How to Train a Cat to Use the Litter Box?

how to train a cat to use litter box

Training a cat to use the litter box is the first and most important aspect of cat ownership. Cats have strong-smelling urine and feces, and the effects of occasional “accidents” can be long-lasting. Fortunately, it’s not very hard to teach a cat to choose a litterbox, because you can work with their natural instincts to make it a life-long habit. Here’s how to train a cat to use a litterbox.

Training a Cat to Use a Litter Box Involves Using Their Instincts

If you have a new kitten with a mother who is trained to use a litter box, then you have little to worry about. A well-trained mother will naturally teach her kittens to use a litter box.

Cats have a natural instinct to find somewhere with loose, sandy soil to relieve themselves and then bury it afterward. In many cases, even young kittens will seek out a suitable area for digging and burying, so if they have a mother who shows them by example, then they will use a litterbox by themselves from an early age.

If you have a new kitten who has been separated from their mother, you will need to provide a little more training.

Training a Cat to Use a Litter Box Means Having the Right Equipment

Making sure that you have the right litter and box will help a cat train more quickly. Keep the following factors in mind:

Litter box size

A cat needs a litter box that is at least one and a half times their own body length. Choosing a large litter box helps them feel comfortable and avoid accidents. However, if you are litter box training a small kitten, an adult-size box may be too large for them to easily get into and out of. Choose the right size of litter box for your cat.

Getting the right cat litter

If your cat is new to your home, it’s best to use the same kind of litter that they used in the past, at least until they are settled into their new environment. Many cats get used to the size, feel, and smell of the litter they are used to, and some cats don’t adjust easily. While many cat litters are made of corn or wheat, some cats won’t use them because they smell like food. Most cats prefer fine-grained, sand-like litter, but be aware of what your cat prefers.

To cover, or not to cover?

Most cats prefer their litter box to be in an open area with some light, because they feel vulnerable when eliminating, and want to be able to see any predators. Many humans prefer to keep the litter box covered for aesthetic reasons, but if your cat is reluctant to use a covered box, remove the cover and see if it helps.

How to Train a Cat to Use a Litter Box

If you have the right box and the right litter, then the best way to train a cat to use a litter box is:

  • Keep the kitten in a small room with food, water, and the litter box. Make sure the room has no rugs or carpet that may invite digging
  • Place the kitten in the litter box as soon as they arrive. Let them sniff and explore the litter box, and use your own finger in the litter to make a digging motion, so they know they can dig there. Make sure that they can get in and out of the box on their own
  • Place the kitten in the box after every meal. Cats and dogs both have an instinct to eliminate after eating, so put the kitten in the box after every meal
  • Place the kitten in the box after sleeping or napping. Again, they may naturally want to eliminate when they wake up, so place the kitten in the box when they wake up from a nap.
  • Reward the kitten for using the box. Immediately after the kitten uses the litter box, give them a treat
  • Observe your cat’s habits. If your cat has an accident, don’t punish them. Instead, make a note that they needed to go after a play session, after a nap, or after a meal. Make sure to put them in the box at those times
  • Never punish the cat for an accident. Punishing cats is not a good way to train them. If your cat has an accident, particularly if they are very young, pick up the waste, place it in the litterbox, and bury it. The cat will associate those smells and behaviors
  • Keep the litter box clean. Litter boxes should be scooped out daily, and cleaned once a week. Many cats won’t use a litter box that isn’t clean

Following these steps will have a cat properly using a litter box in no time.

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