Contrary to popular belief, mother cats do not teach their kittens
to use the litter box. Kittens begin to dig in and use dirt and dry, loose
material at about 4 weeks old without ever having observed their mothers doing
so. This natural instinct is used in training kittens to use the litter box.
Begin as soon as the new
kitten arrives in your home.
Buy the largest litter box you can find; your kitten will soon grow into a
cat, and will appreciate having the room. Make sure at least one side is low
enough that your kitten can easily climb in and out of the box. And make sure
the box is in a spot that is easy to get to. (These are also important
considerations for a geriatric cat, who may have limited mobility.) Place the
box away from heavy traffic and loud distracting noises so the cat can have
privacy. If it becomes necessary to move the box, make the change gradually,
moving it step by step.
Cats like to scratch. They scratch during play. They scratch while stretching. They scratch to mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And because cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on things to remove frayed, worn outer claws and expose new, sharper claws. Unfortunately, all this scratching can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpeting!
If the kitten was trained to use a litter box by her previous owner, use the
same type of box and litter. A kitten who has been living outside may need dirt
or sand in the litter box at first, as that is what she is accustomed to using.
Gradually replace the dirt with more and more litter, until you have completely
switched over. This method works for switching the litter for any cat.
Place the kitten in the litter box after a nap, a meal, a play session, and
whenever your kitten appears inclined to urinate or defecate. Praise her when
she goes. If mistakes occur, pick up the kitten and set her down in the box. Do
not discipline just before placing the kitten in the box. The kitten will
associate any reprimand with being placed in the litter box and will assume the
litter box is the wrong place to go.
Never rub cat’s nose in a mess or bring her over to it for a reprimand. She
will have no idea why she is being reprimanded, but she may be inclined to
eliminate in hidden spots (such as behind the sofa) to avoid another
When your kitten is still learning to use the box, leave a tiny bit of urine
or feces behind in the box, so the scent will remind her what the box is for.
As soon as she is using the box reliably (and this could be as quickly as a day
or two) remove all liquid and solid waste regularly. Scoop out solid material
once or twice a day, and stir the litter to keep the surface dry. If you are
using a clumping litter, scoop the liquid wastes at the same time. Change
nonclumping litter every week-more often if necessary. Change clumping litter
as soon as you notice that the box has even the slightest odor after you have
scooped. Wash the box thoroughly and let it dry completely before adding fresh