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Litter Training a Cat Is as Easy as ABC
CatsBehavior

Litter Training a Cat Is as Easy as ABC

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 28, 2022

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Litter training a kitten is more straightforward than newbie cat owners might assume. Doing their business on sandy surfaces is common practice for felines, and it's a skill quickly taught by mama cats. Still, a little guidance from you will help your new kitten or rescue cat get the drift more swiftly.

1

Litter box size

White cat in cat's litter box OlyaSolodenko / Getty Images

Think long-term. Your kitten or young cat will grow, and you don't want the litter box to be cramped —this isn't a cat in a random box situation where feeling snug is the point. Your fur baby needs space to move around and comfortably answer the call of nature without feeling like its bathroom fills with waste too rapidly. Ensure the litter box sides aren't too high for easy entry and exit.

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2

Litter type

Devon Rex Kitten Digging Sand in Litter Box CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

Cats tend to like a user-friendly clumping litter, and employing unscented litter rules out possible allergic reactions to deodorizing chemicals. If you have dogs in the house, clumping litter can block their intestines if consumed, so experiment with other dog-safe litter materials. Use enough litter to create a three-inch layer for optimal waste burial and odor prevention. Clean your litter box daily and wash it thoroughly once a week. When litter training, leave a little liquid and solid waste behind for a few weeks to remind your cat about the litter box's purpose.

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3

Cover-up?

Cute maine coon cat sitting in a closed llitter box and looking curious sideways. Lightspruch / Getty Images

While a covered litter box can offer your cat privacy and keep poop-enthusiast dogs at bay, it might be unwieldy to navigate and off-putting when dirty and smelly. These downsides defeat the purpose because your cat will choose to go potty outside of the litter box instead. Cats also like to know what's going on around them for their self-defense, and a covered litter box can block their view and make toilet time more anxiety-inducing than relieving.

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4

Location, location, location

cat using litter box Natasha Zakharova / Getty Images

To ease your kitty's nerves, place litter boxes in the corners of rooms so that at least one direction feels safe from threats. The room should be private and quiet, and the box itself should be convenient and accessible. If you have a large home, get more than one litter box, so your fluffy bestie doesn't have to trek across the house to pee or poop. The rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat in a household and just one additional litter box.

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5

Cats don't eat where they poop

cat using litter box w-ings / Getty Images

There's one more important point to remember about where to place a litter box. Unlike dogs, cats don't eat or drink anywhere close to where they defecate, so ensure you place food far from any litter boxes. Your cat's dining area is one of its relaxation spots. If a litter box is too close, it'll likely go unused, and you'll have to deal with waste in unpredictable places.

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6

Be in tune with your cat's routine

cat looking at litter box Adene Sanchez / Getty Images

When they're not being completely mysterious, cats are pretty predictable and follow schedules. They usually need to go to the toilet after sleeping, eating, or running to and fro. Fast track the litter training process by gently guiding your kitten to the litter box after playtime or when they wake up from a catnap.

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7

Model appropriate behavior

owner pointing litter box for cat to use Siarhei SHUNTSIKAU / Getty Images

Your cat might never have learned how to use a litter box from its mother. So you're going to have to do some show and tell without actually using the litter box, of course. When you think kitty would like to eliminate, take it to the litter box and demonstrate how to dig with one finger or bury poop by pushing litter over it. Don't use the cat's paws—it can learn the new habit simply by observing you a few times.

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8

Responding to potty accidents

owner cleaning cat's mess on the carpet krblokhin / Getty Images

Yelling at your cat for toilet accidents achieves nothing. Your cat will grow wary of you without understanding why it's being reprimanded. Run through all the reasons it might not be going potty where it should. Clean up after accidents and leave no trace so your cat doesn't mistake the accident site for a litter box again. Make adjustments, be patient, and your litter training mission shall soon be accomplished.

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9

Rule out health issues

A cat having a check-up at a small animal vet clinic leaf / Getty Images

If you've made every possible accommodation and your cat still seems to be struggling with litter training, a medical problem may be to blame. Observe stool for signs of blood. And ask yourself whether you've seen any waste, period? If you can't spot urine or excrement, there may be a blockage in your cat's system, for example, and you'd need to see a vet ASAP.

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10

Avoid toilet-training

white cat lying on the white lid of toilet inside bathroom IrenaV / Getty Images

It might seem fun and convenient to have your cat relieve itself in the same place you do. Toilet training is achievable but not recommended for a host of reasons. Cats can enjoy flushing too much, which wastes a lot of water, and their poop can contain Toxoplasma oocysts that may contaminate flushed water or even infect you. It's also challenging to keep track of your cat's health if its waste, a vital clue that all is well, constantly disappears.

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