litter box training a kitten

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Getting a new kitten is undeniably one of the most exciting things. You have an adorable new animal lurking around your house, following you from room to room. You spend every moment playing and cuddling with it and your new kitty just brings you so much joy.

That is, until it starts peeing all over your house. As adorable and exciting as getting a new kitten is, it also means you have to train them to use the litter box. Part of the reason why having a cat is so easy is that cats just go to the bathroom in their litter box all by themselves. There’s no need to take a cat outside, like a dog. It knows exactly where to go to use the bathroom and all you have to do is clean the litter box. 

However, a cat isn’t born knowing about how to use the litter box. You have to train them. Fortunately, litter box training isn’t all that complicated. Your kitty will probably just need a little bit of help from you along the way.

In this blog post, we discuss the step-by-step process of how to train a kitten to use a litter box. We’ll also discuss various frequently asked questions about litter box training, so that you can be entirely prepared for what’s in store when it comes to getting a new kitten. To learn more about how to train a cat to use a litter box, continue reading. Otherwise, you can use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.

How To Litter Box Train Your Kitten: Step-By-Step

When a kitten is born, their mothers teach them how to use the bathroom, and then the mother cleans it up. There is no need for a litter box during this time. A kitten likely won’t be ready to use a litter box until they’re about four weeks old. At this point, you can start introducing litter box training to your kitten with a kitten-friendly litter box.

However, if you adopt an older cat, you can start litter box training them as soon as you bring them home. It’s important to do this promptly so that they can get adjusted to using the bathroom in the same spot in your home and reduce the risk of having any accidents. 

If you’re thinking of bringing home a new cat– whether it’s a kitten or an adult cat– it’s important to know the various steps of how to train a cat to use a litter box. Below, we’ll get more in detail about these steps so that you can train your kitty as quickly as possible.

Step 1: Gather The Appropriate Supplies

First things first: You need to gather the appropriate litter box training supplies. This mainly includes an actual litter box, cat litter, and some type of toy or treats. 

There are many different types of litter box options out there, so it can be hard to determine what’s actually the best choice. First off, it’s important to get an appropriate size litter box for your cat. For a kitten, you should get a litter box with lower sides, around 2-3 inches long, so they can easily get in and out. For an older cat, a litter box that is about 24 inches long with 4 inch sides should suffice. Getting a box that is too big for a kitten will be intimidating and deter them from actually using it. You can always upgrade to a bigger litter box as your kitten grows.

You should also have as many litter boxes in your house as you have cats, plus one. For example, if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes in your home. This is because most cats won’t use a litter box that already contains waste.

You can also choose among an open litter box, a covered litter box, or a self-cleaning litter box. This ultimately depends on the owner’s preference. Open litter boxes are best for small spaces and are very easy to clean. Covered litter boxes are best for odor control and allow more privacy for your kitty. Self-cleaning litter boxes are ideal for busy pet owners who don’t have the time to frequently clean the litter box themselves.

Once you’ve chosen a type of litter box, then you have to choose a type of cat litter. There are also a couple of options for this as well. Cat litter can be made out of different materials, such as clay, pine, wheat, or grass.

Cat litter can be made out of different materials

You can also choose between clumping or non-clumping litter. Ultimately, most cats will have their own preferences when it comes to the type of litter. It may take some trial and error before you figure out a type of  litter that works well for your cat. Certain litters can also trigger cat skin allergies, so make sure you’re aware of any allergy symptoms your cat may exhibit when you change their litter. But once you’ve found a litter that sticks, don’t change it.

After you’ve bought a litter box and a type of litter, then comes the rewards. This includes things like toys or treats that are used to encourage your cat to use the litter box. It’s important to reward your cat when they successfully use the litter box. This will create a positive association with using the litter box and encourage them to keep using it. 

Step 2: Introduce Your Cat To The Litter Box

Once you’ve gathered the appropriate supplies for litter box training, then you have to actually introduce your cat to the litter box. Start by showing your cat exactly where the litter box is located and letting them sniff the area so they can become familiar with the space. 

Then, you’ll want to gently place your kitten in the litter box. At this point, it’s likely that your cat will start pawing at the litter, but if they don’t, you may need to run your fingers through the litter yourself to show them what they’re supposed to do.

