How to Train A Cat to Use the Litter Box
Bringing home your new kitten or cat for the first time is always exciting. You are opening your home and heart to this animal, welcoming them into your family dynamic to provide them a loving, wonderful life. But as any cat owner knows, or will quickly figure out, litter box training is vital to nail down quickly. Now, if you understand that this is something you need to do, but are unsure where to begin, you have come to the right place. Whether you have just adopted a new kitten for the first time or have rescued a stray, here is an ideal step by step guide on how to get your new friend completely litter box trained in no time.
Step 1: Material Preparation
Before you begin anything, and even before you bring your cat home is pre-planned, make sure you have all the right materials to make litter box training seamless. You will need to get the right litter box for the occasion (maybe two) that is big enough for your cat with easy access inside (either covered or uncovered), and the right litter to fill it with. For instance, choose a litter that can clump soiled areas together, since this makes it much more comfortable for your cat to walk on and bury waste. It is also easier for you to clean out regularly as well. Just make sure you put in the right amount each time (about 2 inches thick), so they have enough to bury without too much to cause a mess.
Tip: The Humane Society cautions against litter that contains perfume or deodorizers, as it can irritate your cat’s skin and/or cause an allergic reaction.
Step 2: Litter Box Location
Once you have your litter box set up, next you will want to place it in the ideal location. Believe it or not, location matters quite a bit. For instance, cats generally do not want to go on a long search when they need to relieve themselves or have to jump over hurdles to reach it. They also have an instinctive trait not to urinate or defecate near the place they eat; so, make sure the food and water area is away from the litter box area. Overall, find an easily accessible, quiet place for them to do their business, and they will be happy.
Step 3: Introductions
After your litter box set up is complete, introduce your cat or kitten to it. Show them where it is, place them in there, and remind them by bringing them back there often during those first few weeks that it exists. It would also help if you study your cat’s schedule, so you can pinpoint when they are likely to go so you can bring them to the litter box on time until they get used to it and do it themselves.
Step 4: Stay Persistent and Be Creative
Consider having toys around the litter box for a while. Allow your cat to play nearby, so when they do go, you can show them where they need to be. If there is a door that closes, think about spending some time in there with the door shut so when the time comes your cat has to go you are right there ready to show them what to do. You can even show them how it is done; take your finger and show them that they can dig in the litter, and bury waste. If you notice your cat eliminating outside in random places, spread some litter in those areas so they can begin associating litter with relieving themselves. Whatever you choose to do, be persistent with it so your cat can understand precisely what they need to do without any confusion.
Step 5: Positive Reinforcement
Above everything, never yell at your cat if they eliminate outside of the litter box. This will only scare them and make them timid. Instead, show them where the litter box is again. Over time they will grasp the idea on their own, especially when you add in positive reinforcement to the mix, such as treats each time they go in the litter box and praise.
Step 6: Make It A Habit to Clean Daily
Did you know that one of the most common reasons why cats eliminate outside of litter boxes is because it is dirty? Cats do not want to use a dirty litter box, so ensuring that you set a schedule for yourself to clean it out each day will entice them to want to use it and learn. If your cat is going more on a particular day, make a note to clean it extra during those times.
It is no secret that when you become a proud cat owner, whether a kitten or a stray, litter box training will become one of your first priorities to tackle. Even though this process is instinctual for cats, they will need some pointers and guidance to get it right. On the surface, it may feel like an uncertain, daunting task to take on, but the reality is that it is not as bad as it may seem. Once you know the right method and persistently follow the steps above, your new family member will grasp the concept and become successful before you know it.