How to Litter Train a Cat: In a Few Easy Steps
While most cats will receive their cat litter training from their mom, there are often occasions where kittens have had no prior cat litter box training. Even then, accidents happen – especially in new places such as your home. If you’ve just brought a rescue or kitten into your home to join your family, then you might just fall in to this category. For those who are struggling with training cat to use litter box, this article is for you – so read on, to discover everything you need to know about cat litter training.
Do Cats Automatically Use a Litter Tray?
Yes and no – the answer to this is, as you may have guessed, a little complicated. The truth is, cats are naturally attuned to wanting to cover up their tracks, in the same way that big cats in the wild do. This is to hide their scent from other predators and make sure no prey are aware of their presence. It’s also a way to let the more dominant cats in the area know that this particular kitty is pretty submissive – as the strongest scent is often from the most dominant cat.
As you can probably guess, using gravelly, dry areas is therefore the best place for cats to poop, as it’s easier to mask their scent and cover their feces. Thus, your cats instinct is to find a place to poop that is as easy to manipulate as possible and this translates well, when it comes to litter training a kitten or cat.
Usually, it’ll be the parent cat who passes this reaction along to their kittens, as well as their natural instinct. In these cases, you might notice mom teaching their kids how to use their litter tray when the kittens are around 2-4 weeks of age. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out for multiple reasons – and that’s where you’ll need to step in.
So, while they may not be automatically able to use a litter tray, it can be in their instincts to want to use one. You just need to show them where to start!
How to Litter Train a Cat
The first thing you’ll need to do when looking to litter train a kitten is to keep an eye on their current habits. Does your cat go to the toilet shortly after they’ve eaten? Do they have a preference for a specific spot? How often are they going to urinate or defecate through the day? And is there any difference between their daytime and nighttime habits?
The answer to these questions will give you some massive clues as to when they’re going to go, and where they like to go – and help you resolve the missteps. Once you’ve figured out their favorite spot, you can pop their litter tray in that area. If you notice that they like to go to the toilet after eating, pop their litter tray nearby, so they can quickly reach the right area before nature kicks in. If your cat likes to sleep near you at night, it might be worth having an extra litter tray near your bedroom, and so on.
As well as working with their natural rhythm, it can be important to instill new ones by using their instincts. For example, cats can startle fairly easily, and this will deter them from urinating in areas that they shouldn’t. So, if you spot your cat having a wee in a corner, make a loud noise or clap your hands, and they will soon associate urinating elsewhere with this negative feeling and quickly avoid weeing on your carpets or flooring.
That being said, never shout at your cat or hit them. All that will happen is you will create fear and distrust, which will simply ruin the bond that you have or may be working on with your new family member. Remember that patience is absolutely key to any training and litter training is no different.
At the same time, it’s important to encourage positive behaviors – in this case, that would be going for a poop in a litter tray. A great way to use positive reinforcement here is to provide your cat with a tasty treat, every time they use their little tray!
When Should I Be Worried About Cat Urinating Around the House?
Be aware that accidents can happen. But, if you’re noticing frequent urination from adult cats, or cats that have recently reached maturity, you may need to take them to the vets. Many cats have a habit of “marking”, and they do this by urinating in particular spots (you can usually tell if this is the case, when they’re doing lots of short, quick wees at more frequent intervals). In these cases, it’s likely that they may need to be spayed or neutered in order to stop the marking behaviors, as well as a range of other mating behaviors that can become a nuisance.
It could, however, also be a sign of your cat wanting more attention or even that they are becoming poorly. If you spot your cat frequently urinating and/or defecating around the house, combined with the following symptoms, seek veterinary advice immediately:
- Disinterest in playing
- Changes in their usual behavior
- Hiding or disappearing around the home
These are all signs that your cat is poorly, and they will need the appropriate treatment which only a qualified vet can provide.
How Long Does It Take to Litter Train a Cat?
All kittens and cats will work at their own pace, and there are a range of factors involved which can shorten or lengthen the process. Most kittens will learn how to use a litter tray by around 4 weeks, after they are shown the basics by their parents. For others, it can take as long as a month from the start of your training until they are confidently able to use the litter tray by themselves and with no encouragement from yourself.
What is the Fastest Way to Litter Train a Cat?
While all cats – like humans – will learn new things at their own pace, you can give your kitten or cat a helping hand when it comes to cat litter training by using a few, helpful tips and tricks to give additional encouragement.
- Keep the litter tray clean
Cats are notoriously clean animals and they will never use a litter tray which they feel is too dirty for them to use. Try to clear out the used litter at least once a week, and clear up any clumps and lumps at least once a day, to keep your cat happy. On top of this, you should completely clean your cat litter tray regularly, disinfecting the entire litter box before thoroughly drying and placing new litter in.
- Choose the right litter tray
Some cats prefer to have everything open, while others like to use the toilet in private. If your cat has a preference, then try to stick to that specific type of litter tray – the cat breeder or rescue center you purchase your new feline friend from will likely have a good idea as to which they like better.
- Use their natural instincts to help litter train kittens
As well as finding the right litter, which your cat will show a clear preference for, you should also work with their sense of smell. This is a big factor in where cats prefer to do their business, so use it to your advantage. If your cat is struggling, you can leave a little bit of the old litter in the tray when it comes to cleaning it. This will keep the scent of their previous leavings and help them to locate where their litter is, in order to get there on time.
- Choose the right location
In the same way that we might suddenly need to pee the second we put our keys in the door, there are some things can just trigger the need to urinate in cats. You’ll know if this is the case, as your cat will regularly be peeing in the same areas around the home. This is the metaphorical sweet spot, and the best place to keep your cats’ litter trays. Not only will this discourage them from going straight onto your floor, but it’ll help show them where you need them to go to the toilet.
- Never place a litter tray near their food or water
As mentioned, cats are notoriously fastidious animals and will often turn their nose up at food that is too close to their litter. Similarly, they are very unlikely to use a litter tray that is placed near to their food, as they refuse to risk the contamination. Instead, try to keep a good distance between your cats’ food and their litter tray
- Where necessary, try confinement
This should not be used as a punishment. Rather, if your cat is often pooping in the house at night or you find yourself waking up to puddles, try keeping your cat in a confined space with their litter tray. The lack of access to other areas may encourage them to use the tray, rather than their sleeping or eating space.