Litterbox training baby kittens

Got a new, young, furry love in your life? This is the place for you to ask all of your questions - big or small! Just remember that you are receiving advice from other cat owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a vet or behaviorist! Most important is to remember to have fun with your new fur baby.


I'm a princess- and I know it.
Purred: Thu Jul 21, '11 7:58am PST 

My mom and dad have recently taken in two orphaned kittens, and they're raising them by hand. They've been consulting with a vet and doing lots of research, so things are going well, but they're getting confused on how to train the babies in using the litterbox.

--A bit of background--
The babies are almost 5 weeks old (we're absolutely sure of this), but I should mention that they look and behave a bit young for their age if all of the guides my mom & dad have looked at are to be believed. Mom & Dad think this is because they were malnourished. (Very long story short: Their mom was young and small and malnourished herself--unsurprisingly, they had a third sibling that was stillborn. Add to that, the poor things went 3-4 days without their mother before my mom & dad finally found them.) It's been about a week since mom & dad found them, and they are doing SO much better: fat and happy and purring, and they've been to the vet to make sure they're in good health.

--Progress so far/Questions--
Mom & Dad have been stimulating the kittens to pee and poop, and they've started setting the kittens down in a very shallow pan (actually, it's a tupperware lid) of non-clumping clay litter while they do the stimulation--hopefully this will start giving the kittens the idea that "this stuff is what you stand in while you pee". The kittens don't seem to be peeing without help yet, so mom & dad do the stimulation after every feeding (we started out feeding them every 3 hours, and are slowly backing off to every 4-5 hours). One of the kittens did poop on his own yesterday, though, on the towel in their "nest" (what a MESS, lol).

We keep reading that we're supposed to just set out a low pan of litter (no higher than 2" on a side) where they can get to it anytime. We should set them in the box after feedings to help give them the idea, but other than that, they ought to figure it out on their own. That doesn't seem right, though:

- First, while they can walk just fine, they're still a little unsteady on their feet--2" would be a major obstacle to them, so that right there makes me think that all these litterbox-training guides are intended for older kittens.

- Second, they eat the litter, and I don't mean a piece here or there. When they get in that litter, the first thing they do is try to chow down! (They're not hungry, believe me. They just seem to think it's fun.) I understand that it's expected that they'll probably ingest a LITTLE litter during the training process, but mom & dad can't just let them sit there and munch! Right now, mom & dad have resorted to holding them when they're standing in the litter, with the kittens' feet resting on the litter--it's the only way they can keep the little guys from eating it. I don't see how it could possibly be safe to leave the kittens alone with a box of litter within reach...

Mom & Dad are also in the process of introducing solid food (the kittens always get a bit of canned food mixed with formula prior to bottle-feeding time, and they're progressing well). Perhaps their litter-eating will subside once they're eating more solid food?

So, I guess my question is: What should mom and dad be doing?! When is it safe to give the kittens access to a litterbox without supervision? Is there any way to discourage them from eating the litter besides, well, wiping out their mouths when they get a mouthful?

Thanks! kitty


I'm a princess- and I know it.
Purred: Thu Jul 21, '11 2:12pm PST 
Maybe some progress...

Mom heard the kittens meowing, and went to check on them: one of them pooped on their own...and the two of them proceeded to smear it EVERYWHERE, lol. Mom & Dad cleaned them all up and changed their towel, and noticed that they had peed on the towel as well.

So, it's definitely time to get them a litterbox! But...they'll eat the litter. Catch 22. Now what?!

Mom and Dad have given them a small box (sides 1" tall) of dirt, and thank heavens, they seem much less interested in eating the dirt. They're hoping that the dirt will be less dangerous if they DO eat some, too.

If anyone has any other suggestions, or even just confirmation that we're doing this right, I think my Mom & Dad would be very glad to hear it relieved

I swear, there is NO WAY I was this messy when I was a kitten! I'm sure I have always been a fastidious little princess, thank you very much. little angel That one time mom found me drinking out of the toilet was, er, my evil twin. Yep, evil twin.


go getter kitter
Purred: Thu Jul 21, '11 5:38pm PST 
You could maybe start them in a box of torn up paper instead of litter, so they don't eat it, or maybe use the corn based litter which shouldn't hurt them, I think I would try the paper or maybe even wood shavings (NOT sawdust or mulch!) first.


