How to Litter Train Kittens your kitten adjust

Litter Training Kittens

Kittens instinctively begin to use dry loose materials at 4-weeks-old! Litter training is how you redirect this natural behavior to a litter box so your kitten goes where he is supposed to! Read also about inconsistent litter box users, training feral cats and about cats that go in odd places.

How and When to Litter Train a Kitten

Dear Simba,
We have two darling kittens that are 5-weeks-old.
How and when do I start training them to use the litter box? So far mom has taken care of that department. LuLu

Dear LuLu,
You are doing the right things. Kittens can start using the litter box anytime after 4 weeks. If the mother cat uses a large box, you may want to use a slightly smaller container for the kittens. Be sure to place the kittens in the box after each meal and take the kittens' paws and rub them in the litter using a scratching motion. This will start them on the road to becoming socially mannered kittens. Simba

Kitten Not Using Litter Box

Dear Simba:
We have recently adopted an 8-week-old. We can not get her litter box trained. I have used different boxes and litter and she will not use them. We close her in the bathroom with her box, toys, food and bed for hours. She will not go at all or if she does she goes next to the box. I put her in the box and simulated scratching but she just jumps out. We have had her for 5 days and she has not used it once. What do you suggest? Frustrated in Seattle

Dear Frustrated in Seattle,
Kittens that were reared without their mom or another adult usually take longer to be litter trained. You are doing the right things in keeping her confined and in your training efforts. Find a litter and a box type and stick with it. Here are some tips:

  • Place the kitten in the box 1/2 hour after play or meals.
  • Stimulate interest in the litter by stirring it.
  • Let the kitten jump in and out of the litter box instead of restraining him.
  • Place some stool in the litter box (builds associations between litter box and bathroom needs).
  • Use a litter with pellets as these mask the wet feel.

Litter Training Feral Cat

Dear Simba,
I rescued a 9-month-old feral kitten and have attempted to train her to use a litter box. She is living on an enclosed porch, where we have laid down plastic sheeting to protect the floor. The plastic is covered with newspaper and I have 4 litter boxes with different types of litter, on top of the paper. We have tried traditional clay litter, unscented clay, white sand, the finely ground-up newspaper litter, the wood pellets variety, and sawdust. Gray chooses to urinate and defecate next to the boxes instead of in them.

Next, I tried just putting the sand or litter directly on the paper, and still she will not go in it, only near it. I have tried putting her in the boxes after she eats, and mimicking the scratching with her front paws and I have tried to rub her belly while in the box to stimulate her interest in peeing! Nothing has worked. She is so sweet and we let her in the house when we can keep an eye on her. She cries mournfully when we put her back outside. it is starting to get cold at night and I want to bring her inside...but she has to behave. Any ideas? Terry in NC

We have an older cat, Blackie, who uses her own litter box. Gray watches her, but has no interest in copying her behavior. They get along ok, but fight occasionally.

Dear Terry in NC,
How very frustrating. You have done all the right things. Try using one litter box only, with filled with a clump of leaves and/or soil. Your goal in litter training a feral cat is to make the place where it does its business mirror that which it used in its upbringing. In the case of a feral, soil and leaves are good places to start. Be sure to clean the solids out of the litter box daily and change the box as often as is reasonably possible. Once you experience success start making a transition towards more traditional litters.

Consider bringing Gray inside and keeping her in a confined area (a room or pen) such that she is protected from the cold but does threaten your home. Keep her in there and use the methods described above. Also, check out Helping New Cats for tips on keeping the peace with new cats. Keep me posted. Simba

Note: The following materials are good for litter training older feral cats

  • Clay litter (good for kittens)
  • Fine-grained sand-type litter (mirrors the outdoors)
  • Loose soil (good in making the transition)
  • Leaves (used cover up waste in the wild)
  • Newspaper
Once your cat/kitten gets used to using a box for its business, make the switch by gradually changing the proportion of the old stuff to the traditional litters (try a few weeks). Clean all solids out of the litter box daily. Change the litter and wash out the box often to keep it clean and dry since cats love clean, dry spots (i.e., the back of the closet!).

