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Tips and Strategies for Successfully Litter Box Training Your Cat

Tips and Strategies for Successfully Litter Box Training Your Cat

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Cats are not small dogs! Domestic cats have perfected the art of housetraining by wanting to cover up their urine and stool after elimination. We need only to help them discover the intricate art of using a litter box instead of the carpet or floor.

Training Cats to Use the Litter Box

If cats can be trained to use a toilet, it shouldn’t be too difficult to train them to use a litter box! I believe that the initial training is the easy part, but keeping them trained can be much harder since cats are so independent and so easily stressed.

Tip: Just as with dogs, positive reinforcement and praise are always the best training methods for cats.

Initial Training

When you first bring your new cat home, it should be placed in a small room where a clean litter box, food, water, toys, and bedding are easily accessible. Your goal is not to isolate the cat from the rest of the family, but to confine it to a smaller area that allows you to better manage training and the introduction into your family.

The Importance of a Small, Controlled Training Area

Kittens and adult cats should be fed 3-4 meals per day. Be sure you are present to watch your cat eat and drink. Gently call your pet’s name at mealtime so it knows this means the food is ready and lots of praise is coming its way.

After your cat finishes the meal, place it in the litter box and praise the cat when it urinates or has a bowel movement. Cats must get accustomed to the feel of litter and not be frightened by the box. This step in litter box training is called opportunity.

Establishing a Routine for Litter Box Use

Repetition of this same process 3-4 times a day for a week creates a successful foundation for your cat in using the litter box. Accidents are going to occur but they should become less frequent with time.

Remember to keep the litter box fresh and clean. Also, make sure your cat has a happy mealtime environment with lots of praise, plenty of exercise, and interactive playtime.

Tip: Scolding your cat because of eliminations outside the litter box or trying to “force” the cat to use the litter box will only make it avoid the box because it will think it is a tool for punishment.

Allow More Freedom in the Home

After your cat has shown that it has mastered the litter box for eliminations, you can begin to allow it more freedom in your home. At this time, I would add a second litter box in an area that is easily accessible to your cat, especially if you live in a two-story house.

Be sure Miss Kitty also has her own place to just lay and relax. Continue to meal-feed for two more weeks, placing your cat in a litter box after feeding. By week three, I would expect your pet to be fully potty trained.

Clean and Disinfect the Litter Box

Litter boxes must be kept clean and replenished with new litter every 2-3 days. Clean your cat’s litter box with soap and water and wipe dry with a dampened cloth moistened small amount of diluted vinegar or lemon juice.

Training Multiple Cats

If you already have another cat in your home, you may be faced with a more difficult challenge because you are now dealing with two issues; litter box training and potential personality clashes between the cats.

Most likely things will settle down in a few weeks, but it might be necessary to place one of the cats in a crate while feeding the other, then repeat with the other cat going into the crate. Just be patient; it will get better.

Inappropriate Elimination in Cats

Inappropriate elimination, or not using the litter box, needs to be dealt with in a positive manner by first attempting to seek the reason for soiling outside the box.

One common cause of inappropriate elimination is litter aversion; the cat doesn’t like the type of litter used or feels the box is not clean enough. Stress is another common reason for this behavior.

Causes of Inappropriate Elimination

Stress, in your cat’s mind, can be anything from painters in your home, to a visiting relative, to a new piece of furniture. Many times a stressor is present but we aren’t able to identify it.

There are also medical causes for inappropriate elimination, such as a bladder infection or a partial blockage of the urinary tract. If your cat is soiling outside the litter box, seek the advice of your veterinarian immediately.

Seek Medical Advice for Inappropriate Elimination

If your cat shows no medical reason for this behavior, you might try confining it to a smaller room and going back to the basics just as you did in the first few weeks of litter box training.

Keep in mind that the longer a behavior goes on, the harder it is to change it. Prompt action is necessary to prevent this from becoming a lifelong habit. One of the main reasons cats are surrendered to shelters is elimination problems; don’t let this become an issue for you and your cat.

Tip: Seek help from your veterinarian if your cat is soiling outside the litter box.

Litter Box Training Considerations

Other considerations for litter box training are listed below:

Choose the Right Litter

Consult with your veterinarian or pet store employee about which litter to use. There are a number of different types and brands. Start by trying a popular brand used by other cat owners. If your cat likes it, continue to use the same brand.

Provide Clean Litter Boxes

Dispose of dirty litter every 2-3 days and clean the box as mentioned previously. For multi-cat households, litter should be scooped daily and changed at least every two days.

Stressed cats can find a variety of things to use as a litter box if theirs is not kept fresh and clean. It is not unusual for cats to use bath tubs, sinks, closets, floors, and carpet to show their distaste for a dirty litter box!

Allow one litter box for each cat in your home, plus one extra. Example: if you have two cats, you should place three litter boxes in the home.

Place Litter Boxes in Accessible Locations

Place litter boxes in areas of the home that are easily accessible to your cat. Keep one box near your cat’s food and water area.

Avoid Overcrowding and Stress in Multi-Cat Households

Assure that each cat in your household has their “space” so they will not be bothered by other cats. Overcrowding can produce stress which can cause inappropriate eliminations outside the litter box.