Training a Kitten to Use the Litter Box

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

27 September 2016

Before you become the devoted servant of an adult cat you are likely to be the doting parent of an adorable and energetic kitten. The role of kitten parent en-tails the same trials and tribulations as any other parent - and that includes toilet training.

So, how to toilet train a kitten? Thankfully, the process is much quicker, cleaner and more straightforward than potty training a toddler and most of the hard work will already have been done by your kitten’s biological mother.

A mother will start to toilet train her litter as soon as they have been weaned. Make sure your kitten is 12-14 weeks and you’ll likely find they’re already experts of bathroom etiquette, though remember to show them where the litter tray is when you first bring them home.

A new loo

No matter how well trained your kitten is it may take him some time to readjust to his new environment. Take him to the litter tray at a quiet time of the day and lift him into it. Gently take his front paws and show him how to dig in the litter. Kittens will generally take more quickly to a new environment and be less skittish when you place them directly into the litter box. If you’re retraining an older cat, check out this guide instead.

Establishing a routine

When you gotta go, you gotta go! This can make it difficult to establish a routine, since predicting when your cat needs to use the toilet requires a great deal of psychic ability. However, there are times of the day where your kitten is more likely to need the toilet - think first thing in the morning, after meals, immediately after play, and just after he wakes up from a nap. Start taking your kitten to the litter tray at these times, this will help build up an association with needing the toilet and using the litter tray.

I need to go right meow!

If your kitten is having trouble getting to the toilet in time look out for signs that he needs to go.

  • Scratching at the floor
  • Restlessness
  • Going to a corner
  • Crouching behind a sofa or somewhere quiet
  • Suddenly losing interest in his favourite toy

This is your cue to spring into action! Gently pick him up, take him to the litter tray and let the magic happen. After he’s done praise him for using the litter tray with some pats or a healthy treat.

As with children, accidents happen. The key is not to scold your kitten if he wees somewhere other than his litter tray. Clean up the mess thoroughly, using vinegar to get rid of the smell, so that he doesn’t come to associate that place with the toilet.

For more information on how to train your cat, read this article.


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