We lost our 17-year-old cat in August. We just rescued two 8-week-old kittens. They lived outside before coming to us, they will now be house cats. What is the best way to litter train them given that they have not previously used a litter box? We have them in a big box and take them out and put them in the litter. So far, they seem to know what it is for. Thanks, Sandy

Dear Sandy,
Cats have a natural instinct to cover their bathroom deeds and it looks like you are doing ok in directing that instinct to the litter box. The important thing is to not allow the little guys to relieve themselves anywhere else in the house. Migrate from the box to a small room and see how they do, take small steps this way until you are comfortable that they will use the litter box at all times. Keep me posted. Simba

Kitten using Plants or Bathtub for Litter Box

cat litter mat
Phthalate Free Cat Litter Mat
Help Simba, My new kitten (10-weeks-old) is constantly digging in my house plants! She sometimes uses them for her litter can I keep her out of them? Forest

Hi Forest,
Ah, the eternal struggle between cats and plants! Ok, let’s fix this. First, make sure that your plants are not poisonous (see Plants/Poisons). Cats love chewing on the plants and playing with the leaves!. Second, discourage chewing by spraying cayenne pepper on the leaves. This is a safe and effective repellent. Third, take care of the digging and litter issues by covering the plant dirt with aluminum foil and/or gravel. Also, consider replacing the top few layers of the plant soil, since you kitty has probably put in his scent marks. Best of luck. Simba

HELP! Our new kitten will not stop peeing in the bathtub. He goes poop and sometimes pees in his litter box, but he usually uses the bathtub to pee. We have tried placing foil and he went on that.

We then tried filling it with water, but then he just goes outside of his litter box - right in front of it! We have tried different litters, a bigger box, with lid and without lid, we clean it twice a day and change the litter once a week…

We do not know what else to do. We read your other advice, but nothing seemed to address this specificly. He never goes anywhere else in the house, just in the tub or in front of the litter box. Any advice? Steve

Dear Steve,
You have got to give it to him for persistence. As you know from reading the letters, your kitten has built a close association with peeing and the tub. The best way to handle this is to restrict his access to the area. This will require you to move the litter box to a new location and to keep the door to the tub area closed. Be sure that you let the kitten know where the new location is (so that he does not get lost and have an accident!). You also want to thoroughly clean the tub with bleach and some odor killing cleaners so that the little one is not reminded of the good times he had there. Simba

Dear Simba,
My 7-month-old kitten has started urinating about our condo. I have his litter box outside in the balcony for 2 months. Is this normal? What is the best way to get rid of the smell?. Suresh (former cat lover?)

Dear Suresh,
Former cat lover? Look at those baby eyes and adorable look and tell me that he is not the sweetest thing ever.

Cats are creatures of habit. While your kitten’s urinating may at first have been an act of confusion, he now associates the condo with his latrine duty. As I told ‘Frustrated Feline Lover’ below, the smell reinforces the behavior so cleaning the area is very important. Your local pet store probably has a very good assortment of pet-safe carpet cleaning supplies, you can also try Nature's Miracle Just for Cats Urine Destroyer. Following the cleaning steps for Frustrated Feline Lover and you should be in good shape.

Bad weather may be a cause of the kitten’s hesitation to go to the balcony for litter duty. The little guy may be more amenable to using the box indoors. If you moved the litter box to the balcony because of the smell, try a stronger smell absorbent litter or one for multiple cats, Arm & Hammer Double Duty Clumping Litter seems to do a good job. Consider using a self-cleaning litter box or a stronger air filter. These problems can be corrected with a little love & patience. Simba

Follow-up Letter:
Thanks for the informative reply. You are right, I cannot resist his adorable eyes. - Suresh
My pleasure. Simba

Inconsistent Use of Litter Box by Kittens

Dear Simba,
We adopted a new kitten because our other cat was lonely. The two did not get along at first but they now seem to enjoy each other.
Ever since we adopted this new kitten the two enjoy relieving themselves in places other than their litter boxes. We have tried keeping them in the room with the litter box when we are not home…but they run over to their favorite place and relieve themselves as soon as we get home and let them out. We have tried feeding them in their spot and have changed their litter to a soft clumping kind.

