Ooh, kittens — am I right? Those big eyes just get me every time.
There is so much to teach your new family member: Feeding routines, playtime habits…and, of course, how to use the litter box. In fact, the litter box lesson is one you’ll likely want to start right away.
To help you through these trying times, I’ve compiled some tips so you and your kitten come through litter box training like champs.
1. Size Matters
Make sure your kitten’s litter box is the right size for him. Too-small litter boxes make both cats and kittens feel confined, and feeling trapped may discourage your kitten from using the box.
In her book First Steps with Puppies and Kittens: A Practice-Team Approach to Behavior, Linda White explains proper sizing: “Each litter box should be large enough for the kitten to feel comfortable. A good rule is to use a litter box 3 times the length of the kitten from nose to tail.”
Younger cats and kittens also need a litter box that has lower sides to facilitate getting in and out easily. As he grows, replace his “kiddie box” with a more standard adult-sized version — and it’s worthwhile to do this before he becomes uncomfortable with its size and refuses to use it.
2. Location, Location, Location
Where you place your kitten’s litter box is important. Just like us, he would like a little privacy during elimination, so place the box out of the way of people traffic.
At the same time, ensure that your kitten’s box is in a place that offers him some different ways to get the heck out of there, if possible. Cats are cautious creatures and, as White says, “Your kitten will not want to feel trapped. So the area containing the litter box should have a few escape routes for the cat if startled.”
3. A Room of His Own
Most cats prefer not to share litter boxes. In a multi-cat household, it’s best to always have 1 more litter box than you do cats. So if you have 1 cat, get 2 boxes, and so on. Forcing a family of felines to all use 1 box may result in some undesirable outcomes, including:
- Urinating or defecating on the floor
- Dominance struggles
- Ambush-style attacks by other cats
The Humane Society of the United States also advises not placing all of the litter boxes in close proximity to one another — or else the cats will think of them as being “1 big box.”
4. Choose the Best Litter for Your Cat
Some kittens will use any litter you buy, but others are more finicky and will prefer a certain type. “Since many kittens naturally look for soft matter, such as sand, to eliminate in, they seem to prefer softer litters that clump. Other kittens may like smooth surfaces to eliminate on,” says White.
Offer your kitten a choice: Have a couple of boxes available with different types of litter and see which one he uses more. Using his preferred litter type from the beginning will make the rest of his training much easier.
This momma cat has a frustrating time showing her kitty what a litter box is really for:
5. Use the Right Amount of Litter
Litter depth preferences will vary from kitten to kitten, so this gives you the chance to run more tests in the kitten litter lab: In one of your litter boxes, pour only 1 to 2 inches of litter; in another box, put down at least 3 to 4 inches of the stuff. Then step back and observe your kitten’s behavior. Which does he use more?
The most important things you can bring to the table when litter box training are patience and love. Cats and kittens instinctively want to bury their waste, so you’ve already got the advantage — the trick is to keep it! Watch your kitten carefully to see what he prefers, and do your best to nip any elimination issues in the bud.
And don’t worry: It takes us months to potty-train our little humans, but your kitten will have it down pat in no time.