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Cats are sensitive little creatures. If they don’t like their litter or aren’t comfortable with the litter box, they’ll let their parent know—often in ways that have the pet parent reaching for the carpet cleaner. Fortunately, good litter box training and the right product choices can keep a cat on good terms with their little boxed bathroom and in good health for years to come.
Many people think that cats are “born” knowing how to use a litter box. That’s because kittens learn most habits, including litter box behaviors, from their mothers before they are six weeks old.
These kittens usually only need a comfortable litter box and good-quality litter. A kitten litter box should be low to the ground so that the kitten can get into it easily, but wide and long enough that they can do their business in more than one tiny spot.
If a kitten was separated from its feline family too early—12 weeks is the recommended time frame, so social behaviors have the chance to sink in—the pet parent may have to provide litter box training.
Here’s how to teach a kitten to use the litter box:
Keep the kitten in an enclosed area with food and water on one side and the litter box on the other.
Place the kitten in the litter box right after they eat or drink, or any time they start scratching at the ground.
If the kitten starts to pee or poop on the floor, gently pick them up and place in the litter box.
When the kitten uses the litter box, offer praise and perhaps a reward like a toy or treat.
Don’t scoop the litter box right away. The scent of waste will remind the kitten of where to go.
Never yell at or punish the cat for making a mess on the floor. A stressed and fearful kitten will have a harder time with litter box training. Plus, it’ll make it harder for a kitten or young cat to bond with its human parent.
Most cats prefer the texture of scoopable litter, and unscented litter is easiest on their tender little noses. Instead of buying scented litter to cover up odors, pet parents should consider changing the litter more often, using a self-scooping litter box, or find a litter that’s more absorbent.
Cats notice when their pet parents change their litter, and they’re not always happy about it. Part of the reason is that cats depend on their litter to disguise the scent of their waste.
Domesticated cats bury their waste in litter because, instinctually, they do not want predators to smell or find them. If a cat’s litter smells or feels different, the cat might feel uneasy using the litter box—even though there probably aren’t many predators lurking behind the shower curtain. Pet parents that have adopted previously feral cats can attest to the consistency required to litter train a cat due to this instinct.
To get around this issue, change a cat’s litter gradually if they are already used to a particular brand or scent. Add some of the new litter to the cat’s litter box, then gradually increase the percentage of new litter with each cleaning. Eventually, all of the litter will be new and the cat—hopefully—will still be playing happily in the sandbox.
To learn more about cat litter and the choices that will make your cat happy and comfortable, become a Fuzzy member and ask a licensed professional which option would be best via Fuzzy’s 24/7 Live Vet Chat.