Wondering how to litter train a kitten? We first brought home our gray-and-white cat, Phillip, when he was a kitten. We already owned Jack, who was 4 years old at the time, so we had all the necessary litter box supplies on hand. The rescue organization staff, however, told us to encourage Phillip to practice good litter box behavior by providing him with a litter box and litter designed for kittens.
We bought Phillip a smaller, kitten-sized litter box and set it up with litter formulated to be safe if ingested. Philip took to it right away, and we praised him when he used it. Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant (thecatcoach.com) and author of Naughty No More! agrees with that approach when it comes to how to litter train a kitten.
“Young kittens need uncovered litter boxes with low sides that are easy for them to access,” she says, recommending a box made of plastic that is one-and-a-half to two times as long as the kitten. “Cat litter needs to be kitten safe — if the youngster eats it, it won’t harm her.”
Don’t worry: When introducing your kitten to her new environment, don’t worry if she has a few litter box accidents. If an accident occurs, Marilyn suggests investigating the litter box to ensure it is clean and accessible. “Make sure there are enough [litter boxes available], and they’re clean, uncovered and large enough,” she says. “Also, make sure that other animals in the household aren’t stressing her.”
Be concerned: If your kitten has an accident, don’t punish her. “Don’t yell at her or make startling sounds,” Marilyn says. “She hasn’t done anything wrong.” Instead, Marilyn says to clean up the mess using an enzyme cleaner and make sure the box is clean.
To make the litter box as appealing as possible, we put it in an area that was convenient for Phillip to access, and we made sure Jack still had his litter box available. If Phillip ventured into Jack’s box, we let him explore and use it, too — but we kept an eye on him to make sure he didn’t ingest any of the litter.
Making the litter box accessible is key in how to litter train a kitten, Marilyn says. “Litter boxes should be placed where the kitten can easily find them,” she explains. “Although most kittens are litter box savvy when they are adopted, some may need a little encouragement or a refresher course. These little ones should … always be praised and reinforced when they are successful.”
When it comes to how to litter train a kitten, Marilyn also recommends keeping the kitten and all her supplies in her own room when you first bring her home. “One room should be prepared especially for the kitten, complete with food, water, toys and places to sleep as well as a few litter boxes that are placed in different areas of the room,” she says. “The litter boxes should not be positioned near food, sleeping spots or in high-traffic areas.”
Don’t worry: The room for your kitten doesn’t have to be completely isolated from other people; in fact, you want to spend plenty of time with your kitten in this room. The idea is to keep the kitten away from other pets at first until she feels comfortable in her new surroundings.
Be concerned: Litter boxes aren’t the most attractive items, but don’t tuck it back in an unobtrusive corner. Your kitten needs to be able to easily find the box.
We were fortunate that Phillip already seemed to have a strong grasp of litter box usage and an independent nature that led him to seek out the box on his own without needing encouragement. I’m glad the staff from the rescue organization gave us some additional tips on how to litter train a kitten, many of which Marilyn recommends, too. They include:
Don’t worry: As mentioned above, accidents may happen. Gentle encouragement helps your kitten learn good habits. You can help, too, as Marilyn explains: “After the kitten eats, put her in the litter box. Also, depending on the situation, keeping her in a kitten room with a few litter boxes may build good litter box habits.”
Be concerned: If you notice that your kitten is not using the box daily (and you don’t find evidence of her using a location outside the box), or if you suspect something is not quite right with the contents of the box, take her to the vet. The litter box is one of the areas where signs of a medical problem show up first. Trust your instincts.
Thumbnail: Photography ©absolutimages | Getty Images.
A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds and a range of pet-related topics. The inspiration for her writing comes from her cats, Jack and Katie, and her Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix, Maggie.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.