how to train a cat to use a litter box

How to Train a Cat to Use a Litter Box

Are you adopting a new kitten? A wonderful and exciting period is ahead of you. Your daily life will certainly be changed by the presence of your new companion and you will spend many hours playing with them and teaching them tricks.

One of the first things you’ll need to teach your kitten is how to use the litter box. You should definitely start training your kitten this very important trick early on as this is an important habit for domesticated cats.

Your new kitten may or may not be familiar with litter boxes. Cats that are familiar with the litter box are usually educated by their mothers on how to use the litter box. Kittens learn the majority of their behaviors from their mothers in the first six months of their life.

So, if the kitten’s mom uses a litter box then it is likely that the kitten will also know how to use a litter box. Domesticated cats usually learn how to use the litter box early on.

If your new kitty was raised outside or was separated from their mommy then they are probably not familiar with litter boxes. If your kitty struggles with using the litter box, keep on reading as we’ll discuss how to train your kitten to use the litter box.

How do I choose a litter box ?

Make sure you choose a spacious litter box for your kitty, one in which it would feel comfortable before starting with litter box training. The litter box should have low sides so the kitty can easily step into. Your kitty should be able to move comfortably inside the box. You may use a plastic litter box as well. Some people use old baking pans or shirt boxes which can be a good alternative especially if your kitty is small.

Some pet owners also use covered litter boxes. It’s advisable that in the beginning of your training, you use an open box, so you can observe your cat’s behavior. You can also experiment with two boxes – one open and one covered so you can learn what works best for your kitty.

While some cats enjoy the privacy of a covered box, others find the feeling of being cooped up uncomfortable. One litter box per cat, plus one extra, is a good guideline to follow if you have several cats. Even if your kitten is the only cat in your house, it’s still a good idea to have two litter boxes. In a house with multiple stories, place a litter box on each floor.

Types of Litter

Your choice of litter can have a significant impact on how easily your kitten learns to use the litter box. Cats typically prefer the texture of scoopable litter over larger non-scoopable clay styles. The best litter to use for your kitten is unscented because perfumes can overstimulate its delicate olfactory system.

When introduced to cat litter for the first time, some kittens may eat it. This may result in harmful digestive issues. This is why you might want to go with scoopable litter made from corn or wheat.

Get a mat to put it outside the box to catch litter as the cat steps out. Make sure whatever you choose will be soft and cozy on your cat’s paws. If there are sharp or rough edges, your cat will probably be discouraged from using the litter box.

How to create a safe and clean environment

Another step that’s part of the litter box training is to make sure you place the litter box in a private and accessible area in your house. It’s not a good idea to place it in a cramped space or in small closets. Also, don’t put it near something that makes loud noises as you might scare your cat.

The litter box shouldn’t be positioned too close to your kitten’s favorite places to sleep or to its water and food bowls. Naturally, kitties and cats don’t like to eliminate near their food and sleeping areas. Keep the litter box clean, and keep the area around it as tidy as you can. One or two times per day, scoop the litter box. Any spills that occur outside of the box should be cleaned up right away, and stray litter should be regularly swept up.

It’s in cat’s nature to like clean places. So that’s precisely why you should keep their litter box clean and tidy. This way it will be more inviting to your cat. If your cat doesn’t feel comfortable in the litter box this can lead to unwanted elimination behaviors such as peeing on your clothes, rugs and laundry.

Training Steps

It’s best to set up the litter box before you bring home your new cat. In the first period, you can put your kitty in a “transition room” where they will be able to start learning wanted behaviors. This can also help with litter box training.

The litter box should be placed as far away from the food and water as possible. As soon as your kitten seems at ease in the environment, keep it in the room for the first few days or weeks. It’s best to bring your cat back to this room when you are not at home. Let it explore your house only when you’re home.

Place your kitten in the litter box immediately after receiving each meal or refreshments. You could even try scratching the litter to instruct the kitten. Put your kitten in the litter box if you notice it sniffing or scratching the floor.

Pet your kitten or give it a treat or toy as a reward if it uses the litter box. Allow the kitten to first examine the area and exit the litter box on its own. Don’t clean up the area right away; leave the scent so your kitten will remember it later.


If your kitten is peeing or pooping around the room rather than in the litter box, carefully place it in the box. If your kitten poops outside the box, don’t yell at or punish it. This will inhibit the cat from using the litter box because it will start to associate the litter box with  bad things.

Problems and proofing behavior

Most cats will quickly learn to use the litter box. Some kittens may need more time, so be patient. If your kitten prefers to eliminate in one or two particular areas of your house, relocate the litter boxes to these locations. Try switching the type of cat litter or the litter box if this doesn’t work.

Try to imagine yourself in your cat’s shoes when thinking about litter boxes. Is there anything in the immediate vicinity that is scary or distracting? Your cat may avoid a particular area because of a sight or sound. Perhaps the litter box has a strong plastic odor. Or maybe the litter is unpleasant to the paws or has an odor that kitty dislikes. You may need to make a few minor adjustments before your kitten accepts the litter box.

Never, ever punish your cat for an accident. If you catch the kitten in the middle of an accident, be consistent in taking it to the litter box. Try not to become irritated or frustrated.

The main cause for avoiding the litter box is environmental stress. This means you may need to evaluate your kitten’s surroundings. Is there another pet in the house that is causing stress? Is your kitten acting agitated or anxious? It could benefit from more activity or vertical space.

Talk to your veterinarian if you’re still having issues; they can help you by suggesting training methods and ruling out any potential health problems that could be impeding your cat’s ability to use the litter box.

Leave a Reply