Looking for easy ways to litter train a cat? Here’s the good news: it’s actually quite simple! Check out five tips to help your kitty learn how to use that litter box fast!
When I was 17 and still living at home, my parents brought home a beautiful long-haired dilute tortoiseshell cat from the local Humane Society. Sasha was just shy of a year old, and nothing but skin, bones, and fur. She limped horribly from a badly broken hip that never healed properly, and her back leg would slip out to the side on the wood floors, giving her an almost peg-legged walk. We were thrilled when she began to gain weight after only a week or so with us, but that all came to a head one morning at the breakfast table when I casually pointed out that all of her new-found weight was in her stomach. A quick examination confirmed our suspicions: she was pregnant – our new cat was a package deal.
You are probably wondering where I’m going with this – don’t worry. I have a point, and it’s even related to litter training.
Sasha was perfectly litter trained before we got her – I don’t remember once in her 15 years with us that she ever made a mess. When she was getting close to giving birth, we gave her a cardboard box lined with towels, and an aluminum pie plate filled with cat litter, which fit neatly in the corner of the box. When the kittens were born, she had to help them eliminate for the first while, but once they were on their own they used the pie plate exclusively until all had graduated from the cardboard box. After that, they used the regular litter box. The extent of our training with Sasha was to show her where the box was the day we brought her home. She taught the kittens to use the pie plate, and to cover their own waste. She even showed them where and how to use the big boxes when they were ready. Those kittens never had any accidents either.
My point? Right. I was getting to that.
Cats are incredibly tidy animals. They will do what they can to toilet away from their living areas – both for neatness’ sake, and in order to not attract predators to their young. In most cases your cat wants to use the litter box, and typically all you will have to do to litter train your cat will be to show them where it is. If this isn’t the case, however, there are things you can do to convince your cat to “go” where you want them to.
How to Litter Train a Cat
1. Eliminate health concerns
One of the first considerations – as with most things related to your pets – is to make sure that there are no underlying health issues causing your cat’s reluctance to use the litter box. This is especially crucial if you have a cat that was using the litter box and has stopped suddenly. Cats don’t like to show pain, but sometimes their behaviour gives them away. If they are uncomfortable using the box for whatever reason, they may associate the location itself with the pain, and begin to avoid it whenever possible. Urinary tract and bowel problems can be dangerous, or even potentially fatal to your cat – especially with infections and/or blockages – and time is of the essence with their treatments. Once you know your cat is in good health, there are a few tricks you can try for litter-training.
2. Location, location, location
Cats are very private animals (hard to believe when they’re lying spread-eagle in front of you, licking themselves while making inappropriate eye contact – but true, nonetheless). Placing the litter box in a secluded location in your house where your feline friend feels secure may appeal more to them than an open area in full view.
3. Add ’em up
Experts recommend one litter box for each cat in the household, plus one extra. Cats can be somewhat territorial, and may not use a box that smells too strongly of another animal. If you have recently made an addition to your family, it may be necessary to add another box to ensure that your new family member – and the already established members – continue to follow the house rules.
4. Clean thoroughly and often
Litter boxes should be cleaned frequently to keep your cats happy – and keep from stinking up your home. Monitoring the litter boxes has the added benefit of keeping you aware of anything that might be unusual with your cat’s system – this is more complicated if you have multiple cats, but knowing that there is something to look for can alert you to further symptoms that otherwise might not have been alarming. Cleaning up any places where there have been accidents is also vital, as the smell of urine can draw cats back to the spot to repeat the process, or draw other cats in the household there to dispute the territory.
5. Try different styles of litter box – and litter
I have five cats at the moment. Two of them will not use a covered litter box, one has to have high-backed boxes because he will pee over the edge of the box otherwise, and two will not use a litter box that isn’t covered. If your cat is refusing to use a litter box – especially if they are new to the household – it may be that there is something about it that they don’t like, that is causing them anxiety in the form of claustrophobia or feeling vulnerable. By the same token, the litter itself – and there are so many options out there – may be the problem. Some cats will not use a litter with any scent, while some don’t like the feel of granular litter under their feet – especially if they’ve been declawed.
As frustrating as it can be, the best way to get your cats to use the litter box is often patience and trial and error. If their mental and physical health are taken care of, your cats will most likely settle into a tidy routine quite happily.