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Teaching a Cat to Use the Litter Box

small cute cat

Litter box training is an essential part of cat ownership, whether you’re a seasoned cat breeder or just a cat lover with a new kitten. Cats are naturally clean animals, and a well-trained cat will instinctively use a litter box when they need to go potty.

However, some cats may need a bit of guidance to understand and adapt to using the litter box. We’ll go over the step-by-step process of litter box training, tips for success, and how to troubleshoot common issues.

Choose the Right Litter Box

Selecting an appropriate litter box is the first step in successful litter box training. Consider the following factors when choosing a litter box for your cat:

  • Size: The litterbox should be large enough for your cat to move and turn around comfortably. A general rule of thumb is that the box should be 1.5 times the length of your cat.
  • Depth: A litter box should have sides that are high enough to contain litter and prevent spills, but low enough for your cat to easily enter and exit.
  • Covered vs. Uncovered: Some cats prefer the privacy of a covered litter box, while others may feel trapped. Experiment with both types to determine your cat’s preference.
  • Material: Litter boxes are typically made from plastic because it’s a durable, easy-to-clean material. While there may be other options out there, most are impractical due to either being too heavy, too expensive or too difficult to sanitise.

Select the Right Litter

Cats can be particular about the type of litter they use. When selecting a litter, consider the following factors:

  • Texture: Cats generally prefer fine, sand-like litter that is gentle on their paws.
  • Odour Control: Look for a litter that effectively controls odours without strong artificial scents, which may deter your cat from using the box.
  • Clumping vs. Non-Clumping: Clumping litter forms solid clumps when wet, making it easier to clean. Non-clumping litter may require more frequent replacement.
  • Natural vs. Synthetic: Natural litters made from materials like wood, corn, or wheat can be more environmentally friendly but may not offer the same level of odour control or clumping as synthetic litters.

Litter Box Placement

Cat in a litter box

Proper placement of the litter box is crucial for successful litter box training. Follow these guidelines when choosing a location for the box:

  • Accessibility: The litterbox should be placed in a quiet, low-traffic area that is easily accessible for your cat. There’s no point placing it somewhere they won’t use it!
  • Separation from Food and Water: Cats instinctively avoid eliminating their food and water sources. Place the litter box well away from feeding areas.
  • Multiple Boxes: For multi-cat households or large homes, provide one litter box per cat plus one extra, and place them in different locations throughout your home.

Introducing Your Cat to the Litter Box

Once you have the right litter box and litter, it’s time to introduce your cat to their new bathroom:

  • Place Your Cat in the Litterbox: Gently place your cat in the clean, empty litter box and allow them to explore it.
  • Encourage Digging: Gently take your cat’s front paws and simulate digging motions in the litter. This will help your cat understand the purpose of the box.
  • Praise and Reward: Praise your cat when they use the litter box and offer them treats as a reward – this will incentivise them to continue using the box in the future. Repeat this process several times a day until your cat starts using the box regularly.

Establish a Cleaning Routine


Maintaining a clean litter box is essential to encouraging your cat to use it consistently:

  • Scoop Daily: Remove your cat’s waste from the litter box at least once a day.
  • Replace Litter Regularly: Generally, clumping litter should be topped off regularly and completely replaced every two to four weeks, while non-clumping litter may need to be replaced more frequently.
  • Perform Regular Deep Cleaning: Every month, empty the entire litter box and clean it thoroughly.

Addressing Common Litter Box Issues

If your cat is not using the litter box consistently, consider the following reasons:

  • Medical Issues: Consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health condition that may be causing inappropriate elimination.
  • Stress: Changes in your cat’s environment, such as a new pet or family member, can cause stress and lead to litter box issues.

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