If you’ve adopted a cat, chances are they need to be litter trained. That’s especially true since most cats learn these habits from their mom. Luckily, it doesn’t need to be a difficult process if you know how to help your cat learn. Here’s what you need to know to litter train a cat:
Choosing a Box and Preparing the Supplies Needed
Get Kitty Litter
You need to get kitty litter to fill your litter box, and there are a lot of choices available. Many pet owners prefer clumping litter since it’s easier to clean. That said, not all cats will take to a clumping kitty litter. The same is true for scented litter, as well as a variety of other factors. Be prepared to be flexible in your choices if needed.
Don’t Forget the Scoop
Some litter boxes include a scoop, but not all do. It’s better to grab an extra scoop than find yourself without one, especially when it’s time to change the litter.
Or better yet, go for a self cleaning litter box!
Use Positive Reinforcement
Pick up some little treats or toys to give your cat when they successfully use the litter box. If you’re using toys, keep the reward toys exclusively for training, and keep others for play.
Find the Litter Box for You
There are some things to consider when you’re getting a litter box. Cats have different personalities, and some might be finicky about certain types of litter boxes. The most important thing to consider is the size. A litter box that isn’t big enough won’t allow your cat to use the box comfortably.
Get a litter box that is at least 1 ½ times your cat’s length. This allows plenty of room for movement and minimizes messes and accidents.
When it comes to covered or uncovered, there are reasons to choose either. While uncovered litter boxes are able to air out, cats can get litter outside the box easier, especially when training. That said, some cats are more comfortable because they feel they have more space.
Covered litter boxes make less mess, although they do get stinky since the litter box area is enclosed. However, some cats do prefer covered litter boxes, since they offer privacy while they do their business.
Ways to Litter Train Your Cat
When you’re training a younger cat, it can be easier in some ways. That’s because they’re still at the age where they’d be developing litter habits based on their mom’s behavior. However, we’ll talk about training older cats later on.
Location, Location, Location
You need to place your litter box where it’s convenient for you and your cat. Naturally, you don’t want a litter box sitting in your living area, but you still need to place it somewhere your cat can easily access. Bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other rooms with hard flooring are good choices, provided the door stays open.
Here’s the thing:
If you can get two litter boxes, do it. It’s easier for cats to reach it when needed, or use the one that gives them more privacy in the moment.
If you get only one litter box, that’s fine too. Make sure you introduce your cat to the location before training. Let them explore, sniff, and get comfortable around it, but don’t move it afterwards.
Pick Your Timing
You can’t force your cat to go potty in the litter box if they don’t need to. However, you can be clever with your timing and work with their schedule to get things rolling. Your cat is most likely to need to do their business after waking up or eating. That means that these are perfect times to start training.
When your cat finishes eating, call them to the litter box (or carry them if needed). Set your cat in the litter box. Your cat might not use it immediately, but if they show signs that they need to (such as crouching or sniffing), coax them to remain in the box, or set them back in it.
You can also look for these clues that your cat needs to do their business throughout the day, and place them in the litter box as soon as you can.
Whether or not your cat is successful in using the litter box, an appropriate response can make all the difference. Don’t have a fit if your cat has an accident outside the litter box; that creates anxiety and confusion that makes training more difficult. Simply place them in the litter box immediately to help them associate the litter box with bladder and bowel evacuation.
When you take your cat to the litter box and they do successfully use it, give them their treat or reward toy immediately after they leave the box. Make sure to offer them plenty of praise, so they clearly understand this is the goal behavior. Be patient; litter box training doesn’t happen overnight. It will take some time, but once they start learning, progress speeds up.
Training Older Cats
Older cats have their own set of challenges, not least of all their different physical abilities. As they age, cats won’t have the same joints they did as a kitten. They also might be pickier in terms of the box and litter they’ll readily use, so prepare other options when needed.
The process for litter box training older cats is mostly the same as it is for younger cats, with a few adaptations. You may need to place the litter box in a nearer room, and ideally one that they don’t need to climb steps to reach. A litter box with lower sides (only a few inches high at most) will work wonders.
Cats are somewhat inclined to using litter by their nature. As a cat owner, that gives you an advantage as long as you work with your cat to train them. It’s important to be patient and take it step by step; as long as you keep working on it, your cat will use the litter box over time.