Knowing how to train your cat to use a litter box is an essential part of being a pet parent. Most cats will use a litter box with no problem, but there are a few steps you still need to take.
In this post we’ll look at why it’s so easy to train your cat, the best type of litter to use, how often and how to clean it.
We’ll also look at how to train your cat to pee outside, as well as the best way to train your cat if she’s a semi-feral or stray.
Why it’s so easy to train your cat to use a litter box
It’s part of your cat’s normal behaviour to bury her poo and urine by digging over it. This is to hide her scent from other cats. A litter box filled to the right level provides the ideal place for her.
If you’re adopting a kitten that’s stayed with it’s mother for 8 weeks, she’ll have shown it how to scratch around in the litter. Queens always teach their offspring important life skills.
If your cat is an older rescue cat it should still be an easy task, but semi-ferals or a stray may take you longer to train. This is because they’ve had little or no contact with people
What type of litter box is best for your cat and why
Just as you need somewhere comfortable to go the toilet so does your cat. How would you like to use a toilet that was difficult to access or very cramped? Worse still, one that flushed at random, making you jump!
As a new cat parent you’ll want the best for your fur baby. Even before you bring her home you’ll no doubt visit your local pet store.
Shopping for a litter box can be confusing with so many different sizes and types on offer, but one thing I never recommend are enclosed litter boxes.
They may seem a good idea, but cats have a very keen sense of smell, far stronger than ours. Can you imagine using a toilet that smells bad or hasn’t been flushed?
Pet owners buy covered litter boxes as a way to avoid unpleasant odours. This is fine for you, but for your cat it means using a smelly toilet, unless it’s cleaned after every single use.
You may think you’re giving your kitty privacy with an enclosed toilet, but in reality cats aren’t that bothered. As long as the box is in a quiet place you’ll have no problem.
Colour doesn’t matter unless your cat has a preference! Size does though. If you have a young kitten she’ll need a box with low sides. The same goes for an elderly cat suffering mobility issues.
You can get litter boxes with one low side and three higher sides. These are the ideal solution if your cat has arthritis or you have a kitten.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have a cat that throws litter everywhere, you’ll also find this type of box the perfect solution!
If your cat is very large you’ll need to make sure the box is big enough. She’ll need enough room to stand in comfortably while scratching around in the litter.
How to train a semi-feral cat to use a litter box
If you adopted your kitty as a stray, you’ll need to give her lots of love and have plenty of patience. You won’t know her background or experience with humans.
Your little stray may be very timid and shy, especially if her experience with people was a negative one. It may take a good while before she trusts you and gets to know how to use a litter box.
A good tip is to add leaves and soil from outside into the litter. Your stray would have been used to digging around in the earth, so litter will feel strange at first.
Place the box somewhere private where no one is going to walk past. You don’t want your cat feeling nervous everytime she uses it.
Never pick your cat up and forcibly put her in the box. Instead, gently stir the litter with your hand so she gets the idea! You could try taking your kitty to the box about 20 minutes after she’s eaten food.
Stir the litter with your fingers, and gently reassure her. Spend time stroking your cat and talking to her using a soft tone of voice. Never shout at your kitty as you’ll only add to any negative experiences.
If you decide to take on a semi feral cat you may find training takes even longer. Unlike strays, feral cats have had no or little contact with people.
Strays are often abandoned pets, or cats who may have wandered off for whatever reason. If your cat is a stray she’s probably lived in someone’s home for part of her life.
What is the best cat litter to use?
There’s a wide range of cat litter available, and most cats being fussy creatures will have their own preferences. Once your cat gets used to a brand of litter stick with it.
As well as being fussy, they’re also creatures of habit and sensitive to change. This isn’t to say you can’t introduce new litter, but if you’re going to, do it gradually.
There are several main types of cat litter for you to choose from. They also vary in price, but cheap isn’t always the best option.
