Although kittens generally train themselves to use the litter tray by watching their mothers, not all of them get the memo. Your kitten may need an extra boost (litter-ally).
Thankfully, this task is an easy one.
Here’s everything you need to know about litter training.
What is litter training?
Litter training is when you teach your kitten how to use a litter tray, as well as what to do with the soft sandy substance itself. See, not all kittens know what to do when they get to the tray, although they might have an instinctual urge to bury the deed.
It’s the process of getting your kitten started that might need an extra push. That’s why they need you to teach them to use the litter tray correctly.
How long does it take to litter train your kitten?
It depends. Some kittens will get the idea after placing them in the litter tray once or twice. Others may take a bit longer, and you’ll need to plonk them several times a day for a couple of weeks. Overall, it may take up to 4 weeks to fully litter train your kitten.
What supplies do you need to litter train your kitten?
There are a few things you’ll need to stock up on before starting the litter training:
There are many kinds of litter out there—from pellets, sand and crystals to clay, corn and wheat. The golden rule for buying kitten litter is making sure it’s soft on their paws so as not to hurt them. If you notice your kitty is still avoiding the litter tray, try using an unscented litter to see if that works.
Felines are very sensitive to textures and smells, and buying kittens a rough-textured or scented litter may deter them from using it, meaning they’ll rather opt for your floor instead.
If you have more than one cat in the house, you need to make sure there’s one tray per cat, as they do not share toilets. For younger kittens, make sure the tray has a low and open entrance to fit those little paws over.
Generally speaking, look for a litter tray with rims to prevent your felines from spraying a mess all over your clean floors. Once your kitten is a bit older, you can start looking into ultra fancy, odour-proof litter trays.
Treats and toys
Reward your kitten with a tasty and nutritious cat treat each time the tray is used correctly. Don’t rely on snacks too often though, as you don’t want your kitten to get chubby (no matter how cute they look, it’s not healthy).
Use lots of praise in addition to yummy nom noms, and add some fun cat toys to play with after to keep your kitty motivated.
5 steps to litter training your kitten
Step 1: Introduce your kitten to the litter tray
Before introducing your kitten to the litter tray, place it somewhere in the house where your kitten will always know where to find it and never remove it from this spot.
Once you’ve selected a good placement—and filled the tray with some soft cat litter—set your kitten in front of the litter tray and watch the examination begin. Your kitten may sniff and investigate to see what it is. This may take awhile, so just sit quietly and watch your kitty explore.
Step 2: Place your kitten in the litter tray
Once your kitten is done investigating, see if you can get your kitty to go. If no “magic” happens, wait until after your kitten has eaten or taken a nap.
Every time your kitten has had a meal or caught some Zzz’s, gently place your little fur ball in the litter tray and wait. Continue to do this up until your kitty uses the litter tray. You may have to place your kitten in the tray several times a day.
Beyond waiting for meal and nap time, whenever you see any sniffing action around the house, grab your kitten and run for the litter tray to see if your kitty will use the toilet.
Step 3: Reward your kitten
Once your kitten has “hit the target” so to speak, immediately reach for a tasty cat treat or toy.
Positive reinforcement is the best way to train your pet. Avoid punishment if things don’t necessarily go your way, as this might demotivate your kitty from using the tray.
Punishment also causes your kitten great stress and anxiety, leading to ‘hide away’ games or even more frequent accidents in the house.
Step 4: Clean your kitten’s litter tray
Kittens, much like people, don’t like using a dirty toilet (surprise!). If they see that their tray is soiled, they won’t use it. Be sure to invest in some good cat litter accessories to keep their toilet area clean and fresh.
You should scoop out the poop at least once a day. Clumping litter also makes it very easy to dish out solidified liquids. Once you’ve gotten rid of the evidence, fool your kitten into using the tray again by refilling it with fresh litter.
Clean the litter tray once a week with hot water, and a bit of mild soap. Avoid using harsh chemicals, as some are harmful to felines.
Step 5: Monitor your kitten’s behaviour
Keep an eye on your kitten’s behaviour when using the litter tray. There are various reasons as to why your kitty may suddenly stop using it.
This includes being stressed due to a new change in the environment, a sudden change in litter or an underlying medical condition. If it’s not any of the former two reasons, and your kitten continues to potty outside the litter box, contact your vet immediately.
How to change your kitten’s litter
If you notice that your kitten isn’t happy with the litter you’re currently buying, you can change it—but not so fast. Introducing your kitten could be the difference from going to 2 ply toilet paper to 1, so choose the new litter wisely
You also don’t want to overwhelm your kitten with the change, so make sure that your little darling is adapting well to it. If things aren’t going well, you might want to ask your vet for a good litter for fussy cats.
Need to swap out your kitten’s litter? Here’s how:
1. Start by doing a gradual change. Fill up the litter tray with about 5cm worth of the new litter, and the rest with the old.
2. If your cat is too smart, trick them into thinking they already pooped in the new litter by throwing in a poo or two (not any poop, it has to be theirs). Remember to clean it out once your kitten has gotten the memo.
3. Gradually add 2cm each time you refill their litter tray with some new litter. Eventually, your kitty will be none the wiser and will just use the new litter.