From the age of about four weeks, kittens know to seek out soft, dry material in which to "do their thing." Digging, eliminating, and covering up the evidence, as it were, are all instinctive cat behaviors that don't need to be taught. All that is needed is a dry, comfortable dirt-substitute.
You will need to teach your cat where to find the litter box, and make sure that the box and its contents are kept clean. Cat toilet training can take time so be patient with your kitty. Keep the following things in mind when setting up the litter box location and access.
- The location of kitty litter boxes is key. While you'll likely want to keep the litter box in a low-traffic, out of the way spot, your cat or kitten needs to feel comfortable with the location as well. Try to provide a warm, dry place, free of noisy appliances. Cats also like to scratch around the perimeter of the box, so a throw rug or even old newspapers (changed often) will add to their comfort level.
- Another thing to consider is that cats generally don't like to use the litter box in the same spot where their food and water is. Keep their food and water dishes in a different location.
- Once you've chosen the location box, or tray, show your cat where it is. Pick them up and place them gently into it. They may not need to use it right away, but they'll likely dig around a bit and get a feel for the box. If they jump out immediately, try again in an hour or two.
- If your kitten is having trouble finding or using the litter box, move it to an area where they can see it all the time. When they stop playing and start sniffing or scratching at the floor, gently place them in the litter box. Give them praise and attention when they successfully use the box.
- If you've placed the litter box in the basement or an upper level of your home, a kitten may not be able to find it on their own. This is also true if you've moved into a new home - even an older cat may have difficulty at first. Start off with the litter box in a more obvious spot, and slowly move it, a little bit each day, until it ends up in the place you want to keep it.
- Place about 2-3 inches of litter in the box, and keep it at this level. More isn't always better, and less may not feel as comfy to your cat. The litter must be cleaned out often, as a stinky box will be off-putting to a cat and they will find another spot to go.
- Things like litter box covers, liners, powders intended to improve the scent of the litter, and other products are up to you and your cat. If you start using one of these things and your cat stops using the litter box, you'll know exactly what the problem is. Discontinue use of the new item, and your cat will likely return to the box.
- When cleaning the litter box, don't use harsh smelling cleaners or chemicals. Bleach, vinegar, and strong pine or lemon scents will discourage the cat from using it.
- If your cat or kitten suddenly stops using the litter box and you haven't changed or added anything, and the box is clean and free of harsh odors, take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Now you know how to do cat toilet training. Once your pets get the hang of finding the litter box and using it, they should have this skill for life. It's just too bad they can't clean it themselves!