Getting Your Kittens To Use the Litterbox

Once you have decided to bring a kitten into your family, you will go to sleep at night dreaming of their cute little faces and the funny things they will do.  You reconcile yourself to the old couches acting as a scratching pad and your spontaneous weekends away going on hold - at least for a while.

As a responsible owner, you first pick up a kitten litterbox and the cheapest kitten litter you can find.  After all, you are going to go through tons of this stuff and rather spend the money on the best food you can afford, right?  Then you pick out your kitten or kittens and speak kind words to them as they meow on the way home.  As you walk in the door, you point out the food area and put together the litterbox area for them.

Your kitten happily spends the day exploring and playing.  As you head off to bed, you are sure you have chosen the right addition to your family.  In the morning, however, you discover your little bundle of joy has relieved himself everywhere: the floor just in front of the coffee pot, on your treasured Persian rug, just about everywhere it seems, except the litter box.

So what to do now?  You got a cat, not a dog, specifically because you don't have the time to train your pet.  Before you scream at the pet shop who claimed your kitten was litter box trained, see if any of the below tips help you on your quest to happy living with your cat.  Here are some common problems and solutions.

Your Kitten Doesn't Realize What the Litterbox is For

Kittens only start to need a litterbox when they are weaned from their mother on to solid food.  This can happen any time after about four weeks of age, although it can happen later, depending on the needs of the kittens and their mother.  Although mom does her best to lead by example, a large home may mean she can't always do so.  Although kittens are fast learners, it can take some time to put it altogether.  If they are taken from their mother too early or you have rescued an abandoned kitten, you may need to play mother cat until your kitten gets the hang of it.

Unfortunately, if your kitten doesn't know what the litterbox is for, it is going to take some effort on your side, but fortunately, it usually doesn't take that long for kittens to catch on.  But it does mean, you must be observant for a few days.Watch Your Kitten After Eating During Litterbox TrainingCredit: gracey @ morgueFile

After feeding your kitten, watch him for about fifteen minutes or so, then place him in the litterbox.  Take his paw and scratch the litter with it.  Do the same when you see your kitten wakes up or after a play session.  He may not do anything initially except jump out of the litterbox.  Do not scold him or force him back in.  Just observe him for as long as you are able.  If you see him sniffing and pawing in a corner of the house, especially in an area you have found waste before, then scoop him up and place him in the litterbox once again.  Whenever you catch your kitten relieving himself in the litterbox, praise and stroke him so he learns to associate the litterbox with love.

The Litterbox is Too CleanLitterbox Training KittensCredit: kabir @ morguefile

If you know that your new family members have already been through litterbox training, but since you have brought them home your kittens have just avoided it, then it could be that the litterbox is too clean.  A brand new litterbox, with brand new litter won't necessarily smell like the bathroom.  It could be that the entrance mat retains more odors and seems like a better option for your little ones.  

If you think this is the case, just add some of the movements your cat has done on the carpet to the litter box.  Then make sure to set your kittens in the litterbox so they can see that is where they should go.  If they are urinating in one spot, stick an old rag in that area so you can move that as well.  It will make your litterbox area smell unpleasant for a while, however it is preferable to your entire home smelling like a litterbox forever.

The Litterbox is Too Dirty

On the other hand, a litterbox that is full of waste will certainly be a turn off and your kittens will look for almost anywhere else to go.  The general rule with litterboxes for kittens and cats is one box per cat, plus one extra.  So two cats need three litterboxes.  As long as you follow this rule, then your kittens should be comfortable with a daily litterbox clean, with a weekly wash and litter change.  If you have fewer litterboxes than you need due to space issues, you may need to empty it twice daily.  Try more frequent cleaning if you notice your cat strays away from the litterbox after it has been used once.

Timid Kitten May Be Cause of Litter Training IssuesCredit: hotblack @ morgueFileYour Cat Is Stressed

Although domesticated animals are reared with the idea that they will leave home at the tender age of eight to twelve weeks, it does not mean they are always ready for the big scary world they walk into.  You might be ready for this if you rescued an abandoned kitten.  However, kittens who have had a very good birth home and a caring mother cat may also experience stress when moving to a new home, especially if they had a stay in a pet shop in between homes.  Keep in mind many things can stress your new family addition, such as many new family members, other animals, or even a big house with nothing to play on.

A sign your kitten is stressed is hiding in small corners.  If you think your kitten might be stressed and that is why he is not using the litterbox, then consider moving it closer to the hiding spot.  Alternatively, you can try enclosing your kitten in a room with his litterbox, as well as food and plenty of water for a day or two.  You will want to make short, but frequent visits to this space and slowly introduce other family members and pets.  Then leave the door open more often.  Your cat will often return to that area as it will feel comfortable and secure for him.  As long as the litterbox remains in this area, he should continue to use it.

Regardless of what is causing a delay in litter training the kittens, you will need to do everything you can to keep your home sanitary in the process.  Make sure you are cleaning the messed area, sprinkling it with baking soda to cut odors, and making sure that your carpets are deep cleaned as soon as you have litter trained your kittens.

Litterbox Training Your Kittens
Credit: gracey @ morgueFile