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20–23 Weeks: What to Expect From Your Kitten

Teach Your Kitten to Love the Carrier in Six Steps :: Litter Box 101: How to Make Sure Your Kitten Uses His Toilet Properly :: A Guide to Your Kitten's Senses: Hearing :: Four Tips for Handling the "Kitten Crazies"

Litter Box 101: How to Make Sure Your Kitten Uses His Toilet Properly

More people surrender their cats to animal shelters because of litter box issues than for just about any other reason. The sad truth is that the vast majority of these people would not have felt they needed to give up their kitties if they had simply followed a few basic guidelines.

Real estate agents are all about “location, location, location.” So is your kitten. The litter box should be easily accessible and should offer a combination of privacy and escape routes. It should not be near where your cat eats because cats are will not eliminate where they eat.

If you have a dog, the litter box should be in a place where the dog cannot get to it. Litter pans should not be located near noisy places like the laundry room or the basement. If the washing machine or the furnace goes on while your kitten is doing her business, it might scare her away from the litter box.

  • Size matters. Your kitten's litter box should be large enough for her to turn around in and have several places to dig, so that she can use the box more than once without stepping on her previously deposited waste. Purchase a box large enough to fit these requirements for an average-size adult cat.

  • What's under her feet? Cats' litter preferences are usually formed in kittenhood, and most cats seem to prefer a sandy texture. For your convenience in removing liquid waste and keeping odor to a minimum, I recommend a clumping litter. You can get clumping litter in the traditional clay, or you can opt for more environmentally friendly versions made of corn, wheat, or other grains. Do not use scented litter; the smell is overpowering to a cat's sensitive nose and can cause litter box avoidance. Many of the grain- or wood-based litters have a natural aroma that most people (and cats) find pleasant.

  • Keep it tidy. The most important thing you can do to ensure that your kitten does her business where she should is to keep the litter box clean. This means scooping out solid and liquid waste at least twice a day and washing the entire box with soap and water once a week. (You may get away with less frequent washing if you use clumping litter, but whatever type of litter you use, you must wash the litter box it at least once a month.) Use dish soap—preferably the unscented kind—and warm water for your weekly cleanings and rinse the box very well afterwards. If you're dealing with disease or a worm infestation, rinse with a weak bleach mixture after you wash with soap and water.

  • One final note: We recommend against covered litter boxes because it's easy to forget to do the routine scooping if you can't see the mess. Covered boxes trap urine and fecal odors, so when your kitten goes inside, she's entering a miniature gas chamber. Would you want to use a bathroom where you had to step in sewage to get to the toilet and you were gagging from the reek in the air? We didn't think so!

If you keep your cat box clean and accessible and you make sure it's the right size for your kitten, you shouldn't have any trouble with litter box issues.

Advice from Other Cat Owners 


Kittens often do not know the difference between toys, food, and other items such as litter. I was specifically told by the place we got our kittens from that they tend to play with and eat litter. If they eat clumping litter, it can blow up in their intestines and actually kill them. They suggest using natural litter for this reason. I currently use Feline Pine (small wood pellets) and love it! It hardly ever has an odor and it's too big to get stuck in their paws, so it is not as messy as regular litter.

~Tifini C, owner of Snowshoe

We prefer Clumping Litter

Once our cat was no longer a kitten, we changed from Scoop Away regular to Scoop Away clumping litter. The litter box stays cleaner, lasts longer and you can remove all of the mess very easily once it clumps and you scoop it away. It is far better, for home, than regular litter. We scoop daily and add a little more litter back to replace what's been scooped away about once a week. We change the entire box of litter out and wash it once a month.

~Sherrie P., owner of a Yellow Tabby

My Kittens' Lives Revolve Around Their Poop Box

My kittens learned to poop immediately, almost instinctively. I was really amazed by that. It is one of those real fancy $150 Litter Maid automatic cleaning machine. I have it located near the food and it seems to work fine for us. They never poop anywhere in the house.

I buy the 40-pound Litter Clean clumping herbal essence baking soda type and they seem to love it, smell and all. I do not put a cover over the litter at all. The big canister only costs me about $11 when I go to Sam's.

I've noticed that cats are very anally oriented and that their lives revolve around their poop box. I am vigilant and clean out the poop canister when it fills up which is rather quickly -- every two or three days. I feed them a food with few fillers because the lady at the cat food store says it will make them poop less frequently.

As far as cleaning the box, I have never cleaned it out with soap and water and/or bleach after adopting them in July 2011. It seems to remain very clean.

I also think that they think of their poop box as a sort of sandbox playground. When one poops, the other sometimes watches and even playfully jumps on the other one (brother and sister). They seem to really get along and sometimes I find them sleeping intertwined with one another after five months. I am anxious to hear any comments by other readers of this post.

~Peter H. and Arden J., owner of two Siamese

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