OrA Purr-fect Guide: How to Train Kittens, Outdoor Cats, and Feral Felines to Use the Litter Box
Bringing a new kitten into your home or attempting to transition outdoor or feral cats to use a litter box can be a bit challenging, but fear not! With the right techniques and patience, you can successfully train your feline friends to use a litter box. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of training kittens, outdoor cats, and even feral cats to use a litter box indoors.
Fun fact, did you know that most kittens instinctively know how to use a litter box once it has been shown to them? That is true in most cases. However, if you are caring for orphaned newborn kittens, then using a litter box is something that you may have to teach them until they get the hang of it.
Step 1: Gather the Essentials Before you embark on this training journey, make sure you have all the necessary supplies:
Choose an appropriately-sized, low-sided, and easy-to-access box.
When you think about choosing a litter box for a kitten, it’s really important that you think about choosing a litter box for where they are at RIGHT NOW. Your kitten needs an easily accessible litter box, so choose something with low sides that it can easily step into.
It should be big enough for the kitten to turn around and go potty in more than one spot as well. My biggest recommendation is to get a cheap small plastic litter box.
Depending on their age and size, you may even want to start with a makeshift litter box. We used empty boxes that we cut to be the right size for our orphaned kitties.
When you’re trying to decide on a type of litter box, it is better to keep it as simple as possible. Covered litter boxes are probably not the best to get your little furbaby used to going to the bathroom.
In the beginning, it may be best to use an open box so you can observe your kitten in it. Once your kitten learns to use the box, you can always upgrade as they grow. As they grow, you may even decide to try covering a box to see if they have a preference. Some cats prefer the privacy of a covered box, while others dislike the closed-in feeling.
For reference, all four of mine LOVE litter boxes with lids, however when we had the little litter boxes when they were babies, they did not mind them at all.
If you have multiple cats, a good rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra. It’s still a good idea to have two litter boxes if your kitten is the only cat in your home depending on the size of your house. If you live in a home with multiple stories, it is usually recommend to put a litter box on each level to prevent accidents.
Cat litter: Opt for a clumping, unscented litter that most cats prefer.
When it comes to choosing litter for your kitten, the type of litter you chose not only makes a huge difference for how they take to litter box training, but it can also be harmful. Harmful? Litter? Yes.
Think of kittens like babies. When babies are learning, they will put nearly anything and everything in their mouths. Kittens can do the same thing. Which means they can potentially eat litter.
Clumping litter is great because it clumps all the liquids into a solid scoopable mass. But if your kitten ingests it, it could clump in their stomach and cause a blockage.
To prevent this from happening, I like to recommend non-clumping litter until they are at least 8-10 weeks old.
When it comes to choosing the type of non-clumping litter, do you have some options. Unscented litter is best because perfumes can overwhelm your kitten’s sensitive olfactory system. You can also choose to go with a wheat or corn based litter, but I recommend starting with a basic non-clumping and seeing how your kitten reacts to it.
Another pointer that I like to recommend is when it actually comes to the OUTSIDE of the litter box. I like to put a little mat outside of the litter box to catch particles as your kitty steps out. You may also wish to get a mat to place outside the box to catch litter particles as kitty steps out. It keeps the floor clean, and I’ve caught my cats rubbing their paws on it to clean them off.
Scoop and scoop holder:
Daily cleaning is crucial to maintain hygiene. Find a scoop and holder you like and are comfortable using every day!
To keep the litter box area clean and odor-free. You can also keep fresh scents near the little box to keep the smells down. Just makes sure the scents are safe for your cats.
Treats and rewards:
Positive reinforcement is key to training success.
Step 2: Choose the Right Location Selecting the right spot for the litter box is crucial. Keep these tips in mind:
- A quiet, low-traffic area: Cats prefer privacy when using the litter box.
- Away from food and water bowls: Cats don’t like to eliminate near their feeding area.
- Easy access: Make sure kittens and older cats can reach it easily.
Step 3: Gradual Introduction
Orphaned or newborn kittens:
- Place the kitten in the litter box after meals, waking up, and playtime.
- Gently dig their paws into the litter to show them how it feels.
- Be patient and consistent.
- Start by placing the litter box in an area they frequent outdoors.
- Gradually move it indoors over several days, inch by inch.
- Use their outdoor soil or a bit of used litter to attract them.
- Set up a large, covered cat trap with a litter box inside.
- Once caught, keep them in a quiet space with the litter box.
- Allow them to acclimate gradually.
Step 4: Positive Reinforcement Reward your cat when they use the litter box:
- Praise: Offer verbal praise in a gentle, reassuring tone.
- Treats: Give them a tasty treat immediately after they use the box.
- Petting and affection: Show your love and approval.
Step 5: Consistent Cleaning Regularly scoop the litter box to keep it clean.
Cats are more likely to use a clean box. Here’s how to maintain hygiene:
- Daily scooping: Remove clumps and waste daily.
- Weekly cleaning: Empty the entire box, wash it with cat-friendly disinfectant, and add fresh litter.
- Avoid strong chemicals: Stick to mild cleaning products.
Step 6: Problem-Solving
If your cat is having trouble adjusting or starts avoiding the litter box:
- Check for medical issues: Consult a vet to rule out any health problems.
- Adjust the litter type: Experiment with different litters to find what your cat prefers.
- Try different boxes: Some cats have preferences for box size and shape.
- Maintain consistency: Stick to a routine for feeding, playtime, and litter box use.
What To Do If Your Kitten has Accidents
When you’re reading this, it may seem really intimidate and a daunting process to teach kittens to use the litter box. Luckily, most kittens learn to use the litter box fairly quickly. So the training portion should not take a lot of time.
If you kitten is going to the bathroom outside of the litter box, you have some options to start mitigating that negative behavior. If your kitten has one or two specific areas in the house where it likes to eliminate, move the litter boxes to these areas.
Now, if you kitten is still having accidents even when you move the box, there could be another thing at play.
Take a step back and try and imagine you are a kitten.
Is there something about the litter box that would make our feline friend not want to use it? Maybe it’s a sound in the safe room? Or maybe it’s a smell? Or maybe they have a hard time climbing into it.
You may need to make several small changes before your kitten will accept the litter box. (Another reason to not spend a lot of money on litter boxes as you are litter training).
Remember, never punish your cat for accidents. You want to be consistent in moving them to the litter box, especially if you catch them in the middle of an accident.
It is going to be hard, but try not to get angry or frustrated. Animals can sense our emotions. So if we are angry as we are putting them in the litter box, they are going to associate the litter box with anger.
If you continue to have trouble, talk to your veterinarian, who can rule out health issues that might be getting in the way of litter box training and offer training suggestions.
A Happy, Healthy Cat Training kittens, outdoor cats, and feral felines to use a litter box may take time and patience, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor for a happy, healthy cat and a harmonious home. Remember, every cat is unique, so be flexible in your approach and keep the lines of communication open with your feline friend. With time and dedication, you’ll both master the art of the litter box!