Housetraining kittens is easy-breezy, especially compared to puppies. When we train them early enough, and with the right support, Ms. Fuzzy Boots can be potty-trained after just a few tries. Learn more about kitten training with this step-by-step guide and pro tips.
Clean as a Cat
“Clean as a cat” isn’t a real saying, but it should be! Cats are among the most naturally clean animals in the kingdom. We know how much they enjoy grooming themselves. Being clean also means that our beloved felines also have the natural habit of “cleaning up after themselves,” which is one of the reasons potty training can be so easy.
In the wild, cats prefer to do the deed where there’s dirt or sand so they can cover up their poop to mask their odor from nearby predators. This is why a litter box is a necessity for domesticated cats.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to housetrain kitty:
- If given enough time with their mother, kittens usually learn how to use a litter box by example - copying how momma does it. However, sometimes they are separated from their mom too early and never pick up the basic lessons on how to be a cat, litter box training included. Whether or not kitty already has some litter training or if she has been trained using a different kind of litter, we will all have to house train a kitten to some degree, so use our litter system.
- The litter box should be the right size and height for kitty. This just means the sides should be low enough that she’ll be able to climb into it on her own, without difficulty. And keep in mind that some litter boxes will look huge when a kitten is in there, but she’ll grow into it eventually.
- Her litter box should be placed in a quiet and private place. Cats prefer privacy when they eliminate. It should also be away from her feeding and water bowls. There will be just a little litter that might be carried out, and we don’t want it near her food or water where it can become contaminated. Place newspapers or a mat under the box to catch litter as she leaves her box. A high lid or dome with an opening or door for her to use can be a great way to provide extra privacy and to keep litter from being kicked out while she buries her waste.
- Having more than one litter box might be necessary. Even though we may plan on cleaning it out every day, best practices require one more litter box in each home than the number of cats. There should also be a litter box on each level of our home. So, a two level home with three cats will have four litter boxes. At least one will be on each level, and there is one more than the number of cats.
- As soon as kitty arrives, we should take her to her litter box ,so she knows where it is, and she can familiarize herself with it. When we’re sure she’s comfortable in her box, we should leave her alone for several minutes to give her privacy. Next on the tour should be water, food, toys, and a cozy space, like a bed, box, or cat cave.
- We should establish a regular elimination schedule until kitty is adequately housetrained. Take Miss Fuzzy Boots to her litter box as soon as she wakes up in the morning, after every meal, after every nap, and before she goes to sleep at night. This way, she’ll quickly learn to associate her litter box with going potty; and she’ll also have a fixed potty schedule, more or less.
- Until she’s been housetrained, we should observe kitty during meals. When she starts scratching or sniffing around, and especially when she attempts to crouch, we should take her to her litter box right away. There’s no point in punishing Miss Fuzzy Boots if she misses her litter box. That will just scare her and make her a nervous kitty. Instead, calmly pick her up and gently put her in the box. If she leaves cat poop on the floor, pick it up, put it in the litter box, and add a very light layer of litter. She’ll get the hang of it when she sees what she is supposed to do.
- Kitty should always be praised after she uses her litter box to help reinforce the behavior. That can mean happy vocals, a little playtime, or a low-calorie treat. EcoTreats wild-caught sockeye salmon filet bits is a great way to reward and train any kitten or cat, without significantly adding to their calories. Plus, it’s all-natural, and comes with a 100% money back guarantee, making it risk-free.
- Litter boxes need to be cleaned often. This is a commitment many new guardians don’t plan into their day. Cats will not use soiled litter. In fact, they’ll often kick soiled litter out of the box in order to keep it fresh, so make a habit of sifting each litter box every day. Litter should be replaced at least once a week. And the box should be thoroughly washed every month, or as needed. Strong disinfectants and those that contain phenol should not be used since those are toxic and will be carried away on Miss Fuzzy Boots paws. Given cat’s tendencies to clean themselves often, she’ll certainly ingest those toxins. We can all find pet-safe cleaners at our local pet supply store, in the natural cleaning products section of our grocery store, or online.
Outside the Box
Most kittens can be house trained after only a few days. Some may take a bit longer. Accidents are normal during training and so is repeated soiling in inappropriate areas. But if housetraining kitty is proving to be a problem, or if she stops using her box after she has already been thoroughly trained, the change in behavior could be caused by any of the following:
- The location of the box is not private and quiet enough.
- The litter box still has the smell of feces, urine, a strong and offensive disinfectant, or a predator.
- The box is too small.
- Kitty does not like the particular brand of litter we have provided. This is especially true with litter that can hurt her paws when she is trying to walk on it. It’s also true of cats who have to use litter that is extra dusty or irritating to their skin and respiratory system.
- If we have other pets in the house, whether dogs or other cats, they may be disrupting kitty’s potty routine.
- She may have an underlying medical condition. Those of us who suspect this may be the case can call their vet to talk about additional symptoms to looks for before deciding whether to make an appointment.
Cats are born with a natural instinct to use a litter box, so housetraining kittens should be a quick and straightforward task. As long as we understand natural feline behavior with regards to elimination, and apply the basics of litter box training, kitty will quickly feel comfortable in her new home.
- “How to Litter box Train a Stray Kitten,” Petful
- “Help! He’s Not Using The Litter Box,” Petfinder
- “Do Kittens Need To Be Potty-Trained,” The Nest
- "Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop?" Vet Organics