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Training your Kitten to use the Litter Box
Ideally, the mother cat will train her young to the litter
box, if a litter box is kept near her nest. But what if you
get a new kitten and it is not trained? A kitten is much
wilder, crazier, and more energetic than a cat, so that can
be a challenge. On the other hand, a kitten isn't set in its
ways the way a fully grown cat might be. Follow a few simple
suggestions and be consistent with your training and you
should wind up with a well-behaved kitty.
Purchase a litter box, cat litter and a scooper. Look for
something 'kitten' size in a litter box, but a regular size
box will do if a small one is not available. Choose a simply
box so that the kitten can easily get in and out. The old-
fashioned clay litter is the best to buy for your kitten,
when the kitten is about four months old you can begin to
use the clumping litter if you wish.
Put about an inch of litter in the bottom of the litter box
to begin training the kitten. Keep in mind that kittens are
small animals and the first scooper you purchase should have
narrow openings between the slats to catch the tiny feces.
Find the proper location for the litter box. Kittens often
look for something to hide behind when they have to go
potty. It is not a good idea to put the litter box behind
the television, but watching and catching the kitten when it
runs toward the television or other furniture IS. Put the
litter box where it is to you and the kitten but safe from
children and other pets, and as close as possible to where
the kitten will be spending most of its time. You can always
move the pan closer to where you really want it, as the
When you first bring your kitten home, when it wakes from a
nap, and after it eats, take it to the litter box and gently
put it into the box. It may sniff around a bit or it may
just start digging on its own. If it doesn't dig in on its
own, or jumps right out, you should gently take its little
front paws and show it the 'digging' motion in the litter
for a few strokes; it should catch on right away and dig a
little. If this first time does not click with it, it is OK.
It will learn. It should be placed in the litter box at
least ten times a day for its "practice" digging.
Keep an eye on it. Just like a toddler, a kitten shows signs
when it needs to go. When kittens realize they need to go
potty, they often cry and run towards a hiding spot. The
trick then is to gently place the kitten in the litter box
and if needed, coax it to begin to dig. Some kittens prefer
a little privacy just as adult cats do, so step aside while
still watching to make sure it uses the box and it may train
Note: If your kitten does go behind the television or the
couch or in a corner in the living room, the first thing to
do is remain calm. Remember the kitten is a baby and is just
learning. Simply take your kitten to the accident spot and
let it have a sniff - Do Not rub its nose in it, as some
recommend. After it has had a little sniff, take it to the
litter box and, holding a paw in each of your hands, dig its
paws gently in the clay. Cats are naturally clean, and it
should have the idea down quickly.
Be sure to keep the litter box completely clean. You will
need to scoop the litter box daily and change the litter
often. Creating an aversion to the litter box by bad odors
or frightening things now may cause you pain for the
remainder of your cat's life.
One good way to clean a kitten's litter box is to use small
sandwich baggies at first, eventually graduating to gallon
size food or trash bags or plastic grocery bags. Simply use
the scooper and scoop up the soiled area and put it into the
baggie, then tie it off and throw it away in the outside
trash bin. Be sure to wash your hands well afterwards. A
couple times a month you will need to completely dump the
contents of the litter box, wash it with a safe cleaning
product like dish detergent, rinse well and dry it
completely, then refill it.
Some kittens may try to eat clay litter. If
does, try changing to paper or wood litter; oatmeal works
too. If you find your kitten is just not catching on, maybe
change the location of the litter box or try a different
brand of litter. Some kittens are particular about the
litter clay used.
As your kitten grows, you will need to put a larger quantity
of litter in the box each time you change it. By the time
your kitten is six months old the litter should be up to
about 2-3 inches deep in the litter box.
Depending on the size of your house or apartment, it may be
a good idea to put out more than one litter box so your
kitten has a shorter distance to travel to its "bathroom" if
it needs to go urgently. This can prevent messy "accidents".
After a while, when your kitten uses the boxes reliably, you
can decrease the number of boxes until you only have one,
and move it to your preferred location (As long as you show
the cat where the box is located).
A few tips to make litter training your kitten easier:
* Make sure you take your new kitten to your veterinarian
for a checkup as soon as you bring it home, to ensure that
it is healthy. Some disorders cause kittens and cats to have
problems in the litter box, especially worms and other
* Canned cat food may cause diarrhea in kittens, just a
teaspoon per day as a treat is plenty.
* Do not feed cow's milk to kittens. Cow milk usually causes
kittens to have diarrhea.
* Do feed your kitten dry or semi-moist food created for
kittens, to keep its digestive system functioning properly.
With luck, patience, understanding and a lot of TLC your
kitten should train in about four weeks.
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