Key Tips for Litter Box Training your Cat
Veterinarian Reviewed on December 6, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
For the sake of cleanliness and hygiene in your home, litter box training is crucial. Typically speaking, kittens will learn from their mother about using the litter box but if you have recently purchased or adopted a kitten there may be no mother to teach. As such, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your kitten uses the litter box.
It is best to start any kind of training with a pet from young age. Older cats tend to be set in their ways, just as older humans, so the job can be much more difficult (although not impossible). Moreover, training kittens at a younger age increases the consistency in which they will use a litter box. Typically, you can start litter box training after about 4 weeks old. Kittens who do not have a mother cat to learn from will usually take a bit longer to litter box train but by following a few simple steps, the process should not be too difficult.
1. Put the kitten in the litter box after meals. Also, using a scratching motion, rub the kitten’s paws in the litter to familiarize it with litter.
2. You can increase interest in the litter by stirring it.
3. Allow the kitten to explore the litter box independently. Many cat owners make the mistake of attempting to restrain the kitten in the box. This can create anxiety and actually make it more difficult to litter box train.
4. Keep the litter box away from feeding areas as cats do not like to eat and toilet in the same area.
Be a Model of Behavior
Not surprisingly, a good place to put the litter box at the beginning of training is the bathroom. Leave the door open slightly when you go to the washroom and cats will quickly learn what business is meant to be done in the bathroom. By associating toileting with the bathroom the kitten will also learn to associate the litter box with the bathroom. In addition, as most cats have an instinct to bury their waste, they will be naturally drawn to the litter box rather than defecating on tile.
Kittens will take some time to learn and you should expect accidents. While you may think that rubbing a cat’s nose in waste will be an effective punishment, it is not. The act is already done and the cat will not immediately associate the punishment with the unwanted behavior. Instead, clean the waste in the presence of your cat and if possible put the waste in the litter box so that the cat knows where it should go. With consistent rules and a bit of patient you’ll have your cat litter box trained in no time.
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan