how to get a kitten to use the litter box

Caitlin UltimoPotty Training / Training

How To Get A Kitten To Use The Litter Box

Kittens are wonderful bundles of joy that spread a little bit of sunshine everywhere they go. One of the rites of passage of being a kitten parent is learning how to get a kitten to use a litter box. While most kittens learn how to use a cat litter box when they’re around 4 weeks old, usually by copying their mom, it’s good to be prepared in case things don’t go so smoothly. By using a combination of patience, love and the right cat litter accessories, your kitten will be litter trained in no time.

Teaching A Kitten To Use The Litter Box

Get the best cat litter box. Your finicky feline may have strong feelings about what kind of box you get (and don’t be surprised if she shows her disinterest by going potty in other places). Covered boxes may make some cats feel vulnerable because they can’t see what’s coming. They also trap bad smells, which cats hate.

“The ideal box is uncovered and not difficult to get into,” says Mary Molloy, owner and head trainer at Nirvana Tails, a training and behavior consulting service for cats and dogs in New York City.

An automatic litter box with a loud motor may scare your cat, so consider one with a quiet motor, or stick with a traditional litter box.

Put the cat litter box in the right place. Avoid high-traffic areas, places that are difficult to get to, like an attic or closet, and locations close your kitten’s food dishes.

“You also want to place it somewhere that doesn’t require your cat to go past anything that might seem scary, like noisy pipes,” Molloy says.

Instead, look for a quiet corner in the kitchen, family room or upstairs hallway where your cat can have a clear view of her surroundings—and run away if she needs to.

Use the right kind of cat litter. “The ideal litter is soft and sandy, unscented and, on average, 2-3 inches deep,” notes Molloy. “Cats prefer to go in a sandy type of soil, and they like to be able to dig and cover their waste.”

Make sure that the cat litter is safe for your kitten, especially if they tend to nibble on it. Avoid using clumping or silica cat litter, since they can cause gastrointestinal issues if a large amount is swallowed. After your kitten’s discovery stage has passed—usually after they’re 3-4 months old—you can slowly introduce different types of litter.

Keep things clean. Cats are persnickity about smells, so you must clean out the litter box at least once a day. Get a good cat litter scoop and don’t be shy about using it.

Entice your kitty. If you’ve picked the best cat litter box for your kitten and she still doesn’t seem to understand what it’s for, a litter attractant can help, according to Molloy.

“It may also help in situations where the kitten is perfectly happy going anywhere and doesn’t have a preference for her box over any place else,” she says.

Litter attractants contain appealing herbal mixtures that draw the cat into the box—and get her to use it.

Using Cat Litter Attractants

There are two different kinds of litter attractants. One type has an herbal mixture as part of the litter, like Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Kitten Attractant Training Cat Litter, so you don’t need to mix anything. You just pour it into the box and you’re good to go. The other type requires you to mix it in with your usual cat litter, like Simple Solution Cat Litter Attractant or Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Litter Attractant. Both types work just as well; what you want to look for is natural, non-toxic ingredients.

“Different cats have different preferences, so if one doesn’t work, you can try another with different ingredients,” says Molloy.

She recommends doing a smorgasbord of litter attractants and litter. Put out two or three litter boxes out with different kinds of litter and see if your fur baby uses one over the other. If she shows a preference, then you know you’ve picked the best cat litter and litter attractant for your furball.

If your kitten stops using her litter box when she’s become an adult, you’ll want to take her to the veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons first. You can entice her back by using a litter attractant—there’s no age limit on these appealing herbal mixtures.