How to Litter Train a Kitten (FAST!)
While many kittens will need little help, learning how to litter train a kitten is an important process for any new kitten owner.
After all, you don’t want your new kitten to get into bad habits do you?!
Hello. I got two little kittens. Despite everything I try, I seem to not get her to pee in the box. I have caught her about to pee before, and I picked her up and put her in the litter tray. She seems to go in the box just to poop, not pee. I think she is stressed cause she always runs away from us but then other times she’ll up come up to us and play with us and let us pet her. - Kaleb
The bottom line is, how can you litter train a kitten to use the litter tray for peeing as well as pooing? Does stress play a role, and what can we do about any potential stress?”
How to Litter Train A Kitten
Kittens have a natural urge to go to the toilet somewhere they can cover up their waste. Often, they will take very little training, especially compared to dogs who can sometimes be quite challenging to toilet train.
When we are thinking about potty training kittens, there are several things that we can think of.
The Right Litter Tray
The first is what tray you are using. It needs to be a tray that is easy for a little kitten to get into. I'm not sure how old these two kittens are, but if they're small and you've got a litter tray with a high lip, it can be very difficult for them to get into.
This will put them off unless they are motivated because they are going to poop.
What should you look for in a litter tray for your kitten:
Make sure the lip is not too high.
Use a shallow litter tray.
Place a washable training pad underneath the tray, which will allow you to clean up much more efficiently if they miss the tray.
Don't use a tiny tray either, because it's more likely that your little kitten is going to miss it. Pick a big tray with low sides (like this one on Amazon).
Cat Litter Options
Next up, we need to think of cat litter. Some cats are really fussy over the type of litter that they use. To start, you can try an unscented and non-clumping litter to make it more likely that your cat will accept it.
Cats are very sensitive to smell. Some of these scented litters are going to put them off.
There are also clumping litters, which are typically clay-based. When a cat or kitten is trying to cover their pee or their poop, the litter can become clumped and stick to the bottom of their feet. Cats really don’t like this
Another thing to think about if you are potty training a very young kitten, is that the cat litter needs to be completely non-toxic. Kittens may try and eat a little bit of it, so you don't want to be using anything toxic.
The third thing we need to think about is the litter tray location. Where are you putting these litter trays?
It should be away from food and water sources as cats do like to be clean. They like to toilet away from where they're eating and drinking. Make sure that's the case.
Also, it needs to be a private space. Don't put it in the middle of the hall or by the front door because that is not private and a cat will be less likely to use it.
As well as being away from the busy areas of the house, the litter trays need to be a private space. Corners of rooms are a great place to try. Kittens will often naturally go to the toilet in the corner of a room.
One of the reasons for this is that it means that they can survey the rest of the room, and there's no chance of being ambushed by a littermate, or having another cat sneaking up on them and ambushing them while they are a little bit vulnerable while going to the toilet.
That's important as well when we're thinking of litter tray placement.
Litter Tray Accessibility
Keeping the kittens in one room with easy access to the litter tray is another thing that we can think about at the start of litter training, just to get them used to using it at the very beginning. This means that they are not going to get caught short.
Remember, kittens are pretty much pre-programmed to want to use a litter tray!
Young kittens might not yet have full bladder control, and so they're more likely to have accidents. They are more likely to realize they need to use the toilet and then go pretty much straight away. Now, if they've got half the house and a couple of flights of stairs to navigate, then the chances are that they're not going to get to their litter tray in time.
Compare that to going for a poop when that urge is often less initially. They have more of a warning to get to the tray.
Fourth, you need to be keeping the litter tray clean. This probably goes without saying. We need to keep it clean. We need to refresh the litter regularly. I'd certainly be cleaning out at least once a day.
Some cats won't use a tray that has been used just once, even just for a little tiny bit of pee. Keeping that litter tray clean is really important.
Think about what you're cleaning it out with. You want to clean it out with a disinfectant but then, rinse it thoroughly so there are no strong smells, no strong fragrances that may put your cat off (remember the scent free litter).
Cleanup by all means with any cleaner you want to use but rinse it really well with water.
Number of Cats
The final thing we need to think about when we're thinking of litter trays, especially in multi-cat households, is how many litter trays you have. There needs to be one more litter tray than the number of cats there are in the house.
In this case, where there are two kittens, and maybe other cats, you need to have at least three trays. If there were three cats, you would need four trays.
The same goes for the number of food bowls and water stations as well.
I have one final step for you if your young kitten is still struggling to know where to toilet. When it’s time to toilet, physically place them in their litter tray.
Kittens are most likely to need the toilet immediately after sleeping as well as after eating. Keep an eye on your kitten and at these times pick them up and put them in the tray. Once they’ve used it a few times, they are sure to get the idea of litter training!
The other part of the question was: we think that this little kitten is stressed and what could we do about that?
Stress can cause urine spraying outside of the litter tray. It can cause other marking behavior as well such as scratching furniture. There are several things that we can do. I've already discussed the number of trays and food stations and water stations that we need.
Neutering is another option, depending on their age. This has a huge impact on stress and hormone related marking behavior.
Safe Spaces and 3D Exploring
We need safe spaces for our cats so they can always go and hide somewhere if they're feeling threatened. We also need 3D spaces. Cats are three dimensional in their outlook. They do like to get up high on the tops of shells, on top of cupboards. All different places like that.
Make sure that there are safe spaces and 3D spaces as well.
Feliway is another tool that you can use. This is a pheromone, and I talk about this a lot when it comes to stress in cats. It just naturally makes them feel more at home, makes a cat feel like that area is their safe space, and reduce their stress levels.
Guide to Cat Stress
I have produced a free guide to stress in cats. Recognizing that your cat is stressed and finding out how to go about dealing with it are important skills for any cat owner.
They are also important skills when it comes to getting a cat to urinate in their tray rather than spraying around the rest of the house.
You can download your free guide here
The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.
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