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Litter Box Training

Litter box training doesn’t have to be a grueling chore. In fact, it can be relatively easy and very successful if you devote the appropriate time and patience.

Choosing the Right Box and Litter

Start your kitten off right with an appropriate litter box. A plastic box is usually the mostpractical and easy to clean. Make sure the sides are low enough that your kitten can easilyclimb in and out. Since some kittens dislike scented litter, it is best to start with unscentedclay or clumping litter. Most kittens will automatically use kitty litter rather than eliminating(going to the bathroom) on other surfaces, except possibly for the soil of a potted plant.Keep plants out of your kitten’s reach or cover the soil with rocks or pinecones.

The box should be placed in a relatively quiet area of your home where your kitten canhave some privacy. Place the box away from household items that make startling noises,such as the washing machine, radiator, furnace or refrigerator, and use a baby gate with akitty door to keep the box away from children and/or dogs. Make sure that it is easilyaccessible, especially from your kitten’s sleeping area. If you a multiply cats in the home youshould have one more litter box than the number of cats. So if you have 3 cats you shouldprovide 4 litter boxes.

Kitten with green eyes laying on a teal blanket and reaching out

Let the Training Begin

At first, you must closely supervise your kitten to help direct him to use the litter box at theappropriate time. Keep the box within your kitten’s sight to ensure that he uses it every time.When he stops playing and begins to sniff around, gently pick him up and place him in thebox. Lightly praise him for sniffing and scratching in the box and give him loads of praiseand/or a small treat when he eliminates in the box. Keep the box clean so he will want toreturn to use it.

When you cannot directly supervise your kitten, confine him to a cat-proofed room with hislitter box. Follow these steps for at least two weeks or until your kitten regularly uses the litterbox on his own.

To help your cat feel comfortable around the litter box, try to prevent anything unpleasantfrom happening while he is near or in the box. You should never give your cat medicine orscold him while he is near the box.

Correcting Mistakes

It doesn’t take long for mistakes to develop into bad habits, so make sure to identify and correct mistakes right away.

Common causes of house soiling include:

  • The litter box is not cleaned frequently enough

  • Your kitten was frightened in or near his litter box

  • The litter box was moved from a quiet to a noisy area

  • A change in the kind of litter

  • Scented litter additives or odor from cleansers/deodorants

  • Medical problems (i.e. infection, urolithiasis, and cystitis)

  • Never punish your kitten for eliminating outside of his litter box. Punishing him will onlymake the problem worse and may cause your kitten to fear you, especially if yousmack him or rub his nose in the mess. Rather, address the above conditions and, ifnecessary, return to the basic training steps.

  • Most cats will not soil the area where their food and water are placed so you may trymoving your cat’s food and/or water bowl to an area where he has previously soiledas a deterrent. You can also decrease the appeal of a previously soiled area byplacing a sheet of plastic carpet runner, double-sided tape, an aversive odor(deodorized soap, perfume) or a motion detector alarm in the area.

If your kitten continues to eliminate outside of his litter box, take him to your veterinarianfor a complete physical examination and possibly laboratory tests to ensure that he hasno medical problems. Medical problems that may be irritating and cause your cat toavoid the litter.

A gray kitten sitting on a blue blanket looking out the window


As your kitten matures, he or she may begin to spray (urinate on vertical surfaces such aswalls or furniture). Cats are very territorial and they mark their territory as a warning to others. Neutering (male and female cats) should eliminate most spraying behavior, but someneutered cats do spray. Ask your veterinarian for advice if your cat continues to spray afterneutering.

Brown cat with gray eyes sitting on a checkered floor

Controlling Litter Box Odor

A covered litter box can help control the odor in your home as well as be helpful for kittieswith poor aim. You can train a reluctant cat to use a covered litter box by placing alarge cardboard box over his litter box. Gradually decrease the size of the box untilit is the same size as the box cover and then make the switch.