This article may include affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Cats are fastidiously clean by nature, and most are fussy about their toilets – it’s therefore important to understand the litter tray essentials to help you train your cat to toilet in the right place and avoid accidents.
Litter Tray Basics
Location. Your cat obviously won’t want to go to the toilet near his sleeping or eating areas, and he’ll appreciate a bit of peace and quiet when he goes (wouldn’t you?), so make sure the litter tray is situated in a suitable spot away from the household hustle and bustle.
Size. The litter tray should be big enough for your cat to turn around in (don’t forget that a kitten will grow much bigger as he gets older), and have at least one side low enough for him to jump in and out easily.
Type of litter. There are many types of commercial cat litters available, made from paper, wood, clay and other ingredients. Whilst you may prefer the lavender scented variety your cat may dislike the fragrance – the key to litter training success is to use the litter preferred by your cat.
Cleanliness. The litter should be changed regularly (would you want to use a dirty toilet?), and the tray washed out and the cat litter changed completely at least once a week. Many toileting accidents occur because cats will not use dirty, smelly litter trays.
Litter Training for Kittens
Kittens usually learn everything there is to know about toileting from their mothers, but if your new kitten isn’t already litter trained when you get him, here are some quick tips:
- Keep your new kitten confined to one room, or a small area, where he has everything he needs initially. If he has the run of the house straight away it’ll seem like an immense new world, and he’s likely to get lost trying to find his way to the litter tray.
- To encourage your kitten to use his litter tray, place him gently in it immediately after waking and eating, and at any other time that you sense he needs to go. You may need to gently grasp his front paws and guide him through digging into the litter to help him get the idea. Your kitten will soon get used to where the litter box is, what it’s for and start going there of his own accord.
- If your kitten struggles to catch on (some kittens are slow learners), and you experience a few accidents, you can use a moist paper towel to gently dab his bottom before placing him immediately in the litter tray. This may sound strange, but a mother cat will instinctively wash her kitten’s bottom with her tongue to encourage bowel movements, and a moist paper towel is a great substitute for the lick of a mother’s tongue.
- Be patient when training a kitten to use the litter box, and focus on rewarding good behaviour. If he toilets somewhere inappropriate quickly pick him up and place him in the litter box. You can use the word ‘no’ when you catch him in the act but make sure you say ‘good boy’ when you place him in the litter tray. Raising your voice to reprimand a kitten or worse still, rubbing his nose in it does not work and will only make him scared of you.
Litter Training for Older Cats
It’s not only kittens who require litter training; perhaps you’ve adopted an older cat that was a stray or a cat that’s only ever gone to the toilet outdoors.
- In the same way as you would a kitten learning to use his litter tray, try and place your cat in the litter tray after waking up and eating.
- If your cat is used to going to the toilet outside you can mix some soil with the litter, which may help him to associate the tray with going to the toilet. You can gradually stop adding soil once your cat is fully confident using the litter tray.
If your cat has real problems using his litter tray that aren’t solved by changing its location, cleaning it out more regularly or changing the type of litter you use, then it’s important to take him to the vet for a check-up to rule out any medical issues.
What are your tips for litter training cats? Please share…
Sharon S. says
Your story covers so many important points about litter box training. I especially like that you addressed how to train an older cat. Some of these felines may have only lived outdoors so patience and an understanding of their nature will go a long way to help them adjust to a litter box. Thanks for sharing this info.
Great tips. Fortunately, we haven’t had to litter train any of our kitties, but this is really good stuff to know. Just in case!