3 cute kittens in a basket
3 cute kittens in a basket

Litter training a kitten - the bathroom basics

It’s not the most exciting part of pet parenting, but training our kittens and cats to use their litter box is a high priority for most of us. We want our cats to go in the right place, and the good news is that they often want to do this too – they just need a bit of help from us pet parents. But not all of us know how to litter train a new arrival, so try these top tips to make it as painless as possible.

10 steps to litter training success

1. Go with the flow
Kittens are born with a strong instinct to bury their mess. Their mums also show them – so by the time a new kitten joins your family, they’re already part-way to being house trained. It might not be all smooth sailing, but it will work out in time.

2. Choose a tray with low sides
We want our kittens to have easy access to the litter tray – if it’s too deep, their little legs will struggle to get in and out.

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3. Put the tray in a quiet corner
Nobody likes being interrupted on the loo, and our kittens will want to go in peace too. If they’re interrupted, they might get distracted from getting on with their business.


4. Show the new arrival as soon as they come home
They’ll need to know where the litter tray is so they know where to go. Try to keep them within easy reach of it in the early days. Or if the kitten has been born into your family rather than brought into it, try showing them the litter tray at 3 or 4 weeks of age.


5. Check what’s in the litter itself
Use a kitten-friendly litter that doesn’t clump, isn’t scented and doesn’t contain strong chemicals, just in case. Kittens want to learn about the world around them and they’ll use all their senses to do this. That includes putting things in their mouths, so their litter needs to be safe.

Kitten being gently placed in a litter tray Kitten being gently placed in a litter tray

6. Replace the litter regularly
Cats have super smelling senses, much keener than our own. A dirty litter tray will put them off going there again. Disinfect the box whenever you change the litter, too. They’ll thank you for it.

7. Know when they need to go
Kittens often want to use their litter tray when they wake up and after they’ve eaten. Help them along by popping them in the tray at these times, as well as before they go to bed. Keep an eye out for toileting signals at other times too. Cats often sniff, scratch and crouch when they need to go. Spot the signs and you can carry them over to the tray sharpish.

Kitten by a window with a water bowl
Kitten by a window with a water bowl

8. Reward good toileting habits
When your kitten uses their litter tray, give them a toy or treat as positive reinforcement. This makes it more likely that they’ll use the litter tray again in the future.

9. Don’t tell them off for making mistakes
Sometimes kittens and cats can get it wrong and have an accident or three. Don’t punish them in any way, however unpleasant kitten pee on the floor can be! They can get anxious or upset and that could make matters worse. If they keep going in the wrong place, see it as a signal to try putting their litter tray in that spot, if that’s practical.

10. Clean up accidents quickly
If cats can smell the wee or poop they’ve left behind, they can end up going in the same spot again because they think of it as their toilet. Remember, their sense of smell is stronger than ours. Avoid products that contain ammonia (it can smell a bit like urine) and use enzyme cleaners instead – check the ingredients and usage instructions.

Litter training can sometimes take patience, but following these steps will help kittens and cats take strides towards being fully housetrained. Which is good news for everyone – our cats, ourselves and our carpets.

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