How to Litter Train Your Kitten

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Cats are wonderful pets. They can be just as affectionate as dogs. And believe it or not, it is also possible to train your feline friend as well. This includes teaching them how properly use a litter box. So how to litter train your kitten or cat? As every cat owner knows, cats can be quite stubborn so any type of training requires some patience. But with some love, patience and a bit of knowledge of feline behaviors, you can successfully train your cat to use the litter box.

Essentially, it is much easier to train a cat to use a litter box that it is to housebreak a puppy. By 8 weeks of age, most kittens are already using the litter box properly. Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate their body waste in a sandy place. However, for many reasons, some cats may be lacking this natural instinct. If you are thinking of adopting a cat or kitten, or have a cat/kitten that has litter box issues, there are ways to resolve the problem.  In the following article, we shall discuss effective ways to litter box train your cat or kitten.

How to Litter Train A Very Young Kitten

In an ideal situation, you should not bring home a kitten under 12 weeks of age. They need to have had time to socialize with their littermates as well as to be properly weaned from their mothers. A mother cat generally starts to litter train her offspring as soon as they have stopped nursing. If you are adopting a cat that has been properly weaned, chances are they already know how to use a litter box.

However, if you have adopted or rescued a kitten under 12 weeks of age, they may need a little more guidance. Here are some tips on how to litter box train a younger kitten.

    • A newborn kitten up to three weeks of age will need to be manually stimulated immediately after feedings. Rub their genital area very gently with a warm wash cloth until they have eliminated. As a newborn kitten is unable to naturally relieve themselves, a mother takes over the job until they are old enough to do so on their own, normally around four weeks old.
    • You can begin litter box training once the kitten has begun to eat on their own and is able to walk. It is important to purchase a litter box with a low lip so it is easily accessible for their tiny legs.
    • You might want to gently place the kitten in the litter box immediately after they eat their food few times to get them acclimated to the box. Make a scratching motion with your fingers on the litter to show it to them. You can also place them in the litter box after they have just awakened.
    • Do not hover over the kitten as some cats prefer privacy. Give them a few minutes to do their business. If they have used the litter box, praise them and give them a treat. As with training a dog, do not harshly scold them if they have an accident outside the litter box.
    • If you catch your cat “in the act” of eliminating outside the box, gently place them in the litter box. Again, do not yell at them. This will only frighten them, and they may learn to associate the litter box with your disapproval or anger.
    • Place the litter box in an area that is easily accessible to your kitten. Do not place it in a high trafficked or noisy area.
    • If you are leaving your kitten in a confined area while you are not home, make sure that he/she has access to their litter box at all times. You can leave them in a gated area or separate room but, be sure to provide them with food, water, toys and a litter box.
    • As kittens more trouble control their bladders than adult cats, you should have more than one litter box until they are properly trained. You don’t want your kitten to have to run up or down three flights of stairs to use their litter box in a hurry and have an accident on the way. Place several litter boxes around your home until they are fully litter box trained (As a general rule, you should have one litter box per cat, plus one additional litter box accessible at all times.)

General Tips For Litter Box Training A Cat or Kitten

Even older cats might suddenly develop litter box issues. One of the first things you need to do is make sure that it is not in fact a health issue. Problems such as blockages, UTIs (urinary tract infections) and other such health issues could cause your cat to suddenly stop using their litter box. Cats who have increased thirst due to thyroid, liver or kidney issues will need to urinate more frequently therefore they might not make it to the litter box in time. As well, a cat suffering from constipation or diarrhea may not have issues.

If you notice them straining or crying when they are using the litter box, this could be a sign of a health issue. If this is the case, you do not want to take any chances as some of these can be life threatening conditions.  Should you suspect anything is amiss with your feline friend, take them to the vet straight away.

If it’s not a health issue, it could be behavioral. An older cat may rebel or act out if you suddenly bring home a new addition such as another cat. This can happen also if its a new dog or even a human baby. If you have recently moved, your cat might have litter boxes issues as cats often have trouble adjusting to change. If the behavior does not resolve itself, you should discuss the issue with your veterinarian.

Other reasons why your cat is eliminating outside of their litter box may be as follows:

  • The litter box needs to be clean. You should scoop your litter box at least once a day, more if you have multiple cats. As well, you should change the litter according to the directions specified per the type of litter you use. Some brands of litter need to change them weekly while others need last for 30 days between changes. However, if you live in a multi cat household, you should change the litter frequently.
  • Not enough litter boxes for the number of cats in the home. Again, you should have one litter box per cat plus at least one extra.
  • You have recently changed the kind of litter you have been using.
  • The litter box is too small for your cat.
  • Conflict/Issues with another cat in the home could be causing your cat to avoid using the litterbox.
  • Negative Association: Your cat was upset by something at one time when using the litter box and now associates that incident with the litter box. This is why you should never scold or yell at your cat while they are using their litter box.
  • The litter box is placed in an area that is not accessible.
  • The lip or sides of the litter box are too high for your cat. Older cats may have issues such as arthritis which make it harder for them to climb in larger litter boxes.
  • Too much or not enough litter in the box.
  • Perfumed litter: Cats locate their litter box by their scent. Fancy perfumed litters will deter them from using their litter box.

Choosing the proper litter box for your cat is also a contributing factor:

While some cats prefer covered litter boxes as they like privacy, another cat might be scared of the enclosed place. Electronic self-cleaning litter boxes might seem like a great idea, but they can be hazardous if they malfunction. Also many cats are afraid to use them due to the noise and movement. You should always choose a box that is big enough for your cat to move around. That way your cat will be able to cover their waste without an issue.

Choosing the right kind of litter is also a contributing factor. Some cats may have sensitive paws so clay litter might hurt them. Once upon a time when clay litter was the only choice, but luckily today we have many options. There are natural alternatives such as walnut based litter, pine litter, and grass. Additionally is also clumping litter and silica gel litter. It might be a matter of trial and error to determine what type of litter your cat will prefer. Again, cleaning the litter box regularly is a great way to keep the litter cat-friendly.

Another issue that may prevent your cat from using their litter box is that their food or water bowls are located closely to the litter box. Think about it, you would not want to eliminate waste near where you eat or drink, so of course your beloved cat will feel the same. Cats are notoriously clean creatures and are often feel bad if their litter box is near their feeding areas.

Bottom line is that most cats will naturally gravitate towards the litter box. If they are having issues, utilize the above information to resolve the situation.. Again, if you think your cat could be sick, seek immediate veterinary care. How to litter train your kitten or cat depends mostly on other factors like time, love and patience on your end.

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