How to Teach Your Kitten to Use a Litterbox

Kitten using litterbox
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Encourage your kitten to use the litterbox by placing him in it at regular intervals.

Training a kitten to use a litterbox is typically easier than training a puppy to go potty outside. Most kittens who are at least 8 weeks old will already know how to use the litterbox, but some kittens, especially younger ones, may still require some help from you. Here's how to train a kitten to do his business in the litterbox.

Introducing the Litterbox

You can encourage your kitten to use the litterbox by placing him in it at regular intervals, especially if he's recently eaten or awakened. Place him in the box and wait to see what happens. Most kittens will naturally start to dig in sand or litter by about 4 weeks of age — if you see your kitten doing this, don't interfere. If he doesn't do anything, try gently taking his front paws and scratching the litter with them. When you let go, he may continue doing it on his own and then feel compelled to go ahead and eliminate.

Most cats prefer some privacy when they eliminate. So if you hover over him or try to help, you may convince him to go elsewhere. Instead, give him some space, then praise him and offer a treat when he's finished.

If you find your kitten eliminating outside of the litterbox, quickly pick him up and deposit him in the box. Don't yell or be rough, which will just frighten him and possibly cause him to associate the litterbox with punishment. Cleanse soiled areas with an enzyme-based cleaner. It's helpful if you place the waste in the box, so your kitten can follow the scent to find the litterbox.

Choosing the Right Box and Litter

Start by making sure you have the right number of litterboxes: You should have at least one per cat, plus one extra. If you have more than one cat, place the boxes well away from each other, as some cats can be territorial about boxes. You can use a smaller box for a kitten than for an adult — in fact, be sure the kitten can get over the sides without having to jump. The box should be made of nonabsorbent material (no cardboard, unless it's just for a day). Many people prefer litterboxes with tops, as they look better and contain odors better. However, some cats don't like using covered boxes. When first starting, you'll probably have better luck with a topless litterbox.

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