Also, they both have ringworm (they are in treatment) and chronic diarrhea. Every day they each have a total of one can of soft cat food in addition to their dry food. We also give them milk. How do we stop this? -Frustrated Feline Lover

Dear Frustrated Feline Lover,
Sounds like you have two little rascals! Good to know that they are in treatment. First know the cause. It is likely that your cats use the spot because of their markings and the smell associated with their deeds. What to do?

  • Clean the target area very carefully with a strong carpet friendly antibacterial solution
  • Scrub well to remove all stains.
  • Let dry and restrict access to the spot using home gates.
  • When you have cleaned and the area has dried, place dry food without right on the area without a plate or foil.
Cleaning will eliminate the smell, restricting access and putting food down will help break their habit. About the diarrhea, visit Digestive Problems for tips to help your cats out. Cats are usually lactose intolerant so milk may cause loose stool. I believe that dry food alone, is best for cats and their dental care. Lastly, the ringworm, this is a fungal disease, so follow your vet’s instructions on decontaminating your home. Ringworm can be a tough thing to fix. Simba

Note to readers: Be sure to read through Helping New Cats before you bring in a new kitten. The tips there address problems when introducing a second cat to your home or when you move your cat somewhere new.

Dear Simba,
I got a kitten a few weeks ago- she was 6-weeks-old at adoption, and very well-mannered. Recently though, she has been sneezing up a storm and has had diarrhea. Also, she likes peeing in my backpack and pooping in my bathtub. She is causing a lot of problems. I took her to the vet, they did fecal and urine tests, and charged me $100 to give her a clean bill of health….she is not healthy. Her eyes are continually filled with goop that ranges from just milky white to brownish red. What could be wrong? The diarrhea is bad, and it is been about 2 weeks she is had it. Melissa & Kitty Chloe

Dear Melissa & Kitty Chloe,
You two are not alone in your situation. Many folks go through the same thing, especially in the first few weeks after adoption. What is different is the clean bill of health.

Sneezing and other upper respiratory discharge can be caused by what is commonly referred to as the cat flu. The cat flu can result from either a viral or bacterial infection and should be treated to prevent long term damage. Best thing to do is to get a second opinion.

The following will help you in treating Chloe's diarrhea and training:

  • Feed Chloe a few very finely cut pieces of oven-baked or boiled, plain, dry & skinless chicken.
  • Place her in her own room, play pen, or training cage with her food, water and small litter pan.
  • Choose your favorite litter and stick with it
  • Place Chloe in the litter box when she wakes up, after she eats and after any type of play.
  • When you place her in his box, drag her front paws to simulate digging and covering.
  • Check up on her periodically and drop in some toys for her to play.
  • Do not give Chloe run of the house until her tummy is better and she is trained.
Most kittens catch on from there. Also, make sure this is the only spot where Chloe goes potty. Chole's tummy should be better within a day or two. Once better, be sure to feed her Kitten Food only. A lot of kittens get into trouble when their diet strays.
Keep me posted. Simba

Is It Possible to Toilet Train Your Cat?

Dear Simba,
I was just adopted by a 14-week-old male kitten. my entire life and never found one as loving and attached as this one. Anyway, I have heard you can train kittens to use the toilet rather than a litter box. Is this possible and if so, how do I go about doing that? Connie and Rascal

Hi Connie & Rascal,
Yes it can happen. There a couple of helpful resources out there. One highly rated book is The Toilet Trained Cat. Best of luck and keep me posted. Your Pal, Simba

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