Training Your Kitten to use the Litter Box

Kittens explore the world with their mouths just like human babies. Using clay clumping litter with kittens under 8 weeks old is dangerous.  This litter is highly toxic if eaten.  The best litter for young kittens is recycled newspaper.  These litters have newspaper that are pressed into inch long pellets, which is too large for a kitten to swallow.  The newspaper won’t hurt the kitten if they chew on the pellets.  The newspaper pellets should be placed in a low-lying open box/pan that is easy for the kittens to get in and out of.  A rabbit litter box is a good height for young kittens.

To start litter box training the kittens, stimulate them to go potty in the box after every meal.  Leave the soil pellets in the box, so the kittens can smell where they have gone before.  Scent is a big part of litter box training.  Some kittens will start pottying in the box very quickly, others take several days of repetition.  Praise the kittens for successfully using the litter box.  Don’t scold them if they go outside the box. 

As kittens are learning to go potty without being stimulated, they will have very little warning that they have to go potty.  Keep the litter box in the same room as the kittens at all times.  The litter box should never be more than 10 feet away from young kittens.

Set up the room so that the litter box is at one end of the room and their toys and beds are at the other.  Kittens naturally don’t like to potty where they eat and sleep.  Placing puppy potty pads under the litter box will making cleaning up mistakes easier.  Kittens will already have a natural drive to cover their potty, so allow the kitten to cover their potty even if they are scooping the litter pellets out of the litter box. 

Clean the litter box multiple times a day, as the newspaper pellets will get quickly soiled.  Kittens are naturally clean creatures and won’t want to use a dirty litter box.  To clean the box, scoop out the soiled pellets and wipe down the sides with a damp paper towel.  After a few times scooping the box, it will be time to dump the entire box and put fresh pellets in.  Do not use scented soap or cleaners when you are wiping the box down, this hides the kittens’ scent.  The kittens will go potty where they smell that they’ve gone before.

For kittens under 12 weeks old, it is dangerous to use clay clumping litter in the litter box.  Remember, kittens still put everything in their mouths and clay litter is dangerous for them to ingest.  After they have learned to use the litter box and are consistent with going on the newspaper pellets, transition them to a natural ground litter, such as corn cob litter.  Initially mix the newspaper pellets and corn cob litter together, so the kittens don’t stop using the litter box.  After a few days of them using the combination of litters, you can fill the litter box with corn cob litter only.  This litter will have a similar texture to the clay clumping litter but is much safer for kittens if they do put some in their mouths.  Corn cob litter will absorb odors and clump just like clay litter, so it’s easy to scoop.  Corn cob litter allows the kittens to use their instinct to dig before they go potty and then bury their potty.

Clumping cat litters are those that are designed so that urine and feces can be removed easily from the box without having to empty the entire box.  Most contain a material known as bentonite that allows the litter to form a nice solid clump as the litter absorbs liquid.  It is important that the cat litter is low in dust.  Cats naturally dig in the litter before and after they go potty, so they are very susceptible to inhaling dust.  Cat’s respiratory systems are very sensitive, so inhaling large amounts of litter dust can lead to serious health issues.  Look for litter that has 99% dust free on the packaging.  Avoid litters that are heavily scented.  The scents won’t hide the odor any better and can irritate cat’s respiratory system.

The pet stores carry a scoop-able litter that is designed for kittens.  It is ground to finer size so it doesn’t irritate kitten’s paws.  It also contains kitten-specific natural pheromones so kittens are curious to use the litter box. This litter can be used in the entire box or mixed in with other clay clumping litter.

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