Many people believe kittens inherently know to use a litter pan, and they are right, for the most part. I’ve seen a two week old kitten scratch at litter in a pan. However, you can’t just put one litter somewhere in the bowels of a 2000 square foot house and expect your kitten to make it in time, or even find it. So, here are the best ways to ensure your kitten is properly house trained in to a cat that never wavers from its potty.
In the Beginning
Keep your kitten in a small space with its bed, toys, food and litter (or follow and watch it like a hawk, but that’s not always feasible). Get a litter pan from a pet store than is the correct size for them to climb in and out of. Don’t get a covered box for kitty’s first litter pan – it will only confuse them. The litter box needs to be nearby so that it’s obvious, and in your kittens immediate space. In other words, there’s no question of where to make poopy or pee pee.
It is also a good idea to put a sprinkling of dirty litter in with the clean litter for each change, or a tissue with some of the kittens pee on it, in to the litter initially. Left there, it will give them a scent to follow to the litter. The scent will also act as a marker for where they should go.
With a kitten, I personally will leave the animal’s first bowel movements in a new litter pan for a few hours before taking them out, to get the scent embedded. Also, I won’t change the litter more than once a day, also to really embed the point that the box is where you go to the bathroom.
Kittens are born with a sharp sense of smell, so they can find mom’s nipples. Use that factor in all litter training aspects.
From there, you can gradually move them to larger and larger spaces, within reason, always so the litter is within reasonable reach. Even once they’re a good three or four months old, and you’ve decided they can have the run of the house, I still use more than one litter pan, strategically placed. It pays off in the end and avoids messes. Over time, remove all but the main one.
Why Didn’t My Kitten Go in the Litter?
There are reasons for this. One, they got wrapped up in their playing, found themselves in dire need of relief, and just went, like any baby.
Two, the litter was simply too far away and they didn’t reach it in time. This is why it’s best to keep them in a small space. You can bring them out for play or cuddle time, just put them back, directly in the litter, often, at least once and hour, so they can go if they need to. They don’t always clue in as readily as we think they will. Again, remember they’re babies.
Should your kitten go somewhere other than the litter box (small space or not, it happens), clean it up with a tissue, and place the tissue in the litter box. Leave it there for a couple hours, or until they are consistently pooping and peeing in the litter.
Reinforce Your Training
Kittens, like puppies, and human babies, have to train and strengthen their bladder and sphincter muscles. This happens as they mature, often faster in kittens than puppies. However, accidents DO happen, expect lots of them, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised by few.
Don’t ever jump a step, and you will avoid problems in the future.
Cat & Dog Behaviorist