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How (and When) to Litter Train a Kitten, Step-by-Step

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you’re the proud owner of a new kitten, one of the first things you’ll want to do is teach them how to use their litter tray.

The good news is that litter training kittens is quick and easy. Dirt and sand are natural toilets for kittens so if you introduce them to a litter box, they will be happy to use it.

So, in this article, we’ll cover;

  • When to start litter training kittens
  • What you’ll need to litter train a kitten
  • What to do before you start litter training
  • How to litter train your kitten, step-by-step
  • What to do if your kitten won’t use their litter box

When to Start Litter Training Kittens

Start litter training your kitten when they’re 4 weeks old. Before that, their mother will stimulate them to go to the toilet and clean them up afterwards. 

If you adopt a kitten older than 4 weeks, or even an adult cat, start litter box training as soon as you bring them home.

What You’ll Need For Litter Training Kittens

Before you start litter training, you’ll need;

  1. A litter box
  2. Kitten litter
  3. A scoop
  4. Litter tray mat (optional)

Litter Box

Kittens grow fast, so choose a litter box they can grow into. If you start off with a tiny litter tray, you’ll need to replace it before you know it. 

You also, what your kitten to be familiar with their toilet. If you keep replacing it as they grow, you could cause problems, especially if your cat is sensitive.

For kittens, chose an uncovered litter tray. This makes it easier for you to place them into it and watch what they’re doing. 

Kitten Litter

Research shows that kittens prefer fine-grained cat litter. After all, it’s almost like the sand or dirt they’d use in the wild.

That said, cats can be fussy creatures. Some prefer clay, others prefer the softness of corn-based litter. Others like the bigger pellets of paper-based litter.

Whatever you choose, avoid clumping cat litter until your kitten is around six months old and choose a non-clumping litter instead.

Young kittens are curious creatures and some will try to eat their litter. Clumping litter expands and can cause intestinal blockages which can sometimes prove fatal. If you prefer the convenience of clumping litter, wait until they’re six months old. The risk of them trying to eat it will have passed. 

Read More: Best Litter For Kittens and Young Cats

Litter Scoop

You’ll need something to scoop the litter try with!

Kitten Treats or Toys

When your kitten uses their tray, it’s a good idea to reward them. This will make going to the toilet a positive experience.

You can reward them with a kitten treat, or play with them using toys.

Litter Mat (Optional)

Cat litter often sticks to cats’ paws and get’s left outside the litter box as they hop out.

Some cats also kick litter out of their tray when they cover up their ess. A cat litter mat will trap it and reduce the amount that gets tracked around the house.

What to Do Before You Start Litter Training

Before you start litter training your kitten, there are a couple of things to consider;

  1. How many litter trays you’ll need, and 
  2. Where to put them

Provide More Than One Litter Tray

In an ideal world, every cat should have its own litter box, plus one extra. 

Cats are funny creatures when it comes to their litter boxes. Some don’t like to use the same toilet all the time, some prefer to wee in one box and poo in the other.

Providing your kitten with more than one litter box will make accidents less likely.

Read More: How Many Cat Litter Boxes Do I Need?

Where to Put The Litter Boxes

Where you put your kitten’s litter box is important. Get this right now and it can stay there for the rest of your cat’s life.

Here are some golden rules;

  • Put a litter box on each floor of your home – don’t make your kitten or cat scale the stairs to go to the toilet.
  • Put it in a quiet location – many cats avoid noisy areas so don’t put it in an area where there’s lots of it. Keep it away from high traffic areas of the house.
  • Make it accessible – make sure that doors are always open. 
  • Keep litter boxes away from other pets – if you have a dog that eats cat poo out of the litter tray, keep them separate. Cats are at their most vulnerable when toileting. Being confronted by a dog while toileting could put them off using that litter box.
  • Keep the litter tray away from their food and water – cats are super hygienic, they don’t eat and toilet in the same area.

Consider where you’re going to put your kitten’s litter box before you even get them home. 

It’s important you get this right. If you keep moving your kitten’s litter tray because you don’t like where it is, you’ll unsettle them and they’ll have accidents.

How to Toilet Train a Kitten, Step-by-Step

kitten in litter box

Once you have got all of your supplies and you know where to put the litter boxes, it’s time to start training. Here’s how to help your kitten.

Introduce Your Kitten to Their Litter Box

As soon as you bring your kitten home, put them in the litter box so they get used to the smell and feel of the litter. 

You might notice they dig and pay at the litter, this is a good sign. If they don’t, run your fingers through it in a pawing motion.

They might not use the litter box the first time you put them in it. This is OK.

Put Them in Their Litter Box After They Eat and Wake Up

Kittens often need the toilet after they have eaten or woken up from sleeping. 

Place them in their litter tray after every meal and sleep.

It’s in their instinct to relieve themselves in sand, soil, or litter. They don’t need much encouragement once they’re in their litter box.

Encourage Good Litter Box Habits With Positive Reinforcement 

Every time your kitten has a successful trip to their litter box, reward them with some fuss or a treat. This will create a positive association with going to the toilet.

For this to work well, you must reward them as soon as they hop out of the litter box. After a while, they will associate the activity of toileting in their tray with the reward. 

Accidents

Accidents happen and you should expect them.

If your kitten has an accident, DO NOT punish them or shout at them. You’ll make them nervous and turn an accident into a problem. 

What to Do if Your Kitten Won’t Use Their Litter Box

Litter training kittens is a straightforward process. The vast majority of kitten owners don’t experience any problems at all. 

That said, some kittens might struggle.

If your kitten won’t use the litter box, or keeps toileting outside of the litter box, consider the litter box setup;

  • Scoop more often – some kittens can be fussy so scoop the litter as often as possible.
  • Location – It might be worth trying to change the location of the litter box. Watch your kitten and see where their favourite places are in the house. Try putting the litter box there.
  • Litter – Your kitten might not like the litter so try switching it to a different type.
  • Litter box – some cats like more privacy than others so consider changing their litter box to one with high sides.

If you’ve done all this and your kitten still isn’t getting it, take them to your vet. They will check to make sure nothing is wrong from a medical perspective. They can also help you troubleshoot any problems.

In Conclusion

Training a new kitten to use their litter box is one of the first things you should teach them.

In most cases, litter training is very straightforward and your kitten should pick it up quickly. 

Although it’s rare, some kittens might struggle. If they do, don’t punish them, persevere and treat them with love and kindness. If need b, consult your vet.

ben doyle

Ben Doyle

My name is Ben Doyle and I co-own Pet Checkers. I spend most of my time looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When I’m not taking care of animals, I’m photographing them and writing about them here on our website.

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