Adopting and raising a kitten is an exciting time for a cat owner.
During this season of life, you’ll introduce your kitten to using a litter box, and you might wonder: how do I properly litter train a kitten?
There are five simple steps to follow for litter training your kitten:
- Selecting and preparing the new litter box
- Deciding on a location to place the litter box
- Introducing the litter box to your kitten
- Encouraging positive behavior
- Daily cleaning of the litter box
You can start this process when your kitten is between three and four weeks old. Understanding why your kitten may refuse to use the litter box, such as when it’s dirty, helps prevent this outcome.
Read on to discover the steps to litter train your kitten, whether it’s easier to litter train a kitten than an adult cat, and what you can do if your kitten won’t use the litter box.
5 Steps to Litter Train a Kitten
To ensure litter-training success, it’s essential to understand each of these five steps and fully implement them.
1. Selecting and Preparing the New Litter Box
The detailed steps to select a new litter box for potty training will be covered in the section below.
After selecting your kitten’s litter box, fill it with unscented clay litter.
Keep this in mind: a cat has over 200 million scent sensors in its nose, while a person has around five million. This fact illustrates how your kitten is naturally more sensitive to smells, especially overly fragrant or unfamiliar smells.
It also means that if you identify a particular smell as pleasant, your kitten may disagree with you; this is why unscented clay litter is often the best litter to use for your kitten.
If you want to look at unscented litter options beyond clay, consider setting up a straightforward litter experiment for your kitten.
You can buy a small quantity of the same litter box and fill each box with a different litter. Observe which litter box your kitten uses the most often.
Remember: the only variable that can be different among the litter boxes is the litter itself.
All other variables (location and scooping frequency) must be the same for the experiment to reveal your kitten’s litter preference.
2. Deciding on a Location to Place the Litter Box
The litter box’s location is key to your kitten regularly using it.
Typically, kittens prefer their litter box to be a semi-private area, which can help prevent interruptions from other people or pets in your home.
The litter box should also be in an accessible location so that your kitten doesn’t have to struggle to find it.
Cats and kittens don’t like their bathroom to be right next to their food dish, which is true for kittens.
While putting your kitten’s litter box adjacent to their meal spot might be tempting, it’s best to refrain from doing so.
This is a sanitary decision and one that can decrease fussy behavior from your kitten.
3. Introducing the Litter Box to Your Kitten
After you’ve decided on the litter box’s location, you can introduce the litter box to your kitten.
Lightly set your kitten inside the box and allow him to sniff its contents and walk around.
Your kitty may naturally start pawing at the litter; however, if he doesn’t, you can gently take his paw and tenderly move it through it.
This helps your kitten develop a better sense of interacting with the litter box. You can continue to set your kitten inside the litter box shortly after each of his meals and naps.
4. Encouraging Positive Behavior
Offering a treat to your kitten after using the litter box is an excellent way to reinforce his behavior.
Be sure to promptly reward your kitten with the treat so that he correlates the tasty treat with his behavior.
Exercising patience and understanding goes a long way in litter training your kitten.
Restraining yourself from yelling or scolding your kitten is ideal for creating a safe environment for him to meet the desired behavior, even if your kitten has some accidents while learning to use the litter box.
With your proper encouragement and guidance, your kitten can learn to use the litter box appropriately.
5. Daily Cleaning of the Litter Box
Your kitten is less likely to consistently return to the litter box if the box is dirty.
In fact, research shows that cats don’t like dirty litter boxes and can develop an aversion to them. This is the last thing you want your kitten to experience while litter training him.
Start by scooping the litter box every time your kitten uses it, ensuring that your kitten won’t develop this aversion. You can adjust to scooping once or twice daily as your kitten grows older.
At What Age Can You Start to Litter Train Your Kitten?
You can start litter training your kitten when he’s between three and four weeks old.
If your kitten is younger than this, you can use paper pellets for his litter.
Paper pellets are soft on your kitten’s dainty paws, creating a sense of comfort for your kitten as he’s familiarizing himself with the litter box.
Additionally, kittens younger than three and four weeks old run the risk of nibbling at the contents of their litter box.
Using clumping litter for these very young kittens should be avoided.
Kittens who swallow this type of litter may experience gastrointestinal illness and obstruction because of the sodium bentonite in the litter.
Again, paper pellets provide a safe alternative for such young kittens who are curious to learn about the world around them.
Training a Kitten Versus Training an Older Cat
Kittens can be easier to litter train than adult cats because they haven’t been habituated yet to particular routines.
Also, kittens haven’t fully developed their personality, so they’re naturally more impressionable than adult cats.
In addition, kittens are already caught up with exploring their environment, so they’re often eager and ready to learn.
Adult cats are still trainable, though. Clicker training can be especially effective with older cats.
Clicker training, in short, involves marking the desired behavior with a click from a clicker and immediately following this with a treat for your cat.
Interestingly enough, some cat owners even say they prefer litter training older cats because they loathe working with the short attention span of kittens.
What to Do If Your Kitten Refuses to Use the Litter Box
During litter training, your kitten might refuse to use the litter box. Fortunately, there are several ways to remedy this situation. Here are several of them:
- Ensure that the litter box is clean.
- Research shows that cats don’t like dirty litter boxes and can develop an aversion to them. Your kitten may refuse to use the litter box simply because it isn’t clean enough. Start scooping the litter every time your kitten uses the litter box.
- Ensure that the litter box is in an accessible area and away from the food dish.
- Can your kitten easily access the litter box? Is the litter box placed in a location that’s away from your kitten’s food dish? If you can’t answer these questions affirmatively, it’s time to relocate the litter box.
- Try another type of litter.
- It’s conceivable that your kitten might not like the litter that you’ve chosen for him. Your kitten might dislike the smell of the litter or how the litter feels on his paws. If you think this could be the case, try using another type of litter.
- Check with your veterinarian to determine if there is a medical concern.
- There’s the potential that your kitten isn’t using the litter box because there’s something awry with his physical health. Especially if you’ve tried remedying the situation with the previous solutions and you’re still observing your kitten refusing to use the litter box, then it’s time to consult your veterinarian.
How to Choose a Litter Box for Training the Kitten
Choosing the right litter box for your kitten is a critical component in litter training.
When selecting your kitten’s litter box, you’ll want to consider the small size of your kitten and the general preferences of many felines; this helps to ensure greater success during litter training.
Follow these clear-cut guidelines when choosing a litter box:
- Select a litter box that’s at least one and half times the length of your kitten.
- Select a litter box that’s uncovered.
- Ensure that the litter box can hold at least three inches of litter.
- Avoid an automatic self-cleaning litter box.
Selecting the right litter box is the first of five steps in litter training your kitten.
Following this and the subsequent steps – putting the litter box in an accessible location, presenting the litter box to your kitten, rewarding your kitten, and cleaning the litter box – will guarantee positive results toward the goal of your kitten regularly using his litter box.