1. Clay based clumping litter
This is the cheapest you can buy, but is very heavy and creates a lot of dust. If you suffer from respiratory problems I wouldn’t recommend this type. However, on the plus side it’s easy to scoop up soiled clumps, and most cats like the texture.
Large bags can be very economical, especially if you have more than one cat. However, you’ll find them very heavy to lift.
2. Non clumping cat litter
You may prefer non clumping cat litter if you don’t want to breathe in clouds of dust every time you fill the litter box. This type of litter soaks up liquid fast and is typically made from mineral granules.
Non clumping cat litter absorbs odours very effectively, and you may find it lasts longer as you’re not scooping out large clumps. Its easier to lift out solid waste without disturbing any of the surrounding litter
3. Wood pellets cat litter
You may decide to try woodchip or recycled paper cat litter if you like the idea of environmentally friendly products. The downside is, your cat may not like the texture and decide to pee elsewhere! I know mine did when I decided to give it a try!
4. Crystal cat litter
Crystal or silica gel cat litter may be a good choice if you don’t mind the extra expense. It’s a fairly new type with high absorbency. You’ll also find it very effective in eliminating odours which is a great plus!
Another good point you’ll like is crystal cat litter doesn’t get trodden into carpets or furniture like other types. The only minus point is your cat may find the crystals feel sharp on her paws.
This could put her off using the litter box, so my advice is only buy a small bag to start with, and still have a supply of your previous litter just in case. Always fill the box up to a level of about 5 cm. This gives your cat plenty to dig and cover her poo.
how often should you clean a cat litter box?
As a general rule of thumb you should clean your cat’s litter box at least once a week. As a cat owner myself I do this task twice a week. My cat goes outside, but still uses the box at night or in emergencies.
Even if you use scented or antibacterial litter, you don’t want your cat to keep using a toilet that’s not cleaned. I know you wouldn’t like it 🙂 You can scoop out solids and urine coated bits, but this soon builds up again! Always sprinkle fresh litter in the box to replace that which you’ve removed.
how to clean a litter box
Empty the litter into a compostible bag for disposal. NEVER flush it down your toilet as it will cause blockages. It’s also unhygienic.
If you’re sensitive to dust, a mask may be a good idea. It will save you breathing in unpleasant odours as well. Always wear household gloves, and use a scooper to remove the litter.
Pour a small amount of mild disinfectant into the box and wash thoroughly with warm water. Make sure to scrub the sides of the box and rinse well. You could also add a few drops of vinegar to the water as it helps kill bacteria.
Your cat has a keen sense of smell so avoid strong smelling detergents. Allow the litter box to dry and sprinkle baking soda in the base to keep it smelling fresher for longer.
How to train your cat to pee outside and cut back on using the box!
As a rule you should keep your indoors for around 3 to 4 weeks after moving. If you’re adopting a rescue cat, it’s advisable to keep your kitty inside for at least 4 weeks.
This means a lot of litter, and scooping, not to mention cleaning! However it’s safer for your cat until she gets used to her new home.
When you start allowing your cat access to the outside, she may still continue to use the box. This is is quite normal as your kitty may feel very vulnerable until she marks out her territory.
Start training your cat to pee outside by sprinkling a handful of cat litter on top of the soil. You could even add some she’s soiled as this will have her scent.
Another way you may find works better is to simply place the litter box outside for a short time. Some cats adapt quicker than others. My cat didn’t need any training and despite being indoors most of his life took to the outside straight away!
You can have a fresh smelling home and multiple cats!
If you’re a cat crazy lady with several kitties you don’t have to live in a home with unpleasant odours. By following a few simple steps your home will always smell fresh and clean, and your cats will be happy!
Choosing a litter box that’s right for your cat, as well as litter both of you can tolerate plays a big part. Knowing the right way to clean the box, and how often, so your cat never goes elsewhere is vital.
Once you know how to train your cat to use a litter box you’ll rarely have to deal with accidents that ruin your carpets and furnishings.
Wishing you a purrfect day 🙂