How to Litter Train a Kitten

A grey kitten using a litter box

Training your kitten to use the litter box is a necessary task when you introduce a fuzzy new family member into your household. Fortunately, litter training kittens is fairly simple, particularly since the idea of burying feces and urine is instinctual for a cat.

Where to Litter Train Kittens

Kittens and cats often enjoy some peace and quiet while they use the litter box, so place yours in a calm location away from other pets or busy spaces. The noises made by large appliances, such as dishwashers or clothes dryers, could startle your cat, so keep the box away from these types of household items. Your kitten's litter box should also be placed in an area far away from her food and water or places she likes to sleep.

If you have the space, providing multiple litter boxes in different rooms may be a good idea, especially if you have more than one cat. A good guideline is to provide one box per cat plus one extra box. In a multi-level home, keeping separate cat trays upstairs and downstairs ensures that your kitten always has a nearby place to go.

Steps for Litter Training Kittens

Once you've gotten the litter box and set it up in a calm, convenient location, you're ready to teach your kitten how to use the box in a few easy steps.

1. Watch your kitten for signs she has to go.

When your kitten's bladder or bowels feel full, she might start searching for a place to eliminate. Watch for signs such as scratching and digging on the floor or crouching down as though she's ready to urinate.

2. Quickly and gently move your cat to the litter box.

You can simply lift up your kitten and place her in the box once you notice signs that she's ready to use it. Because kittens often use their box right after eating or right after they awaken, it's also a good idea to put her there for a few minutes immediately after meals or a catnap.

3. Offer praise for good litter box behaviour.

Once your cat has done her business and covered it up with a few scratches of a paw, reward her with words of praise, extra affection or play time.

How to Litter Train a Kitten Using Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can help your kitten learn the ins and outs of litter box use. Consider offering a tasty cat treat when your kitten successfully uses the litter box. Engaging in a fun interactive play session with a favourite cat toy, such as a feather wand, after successful litter box use can also create positive associations with the box.

Choosing a Litter Tray for Your New Furry Friend

Cats often have individual preferences about the type of litter box they like. Two main kinds of litter trays are open and covered boxes. An open box allows entry from all sides, making it simple for your kitten to enter and exit the box while also giving you easy access when it's time to scoop clumps after your cat is done. An open box also gives your cat a clear view of the rest of the room, so other pets can't sneak up on her while she's busy in the box, and she has many directions to escape if she has to run once she's done.

You can find open boxes with low or high sides. Low sides may be beneficial for young kittens who could have difficulty getting into a high-sided box. Once your kitten grows bigger and more coordinated, you might want to switch to one with higher sides, especially if your cat tends to kick up a lot of litter when covering her leavings.

Covered litter boxes have a top that creates a cave-like environment for your kitten. A covered box offers more privacy for your cat than an open one does and may help cut down on odours. Cats who spend a lot of time digging also may benefit from a covered box because it helps keep litter from flying out of the box onto your floor.

Every cat box needs litter. Once your kitten gets used to a specific type of cat litter, try not to change it because a sudden difference in texture might upset your cat or make her avoid the box.

Encouraging Reliable Litter Box Behaviour

Keeping your cat's litter box clean is one of the easiest ways to encourage her to use the facilities you've provided. Some cats get picky about the state of the box and might try doing their business elsewhere if the tray isn't up to their standards.

You should clean your kitten's box at least once per day, removing clumps with a litter scoop and adding more litter as needed. You can do a full litter box wash once a week by dumping out all of the litter and cleaning the box with a mild detergent and water. Avoid using bleach or disinfectants when cleaning a litter box because the chemicals in these products could make your pet sick.

Dealing With Accidents

Even with the best training, kittens sometimes have accidents outside the litter box. Don't chastise or punish your kitten if she doesn't make it to the box. Instead, clean up the mess and continue with litter box training as normal. Eventually, your cat will get the hang of it and start using her litter box like a pro.

Keep an eye out for accidents later in your cat's life because urinating outside of the box can be a sign of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD.) This potentially dangerous condition requires veterinary intervention, so call your vet to schedule a checkup if your cat suddenly has a significant change in litter box behaviour.

Related articles

kittens drinking from a bowl
Do kittens need special food? The short answer is yes. Quality kitten nutrition helps support their growth and development through the first year or so of their lives. Learn more about kitten nutritional requirements here.
young girl holding a kitten
kitten eating from a bowl looking away