Litterbox Training

How do I litterbox train my kitten?

Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in sand or soil. Most kittens are using the litterbox at 3 – 4 weeks of age, so should be litterbox trained by the time you adopt them. If your kitten is not using a litterbox, place your kitten in the litterbox and gently scratch the litter with their front paws. Make sure to put your kitten in the box several times a day.

What are the types of litterboxes and litter out there?

There are lots of different types of litterboxes: self-cleaning, covered, uncovered, and corner units. Make sure any litterbox you get is big enough for your cat. If your cat is large, you may want to use a low-sided storage container or concrete-mixing box to provide enough space. Covered boxes help contain the litter inside the box, but may not provide enough space for your cat and tend to build up odors (think of a porta-potty). Self-cleaning boxes save you time in cleaning, but some can be noisy and scare your cat.

There many different types of litter: non-clumping, clumping, crystals/beads, pelleted, scented, and unscented. Clumping litter traps the urine into hard clumps which is scooped out. The majority of litter is left behind. Non-clumping, crystal, and pelleted litters soak up the urine. All of the litter needs to be disposed of regularly to provide clean litter space. Liners are sold to make clean-up of soiled litter easier.

There are so many kinds of boxes and litter. What should I get?

Most cats prefer an unscented, clumping litter with an uncovered litterbox and no liner. The clumping litter most closely resembles sand, which is the preferred texture for cats. It is also easier to keep the litterbox clean and odor free. An uncovered litterbox provides the most space for cats while preventing odor build-up. Liners can feel strange to cats as they paw the litter and are not recommended.

Where should I put the litterbox?

Cats prefer a quiet, private place where they feel safe. Make sure the litterbox is not next to noisy appliances. In a corner of an open room is an ideal location. This prevents other animals from sneaking up on your cat while providing easy access to the box. Make sure to separate the litterbox from your cat’s food and water bowls, as cats do not prefer to eliminate where they eat and drink.

I have more than one cat. Is there anything special I should do with the litterbox?

Each cat should have their own litterbox plus one extra (e.g. 3 cats in a house should have 4 litterboxes). This helps ensure a clean box for each cat to eliminate in (think of a dirty bathroom stall – you would likely move on and go to a clean stall instead). You should also try to spread the litterboxes around the house so there is a box on every level of the house. This allows for easy access on any level and prevents crowding or harassment from other animals.

How do I take care of the litterbox?

If you use clumping litter, scoop the litterbox at least once a day. Keep the litter at least 2 inches deep. Every 1-2 months, change the litter and wash the box. If you use non-clumping litter, you will need to change the litter and wash the box at least once a week. Replace litterboxes regularly (every few years) as the plastic retains an odor over time.

My cat is not using the litterbox. What should I do?

  1. Have your cat examined for any medical conditions that could cause painful elimination or spraying.
  2. Add more boxes and keep them clean. Use the ideal box and litter (see above).
  3. Clean soiled areas with an enzyme cleaner. You can find dried urine spots with a black light.
  4. Use deterrents on frequented areas of inappropriate elimination (e.g. food bowls, double stick tape, aluminum foil, and pet repellants).
  5. Use Feliway to calm any possible stress levels.
  6. Confinement may be needed to retrain your cat to the litterbox.
  7. DO NOT punish your cat by rubbing their nose in the soiled area. This just causes additional stress which compounds the problem.


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