How to litter train your cat
Bringing home a new kitten or cat is an exciting time for your family and your cat. You’ll be eager to start playing and introducing them to their new surroundings, but litter training is a vital first step to ensuring your cat feels comfortable in its new home. Here are five ways to make the process stress-free for everyone involved.
1. Choose the right cat litter tray
All cats will instinctively seek out sandy places to do their business, but you can still take a few proactive steps to encourage them to use a litter tray. According to cat behaviour experts, most owners buy litter boxes that are too small for their cat. A good rule of thumb when selecting a litter tray for your cat is to choose one that’s at least one-and-a-half times the cat’s length.
The style of litter box you use can also affect your success with litter training. Senior cats often have conditions such as arthritis that could make getting into a high-sided tray more difficult, so consider swapping these for lower-lipped versions. Some cats may be nervous using a hooded or covered litter box. If your cat is struggling with litter training, the solution may be as simple as choosing a different style of litter tray.
2. Choose the right litter
Experiment with different types of litter to see which suits you and your cat the best. The two main types of cat litter are:
- Clumping litter forms clumps when exposed to moisture. This makes cleaning the tray quick and easy – just remove the clumps and add a little more litter. Clumping litter is often made from absorbable clay, which can be dusty and isn’t biodegradable, but you can also purchase dust-free, biodegradable alternatives made from plant fibre.
- Non-clumping litter is made from many different materials, including crystals of dried silica. A more expensive litter, it tends to last for a long time and is dust-free and biodegradable. Other non-clumping litters made of biodegradable recycled paper or pine wood pellets are absorbent and dust-free, but will need to be cleaned out more regularly.
If you have adopted an older cat, try to fill the litter box with the same litter they used previously.
3. Consider the location of the litter tray
Where you place the litter tray is just as important as the size of the tray and the type of litter you use. The tray should be placed somewhere quiet, accessible and in a different location from your cat’s food dish. Soon after you bring your cat home, show them where the tray is and reward them after they use it for the first time.
If you have a kitten, gently encourage them to use the tray by placing them in it at various times throughout the day, such as first thing in the morning and after meals. Like humans, cats prefer privacy when doing their business, so don’t linger while they use the tray. You can check to see if your cat has used the tray once you have given them enough time to use it.
4. Clean the litter tray regularly to encourage reuse
Cats are fairly clean animals and won’t use a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. Scoop out the clumps of litter once every day. On a weekly basis, throw away all of the litter, clean the tray with a mild disinfectant, rinse it thoroughly and replace the litter.
5. Provide enough litter trays
Most experts agree that you should have one litter tray for each cat in the household, plus one extra, just in case.
Senior cats may find getting to their litter tray more difficult, so add a few more around your home to ensure they don’t have to travel far to reach one.
What to do if your cat won’t use the litter tray
If your cat is struggling to use the litter tray consistently, or if it suddenly stops using the tray, follow these tips:
- No matter your cat’s age, if it suddenly stops using the tray and instead eliminates around the house, book an appointment with your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues. Urinary tract infections (UTIs), feline interstitial cystitis and bladder stones can cause painful urination and could discourage your cat to go.
- If you have multiple cats, make sure other cats in the household aren’t preventing the new cat from using one or more of the litter trays. Having the right number of litter trays in the house can help solve this problem.
- Check the litter level in each tray. Most cats prefer a shallow amount of litter, no more than 5 cm deep.
- If your cat is particularly picky, consider getting a self-cleaning litter box.
Your new cat may have a few accidents, particularly when young, but gentle persistence and some patient scrubbing will have them trained in no time.