bond with your kitten. Remember that the success of a potty training depends on your and your kitten's joint effort. When you finish this, you should be proud of yourself and your kitten. Have a wonderful adventure!