Did you adopt a cat or kitten? Has this sweet addition to the family had an accident on the floor or carpet? Not to worry, cats are among the cleanest animals and in most cases training them to use the litter box is fairly easy. Cats are like people, they like a clean place to their business and they like it private.
Litter box location
When you try to pick a location for your cat’s litter box, think like a cat — where would you like the box to be? Not somewhere with lots of foot traffic or loud background noise as this will frighten kitty. Not somewhere where she eats, sleeps or plays. By way of eliminating, what is left? The bathroom is an obvious choice, so is the laundry room, the garage (if she has easy access to it) and even the balcony (weather permitting).
Take the cat’s age into consideration and make the litter box easily accessible. An older cat might have arthritis and might have trouble climbing a staircase or climbing over furniture to get to her box.
While some cats like the privacy of an enclosed litter box, the majority likes their box open. Use unscented litter and place an old carpet or towel in front of the box so that kitty isn’t left with litter on her paws or between her toes.
An appropriate litter box
Litter boxes available in pet stores are generally suitable for most cats. As a rule of thumb a litter box should be the length of a cat’s body. Kittens do not need a small box, but extra large cats might need an extra-large box.
If you’re not in favor of emptying the litter box, you have options. You can make use of cat litter liners, which you can just tie up and disposed of, or you can buy disposable cat litter trays. Disposable trays are a little more expensive than regular trays that have to be filled with litter, but super easy to use.
There are many types of cat litter available. There’s the regular sandy type, but there is also clay, shredded paper, and wood pellets. Try to avoid litter with anti-bacterial elements or strong perfumes. A fresh scent might seem attractive to you, but might be too much for your cat. Remember, a cat’s sense of smell is much more advanced than yours.
How to train your cat
Step 1 — Show her where to go
When you bring a new cat or kitten into your home, show her where her litter box is and put her in the box. Cats might be smart, but they’re not that smart that they instinctively know where to go. Either pick her up and show her her private little bathroom or encourage her to follow you.
Step 2 — After meals
Few cats use their litter box right after a meal but you could try to put her in her litter box after she’s eaten or had a drink. This might lead her to associate food with poop and water with pee. Don’t force her to stay in her box though. Forcing her will create fear. Simply put her in the box, talk to her in a soft tone of voice what the box is for and leave it at that. Kitty will probably have a look, sniff around and jump out of the box. Leave it up to her.
Step 3 — Praise her
If you notice that kitty has used her litter box, lavish her with praise. While petting her say “Good kitty” or “Smart kitty” or anything else that makes it clear how pleased you are.
Should your cat or kitten have an accident, don’t punish her. Never yell or spank her. Cats don’t understand negative enforcement and yelling or any other type of punishment will only frighten her. Should you find a poopie on the floor or a wet spot on the carpet, show her the accident and then put her in her box.
When you clean up the mess, place the damp tissue or the poopie in the box. The scent will lure her to use this place for future relief.
To discourage her from using the wrong place again, thoroughly clean the accident spot. Soak up most of the urine with tissue paper, sprinkle with plain baking soda (no cleaning agents added), and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.
Litter box maintenance
Once your cat uses her litter box on a regular basis, keep the box as clean as possible. Scoop out poopies on a regular basis and wash the box at least once a week. Just like you prefer a clean toilet, so does your cat.
Cats are naturally clean and smart, and training should require little or no effort.
About the Creator
Conny is the author of Waiting for Silverbird, Voice of an Angel, Lily, Kitten Diaries and Debbie. Contributor to various hard copy and online publications.
She lives in Toronto with her son and cats.