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Did you recently adopt or buy a kitten? Congrats! But it’s time to get to work. One of the first things you’ll want to do with a new kitten is litter train her. There’s good new and bad news when it comes to litter training a kitten. First, the good news: training a kitten to use a litter is far easier than training a puppy to go to the bathroom outside. Cats naturally prefer to go to the bathroom on sand or soil. So your carpets and floors won’t be that attractive of a bathroom alternative to your new kitten. So what’s the bad news? Though their instincts will lead them to using the litter box, sometimes other factors interfere with the instincts of a cat. Some kittens might require a bit more work to litter train than others to become comfortably and reliably use their litter box.
So how do you litter box train your new kitten? Below is a step-by-step guide to successfully litter training your cat. Then, we’ll provide you with a breakdown of the different types of litter that are available for your cat.
Set Up the Litter Box
This first step is an easy one. To train your cat to use a litter box, you’re going to first need litter and a tray to place it in. We’ll get into the types of litter a little later on, but there’s also a variety of tray sizes and styles that you can choose from. The two primary types are open and enclosed. An open litter tray is the most common. They allow for your cat to easily access the litter box and makes emptying your cat’s remains from litter box extremely easy for the cat owner. However, there are a couple of drawbacks of an open litter box.
First, depending on where you place your litter box, there’s nothing covering the sight or smell of your cat’s remains. Second an open litter box will likely require more surrounding cleaning as when your cat is burying his remains she’ll likely kick up small litter grains that will land on the outside of the tray and will need to be vacuumed or swept up.
An enclosed litter box is great for people who want to spare themselves of seeing and smelling their cat’s remains. These litter boxes feature ceilings that cover the litter tray, leaving only a space for your cat to enter and exit. The ceiling does a great job of catching your litter debris, making for a contained cleaning process. The drawbacks of an enclosed litter box are that they’re more expensive than open trays and require a bit more work to access when cleaning. Your cat will get accustomed to either type of box, so the decision between an open box and an enclosed one is up to the cat owner’s preference.
Once you have your box picked out, you’ll want to find a good location for it. Cats, like most mammals, are creatures of habit, so you’ll want to place your litter box in a permanent location. Don’t place the litter box next to the kitten’s food bowl or bed. Cats do not like to eliminate where they eat or have their nest. If you place a litter box too close to a cat’s nest, she may well pick a more comfortable spot, such as behind the couch, far away from her resting and dining area.
Put the litter box in a quiet low-traffic area, such as in a spare bathroom or bathroom. A corner location is better than out in the open because a cat needs to feel secure. If your cat has only got two directions to watch instead of four – and feels she has an escape route – she’ll be more relaxed. Additionally, some cats are nervous and don’t like things too close to them. Even a hanging plant that blows in the breeze or casts shadows can prompt your cat to search for a different location.
You’re all set up, now let’s start training the kitten.
Place the Kitten in the Litter Box
It’s a good idea to set up the litter box before first bringing home your kitten. When you do bring the kitten home, you’ll want to gently place the kitten into her litter box right away. There’s very little chance he’ll go to the bathroom, but you’re showing her where it is. When he gets out, feel free to let him get accustomed to his new home. Play with him for a bit, let him explore, then provide him with so food and water.
Shortly after your kitten eats, you’ll want to place her back into the litter box. There’s a better chance than before that she’ll use the bathroom this time, but if not don’t be alarmed. Cats want to feel safe and comfortable when they eliminate. Being that your kitten has just met you and is in an unfamiliar location, it might take her awhile to feel safe and comfortable.
Praise the Kitty When He Goes
Continue to gently carry your kitten to the litter box until he uses it. If the little guy is taking awhile to go, don’t get frustrated and certainly do not raise your voice. Your cat will sense your frustration and feel your negative energy if you lose your patience with him. Give him plenty of time to get comfortable in his new home.
When he eventually either pees or poops, make sure to give him plenty of love. Praise him with your words, praise him with a cuddle and a nice petting, and praise him with a little treat. You want to reward his using the litter box, especially if it took him a bit to get use it.
In most cases, after one or two successful uses your kitty is trained to use the litter box and won’t have issues going forward.
If your kitten still hasn’t gone or is having regular accidents outside of the litter box, here’s a list of potential explanations.
Types of Kitty Litter
Cats, by nature, dig and scratch in soft soil out of doors, often burying their waste. The litter you provide substitutes for the dirt outside. The big question facing you in the cat-litter aisle is: What is the best material to use?
There are a number of litter materials to choose from, including clay-type litters and those made from plant materials. Some cats will refuse to eliminate on particular types of litters, but most cats, especially kittens, will adjust to what you provide for them.
Much like selecting your litter box, your preference is factored into selecting litter. It’s all a matter of taste – both yours and your cats. Does your cat prefer fine sand or chunky pellets? Do you prefer clumping or non-clumping litter? Do you prefer a litter that’s ecologically friendly? Is tracking or odor control your most important concern? Depending on your answers, different litters will work better for you and your kitten.
Clumping Cat Litter
Clumping cat litters are are designed so that urine and feces can be easily removed from your kitten’s litter box. Most contain a material known as bentonite that allows the litter to form a nice solid clump as the litter absorbs liquid. There also alternative all-natural fibers that can help clump the cat litter tightly. Some clumping cat litters have odor-killing properties to help contain the smell, such as Purina’s clumping litter, which uses a Glade odor killer to provide your kitten and your home with a fresher smelling litter.
Just because clumping cat litter is easier to remove, doesn’t mean you can empty your kitten’s box less often. Your cat’s remains should be emptied at least every-other day — daily is the most ideal.
While clumping litter is more popular today, non-clumping cat litter was once the most commercial cat litter option. Non-clumping litter uses materials that a great at absorbing large volumes of urine, which helps cut down on the pungent smell of cat urine. While there are unscented litters available, some non-clumping litters also have additional additives, such as baking soda or charcoal, which are designed to help control unpleasant odors.
Non-clumping litter is typically made of clay, though there are other types available such as plant-based alternatives (e.g., pine, corn, wheat, beet pulp, and wood). Typically, it is cheaper to buy non-clumping litter than it is to buy clumping.
Cleaning a non-clumping litter box can be more of a challenge than a clumping one. It can be difficult to isolate your cat’s remains in a non-clumping litter, which may force you to change the entire box. Because of this, non-clumping litter is not very economically friendly.
Environmentally friendly cat litters are often made of recycled waste products, such as newspaper. They can also be made of biodegradable material, including wheat, corn and wood chips that break down easily in landfills. Some of these litters have the consistency of fine sand while others come in pelleted form.
What’s the downside? You may not like the dust of fine litter and your cat may not like the extra work of covering stool with, what amounts to, small rocks. If you’d like to try a green litter option, start with an eco-friendly choice with your young kitten. The older your cat gets, the harder it might be to introduce new types of litters.
Whether you decide to use a clumping litter in an open litter box, a non-clumping litter in an enclosed box, or a eco-friendly litter is a custom walk-in box you designed, once you find a litter your cat likes, stick with it. Try to avoid introducing a new type of box or litter to you cat. Cats are very particular and litter changes can lead to unwelcome modifications in bathroom habits. Do your best to avoid the temptation when a different type of litter is on sale. Your cat will greatly appreciate the consistency of her bathroom experience.
Is your newly litter-trained kitten keeping you up at night with her abundance of activity? Check out potential causes for her late-night antics and some tips on curbing the behavior.