Litter Training your Cat

By the time most kittens leave their mother and come to live with their new family, they have already been toilet trained, making life easy for the new family. This is because mother cats often train their kittens’ proper toileting habits. However, sometimes it will be necessary to train your new kitten or cat how to use the litter tray. This may the case in a rescued kitten or the kitten being orphaned or being taken away from its mother too early.

What you will need:

  • Litter tray
  • Cat litter
  • Litter scoop

Which type of litter tray?

This depends on the cat. If you are training a young kitten then a smallish tray with low sides or a shallow tray is best to start off with. If you are training an older cat then a larger tray will be necessary.

Some types of cat litter:

  • Clay
  • Clumping
  • Crystals 
  • Recycled paper

It is not advisable to use clumping litter for kittens because of the risk of it being ingested. It should be avoided till the kitten is 2-3 months old and well accustomed to the litter tray.

How to train:

Confine your kitten to a small area. Cats are fastidiously clean and by nature, bury their urine and faeces. If you provide your cat with a litter tray, and fresh, clean cat litter and no other possible places to go to the toilet such as a potted plant, then the chances are your cat will take to the litter tray quite easily.

After a meal or a nap, pick your kitten and place it in the litter tray. Take its paw and gently scratch the cat litter with it.

If you see your kitten sniffing and beginning to dig in a corner, immediately pick him up and place him in the litter tray, again gently taking its paw and scratch the litter with it. When the cat follows through and eliminates in the litter tray, give lots of praise.

Location, location, location:

Cats like privacy, so make sure you place the litter tray in a quiet and private spot. They also don’t like doing their “job” near their food bowls. Kittens tend to be drawn to corners or other areas away from their main home base, so start by placing the litter box in a corner that is clean from clutter.

How many litter trays do I need?

The rule of the thumb is one litter tray per cat, plus one extra. If you have one cat, you will need two litter trays, if you have two cats you will need three litter trays, etc. some people get by with less litter trays, but this is the general rule of thumb to go by.

How often should I clean the litter tray?

Cats are fastidiously clean animals, and it is of great importance to make sure their litter tray is scooped at least once a day and the litter is changed once a week. Clean the litter tray with hot water and soap once a month. Failure to do so may result in your cat refusing to use the litter tray. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes; would you like to use a filthy toilet?!


Never punish a cat that has had an accident. Punishment will not teach it to use the litter tray, it will however teach it to fear you.

When cleaning up accidents, be careful which product you use. Anything with ammonia in it will encourage your cat to return to the spot. There are various products available, which not only clean up cat waste but also eliminate the smell too. If the smell is not eliminated, your cat will quite likely continue to return to the same spot! 

Many pet parents may become discouraged by an accident or two, but remember: Cats naturally gravitate toward doing their business in a litter box.

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