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How to Litterbox Train a Kitten

What do you do with an orphan or former feral who never learned to use the kitty toilet? Here are some tips.

 |  Jun 19th 2012  |   2 Contributions


Most kittens learn how to use the litterbox by watching their mothers or other adult cats in action. Sometimes, though, circumstances in a kitten's life can cause them to miss out on this very important lesson. If you need to "toilet train" your kitten, here's how.

Before You Begin

Get a litterbox with shallow sides so your kitten can easily get in and out. Fill it about an inch deep with unscented, non-clay-based clumping litter. If you're litter training a feral kitten, you might have to put soil or leaves from outdoors in the box at first.

Don't use a self-cleaning litterbox. The motor that drives the rake across the litter will probably scare your kitten away and prevent him from using the box.

Be prepared for your kitten to have accidents. Buy an unscented enzyme-based stain and odor remover, or get the ingredients you need for this very effective homemade urine cleaner.

If you're litter training a feral kitten, you might need to use leaves or dirt because he's used to using outdoor materials for his bathroom chores. Cute tabby cat playing with colorful leaves by Shutterstock.com.

Kitty, Meet Litterbox

Put your kitten in a room with his litterbox on one side and his food on the other. Cats don't like to do their business where they eat. Get him a bed and some fun toys, too, because he should stay in this room until he learns how to use the box.

Gently put your kitten in the litterbox and dig at the clean litter with your fingers. This should inspire the kitten to do the same thing. If you're lucky, he'll go to the bathroom right away and that's all it'll take. Whatever he does, as long as it involves digging, give him lots of praise.

Kittens often need to use the litterbox shortly after they wake up from a nap. Sleeping kitten in a hammock by Shutterstock.com.

Potty Training Time

If your kitten is having accidents, help him figure out when to go to the litterbox. Put him in the box after he wakes up from a nap and after he finishes eating. He may not go right away, but when he does, be sure to give him lots of praise and petting.

When he does use the litterbox, make sure to leave a pee clump or two in there so he can smell it and remember where to go to the bathroom. You can remove all solid waste as soon as you notice it.

There are a couple of signs that will tell you when your kitten is about to go to the bathroom. If he starts to scratch at the floor or if he stops in mid-play and hurries off, he's about to pee or poop. Gently pick him up and bring him to the litterbox, being sure to praise him and make him feel safe.

Continue to praise your kitten every time he goes to the litterbox. It may take about four weeks to completely litter train your kitten. And of course, never yell at your kitten when he has an accident.

Before long, your cat will be "littering" like a pro. Cat using a closed litterbox by Shutterstock.com.

One More Tip

Once your kitten has run of the house, be sure to put litterboxes in places where he spends a lot of time. If your home has more than one floor, you need at least one box on each floor. Kittens have very small bladders, and if they have to go too far they may not make it to the box in time.

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