‘How to litter train a kitten’ is probably one of the most commonly asked questions from newfound kitten mums. Thankfully, with just a little bit of feline know-how, litter training kittens is actually pretty simple.
It’s worth taking some time to pick the right box, location and introduce your kitten to their new toilet. Otherwise, you might be in for a few smelly ‘surprises’ behind the sofa… no thank you!
How to train a kitten to use a litter box
When it comes to litter training kittens, it’s important to prepare the litter box before the furbaby arrives. Fill it with your chosen litter and pop some newspaper underneath - your little kitten might have a few aiming accidents at first!
If your kitten has already been using a litter box with her breeder or at the animal shelter, ask what type of litter they’ve been using and pick the same or a similar type.
When kitty arrives home, it’s time to introduce them to their new litter tray. Take them to the litter box and gently place them inside it. Do a little bit of digging with your finger and softly hold their paw and dig a little with that, too. They might not need to go at this point, but you’ve at least shown them where to go. Give them a reward and let them explore their surroundings.
If kitty doesn’t seem to be using the toilet on their own accord sometime in the next few hours, you’ll need to do some extra kitten litter training. Place them in the litter box around half an hour after every meal, as well as first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Hopefully, they’ll soon get the hang of it. When they go, leave them in peace to do their business. It’s handy to give them rewards prior to using the litter box to positively reinforce the process - nope, training isn’t just for dogs!
Litter training kittens: tips and tricks
Make sure the litter box is the right size
“The size of the litter box matters to a kitten or adult cat. Each litter box should be large enough for the kitten to feel comfortable. A good rule is to use a litter box three times the length of the kitten from nose to tail,” advises Linda White, author of First Steps with Puppies and Kittens.
For multiple cats, use multiple litter boxes
One of the biggest litter training kittens mistakes? Only having one litter box for multiple kittens or cats. You need to provide as many litter boxes as there are cats, and ideally one or two extra.
In a multi-cat household, one cat may block other cats from a specific litter box - which isn’t much fun for the less dominant kitty! Make sure each litter box is located well away from the other - ideally in separate rooms.
Put a litter box on each floor
What if kitty wakes up and needs to pee urgently? When kittens are particularly young, it’s essential to put a litter box on each floor of the house.
Choose the right location
You should place each litter box in what we’d call a ‘low-traffic’ area. This should be a room which is quiet, private and doesn’t get too much football.
Why? Well, placing the litter box in the family living room where everyone gathers at the weekends isn’t exactly relaxing for a kitty during private-time. In fact, it may put them off defecating in it all together - meaning you might find little ‘surprises’ around the house!
Cats don’t like eating or sleeping near where they poop, either - which is totally understandable! Place the litter box in a different room entirely to your kitten’s food/water bowls and bed.
Clean the litter box out regularly
Did you know that cats are extremely clean and hygienic animals? If they deem their litter box dirty, they may refuse to use it completely.
You’ll need to scoop any poop out of the litter box at least once a day - though it’s best to scoop it out as soon as you see it. The box will need to be completely cleaned out and disinfected once a week, with a full change of litter. When washing, it’s important to rinse the litter box well. Cats have a great sense of smell and might be put off by the lingering smell of soap or disinfectant.
Keep the litter box location consistent
“If you quickly move your litter box to a new location, your cat may simply abandon the litter box and use anywhere it feels comfortable to use. If you must change the location of your litter box, then do so gradually,” explains Walter A. Aiken in Cat Training: A Complete Step By Step Guide to Make Your Cat Master It All.
“Additionally, when moving your litter box to a new location, reward your cat with a pet or a nice treat when the cat continues to use the litter box in the changed location."
And here you have it, the secret to training a kitten to use the litter tray. We hope you won’t find any smelly surprises.