I'm a princess- and I know it.
Purred: Thu Jul 21, '11 10:22pm PST 
What a good idea, Pandora!

The shredded paper is probably a no-go, since the kittens like to play with (and therefore chew) on stray paper towels. (I can't exactly blame them there: who -doesn't- love shredding a nice big roll of paper towels?!) The corn, though...I'll have to tell Mom & Dad to give that a try. I suppose a wheat-based litter might also work.

RW Angel- Kenji Muto- DB #101b

Meowmie's- Sunshine

Purred: Fri Jul 22, '11 2:35pm PST 
Hi Nerys! Your mom and dad are angels for taking the two orphaned kittens in! We agree, maybe a wheat or corn based litter would be good for them or Yesterday's news or Feline Pine. I took Kenji home when he was only 5 weeks old. I was nervous about Kenji eating litter too, but he wasn't too bad. I got some World's Best Cat Litter and he liked it. But now he just uses Tidy Cats clumping like the others.

Kenji only wanted a bottle for about a week and then he didn't even want the milk replacer that much. A friend had bought two cans and he didn't even drink much of it; he wanted canned food right away. But after he got off the bottle, I had a hard time getting him to drink water, so I had to mix it in his canned food. He wouldn't drink water from the bottle either. Needless to say, we had a rough two weeks after he didn't want the bottle. He kept getting constipated and he got lots of warm baths to get him to poop. And when he did, it was quite messy too, so we understand. But with a lot of care, he got through it. For the first two weeks we kept him in the bathroom while we were at work, but not with a litter box. We just lots of bath towels in there.

Kenji likes to play with and shred up paper towels too. smile Even if I hide them in the kitchen cabinet, he will find them. MOL

Good luck! hug

Edited by author Fri Jul 22, '11 2:38pm PST


I'm a princess- and I know it.
Purred: Sat Jul 23, '11 9:28am PST 
Good to know, Kenji, thanks!

I figured I'd post an update for any other kitten-adopters out there that might find the information useful: Mom & Dad haven't bought the new cat litter yet (they're making a big run to the pet store today for more supplies), but nothing less than a miracle occurred last night, mol: The hitherto-untouched tupperware of dirt was used at least three times, and the towel was completely clean!! (They didn't bury their business, but whatever--I'm sure that will come later.) They also haven't tried to eat the dirt again since. cheercheercheercheer (I never thought Mom could be so happy to see cat poop...) That is amazing that they just know to do that, without even watching another cat. See, I knew we cats were smarter than dogs and humans: we toilet-train ourselves!

We'll be sure to watch how much water they're getting once they progress to that--thanks for the heads up. We've started giving them a mixture of kitten canned food + chicken baby food + formula (alongside their normal bottle-feeding), and they seem to be gaining a preference for the mixture over the bottle all on their own. They haven't quite figured out how to eat out of a dish, though: they end up with more of it on themselves than in their tummies, and we have to be careful that they don't get it up their noses (which could lead to pneumonia). We haven't tried giving them water yet: they have encountered the bowl of warm water we keep on hand for cleaning them up, and it seems to perplex them. They have started grooming themselves, though! Mostly just their feet--they don't like it when their feet feel wet.

I have to say this has been quite an experience for Mom & Dad. This all started with a small feral cat colony they found in a house about to be demolished down the street. All of the adults have (finally) been spayed and neutered, and most of the kittens that were young enough to be socialized have been adopted out. For the rest of the kittens, we found a saint of a woman who has devoted most of her life now to caring for feral cats on her farm, and she has taken them in (they'll all get spayed and neutered when they're old enough). The whole trial has been exhausting, heartbreaking, and very rewarding. I cannot imagine the kind of person that works in animal rescue every day--just one month of this has felt like a lifetime.

I can't say it enough: SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS!!! This all started from one irresponsible owner with one cat, and it turned into 27 cats in a matter of months.

*ahem* Sorry, climbing off soap box now, mol.