Step 3: Place Your Kitten In The Litter Box At Appropriate Times

It’s possible that your kitten may have gotten the hang of using the litter box your first time introducing them to it. But it’s also possible that they’re gonna need some help. For the latter, you’ll want to actually place your kitten in the litter box at appropriate times to show them that this is the designated location for them to eliminate. These times include:

  • Right after meals
  • Right after they wake up
  • If they’re behaving like they’re going to urinate or defecate

Step 4: Reward Your Cat For Using It With Treats Or Play Time

Learning to use the litter box is a big achievement for your kitty! So, you want to reward them for their good behavior. Rewarding your cat for using the litter box creates a positive association with it. They’ll know that whenever they use the litter box, that means they get play time or a special treat, and they’ll be more motivated to always use the litter box. But in order for this to work, the reward must be given as soon as your kitten goes to the bathroom.

However, you’ll need to stop doing this eventually, especially as your cat gets older. You can’t follow your cat to the litter box every time they need to go to the bathroom. While rewarding your cat for using the litter box is good at first, this should only be a short-term action. You’ll need to wean them off the treats/toys eventually. 

Step 5: Do Not Scold Or Punish Your Cat For Accidents

If you come home to cat pee all over your living room, it might be tempting to scold your cat. But accidents happen! They’re trying their best to get used to using the litter box. It’s crucial to never scold or punish your cat if they have an accident. This can lead to worsened anxiety and make it hard to complete the litter box training. Just calmly clean up the mess and do not react negatively.

never scold or punish your cat if they have an accident

Litter Box Training: Frequently Asked Questions

Is it harder to litter box train an older cat?

If a cat did not receive proper socialization as a kitten, they may not know how to use the litter box when they’re older. While it’s best to start litter box training a cat when they’re young, you can still effectively train an older cat, and it won’t necessarily be any harder. 

However, for an older cat who’s never used a litter box before, you’ll want to make the process as agreeable for them as possible. You'll want to use an open litter box with unscented litter that’s familiar to the scents your cat already knows. You should also put the litter box in a private space, as an older cat can be shy about using a litter box in front of people.

How long does it take to train a cat to use the litter box?

The amount of time it takes to litter box train a cat will differ for each cat. Some cats will get the hang of it right away and will immediately start using the litter box properly. Other cats will need some time before they get used to it. But in most cases, it’ll take about four weeks for a cat to become fully litter box trained. 

Is litter box training easy?

Litter box training your cat is a lot easier than you may think. Cat’s instinctively like to dig and bury their waste, so getting used to the litter box won’t take them very long. As long as you follow the above five steps, litter box training your kitten should be relatively simple.

What is the fastest way to litter train a kitten?

The fastest way to litter train a kitten is to just follow the above-mentioned steps. Trying to speed up the training process might just stress your cat out and make them more reluctant to use the litter box. It’s best to approach litter box training gently and give your kitty the appropriate time they need to get used to it.

How do you stimulate a kitten to poop?

Young kittens are usually stimulated by their mothers to poop. However, if your kitten does not have a mother, then it’s the owners responsibility to stimulate them. The owner will need to use a baby wipe to gently stimulate the kitten’s bottom in a circular motion the entire time they are pooping.

How often should I clean my cat’s litter box while litter box training?

When litter box training your cat, you should clean their litter box after every elimination. It’s important to keep their litter box clean during training so that they don’t develop an aversion to the litter box due to the smell. You should also refill the litter box with more litter every time you clean it. 

refill the litter box with more litter every time you clean it.

Once your cat has gotten more used to using the litter box, you can go from cleaning it after every elimination to once a day. You should also empty out, clean, and refill the litter boxes with new litter periodically to keep the litter box fresh.

scooping out litter box

Final Notes

When you take on the responsibility of being a cat owner, you’re also taking on the responsibility of litter box training your cat. But litter box training isn’t actually all that complicated. You just have to follow a few simple steps and your kitty will get the hang of it in no time.

However, it’s very common for cats to encounter difficulties with using the litter box, which can be related to allergies, constipation, cat diarrhea, and various other health issues. If you suspect your kitty is suffering from a health issue that’s interrupting their ability to go to the bathroom, you should bring them to a vet. 

Dutch is a convenient way for pet owners to get their cat the care they need. With Dutch, you don’t have to worry about bringing your cat physically to the vet to get checked. We will bring the vet to you– virtually. Our team of Dutch-affiliated vets can help with a myriad of cat health issues, such as diagnosing an itchy cat and finding treatment for a cat ear infection. Dutch-affiliated vets are here to help provide the solution you need for your kitty to get better as quickly as possible. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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