How to Litterbox Train an Outdoor Cat

Once you've identified your cat's favorite litter, find the depth of litter your cat prefers by pouring the litter in the boxes at differing levels. Once you have identified both the preferred litter and height, be consistent with them in order to make proper litterbox elimination more likely.

Be Positive — and Patient

Don’t punish your cat for going in the wrong places; instead, use positive reinforcement to encourage proper litterbox use. After your cat uses the litterbox, reward her with something she enjoys, such as a game with a feather toy, a cat treat or petting. Avoid punishment, which will stress your cat out and hinder her relationship with you, both of which can cause elimination outside the litterbox.

While some outdoor cats learned to use a litterbox as kittens, other cats have no idea what the box is for. Keeping your cat in a smaller enclosed area temporarily, such as a large dog pen, a high-gated area or even a closed bathroom, may encourage litterbox use. Be sure all the cat’s essentials, including resting area, water, food and toys, are present in this space; make sure that your cat gets enough interaction with you throughout the day. As your cat begins to be successful at using the litterbox, her area can be expanded.

If your cat has never used the litterbox, keeping smells inside can also be an environmental cue for her to eliminate. When your cat first uses the box to defecate, rather than scooping it out right away, leave it temporarily until your cat returns to the box, as previous smells can encourage elimination. Once your cat has gone the first couple of times in the proper area, scooping the box regularly to keep it clean encourages your cat to continue to use it.

Other Simple Tips

Feline pheromones spritzed inside your cat's living area can help calm your cat during the transition from outdoors to indoors, which further encourages proper litterbox use.

If your cat has any accidents, use a pet-safe cleaner with enzyme eating properties on these areas to destroy old scents that can prompt cats to go in this area in the future.

Keep the litterbox in an area separate from your cat's food and water, since cats are naturally clean and unlikely to use the bathroom where they eat and drink.

Finally, if your cat isn't learning to use the litterbox, talk with your veterinarian. There are numerous reasons why cats can have issues with not going in the litterbox even with training, many of which are medically related. Your veterinarian is a valuable resource on helping your cat eliminate in the right areas.


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