How to Train a Cat to Use the Litter Box

cat lying on a pillow

Have you recently adopted a feral baby who has never used a litter box before? Or, perhaps you are retraining your long-time cat. Cats are amazingly clean animals. Most of them learn to use a tray or something similar by imitating their mothers. In this case, some cats might need minimal litter training. However, adopted stray or feral cats are not familiar with using the litter box at all, and that’s when you will need to know how to litter train a cat.

This article teaches you how to train a cat to use the litter box as well as providing you with useful tips on choosing the litter box.

Litter Box Tips

Before you learn how to train a cat to use the litter box, you must make sure that the litter box itself is a proper and safe space for them to eliminate. Below are a few tips on how to choose the right litter box to accommodate the right space for your cat.

  • Choose a large litter box. A large litter box prevents inappropriate elimination, and your cat will less likely think that it’s too full too quickly. Make sure the box has low sides if your cat is elderly to make it accessible for them to enter the box.
  • Choose between covered and uncovered boxes. Covered boxes maintain privacy, but they trap odors inside which might prevent your cat from wanting to enter. See what is best for them by letting them decide.
  • Get more than one litter box. If you have enough space, get a second or a third litter box. Generally, make sure you have one on every floor.
  • Get the right litter. Use plain, unscented clumping litter. The Humane Society cautions against litter with perfume to prevent irritation or allergic reactions. Some cats prefer different litter types – if your cat likes the litter, don’t change it.
  • Find the right location. Cats tend to feel more comfortable when they eliminate in a quiet and private space. Find a corner or a spot that is isolated in the house (and ideally not next to noisy, scary things such as a laundry machine). Keep it far from your baby’s food and water.
  • Keep it clean. A dirty litter box does not only keep your cat from using it, but it might also induce anxiety in them. Ideally, scooping twice a day is most recommended.
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How to Litter Train a Cat

If you are litter training your cat for the first time, it is important to stay patient. Don’t feel discouraged if they don’t eliminate correctly right away. Some cats take their time, while others adapt and learn more easily. Try not to rush or push them, but at the same time, remain consistent and persistent.

Below are the 5 basic steps on how to train a cat to use the litter box:

  1. Learn your cat’s schedule and place them inside the litter box when it’s their time to eliminate. Allow them to get used to the smell while they feel the litter.
  2. Try placing them into the box several times a day, ideally right after they have eaten.
  3. If you see your cat in the act of eliminating somewhere else, interrupt them to take them to their litter box right away.
  4. If you see no results, consider changing location or the litter type.
  5. Most importantly – always praise them (and give treats!) when they enter or eliminate. Positive reinforcement is key!

Reasons Why You’re Failing

Have you followed the steps but still seem to have trouble training your cat? Consider any of the following possibilities that might be causing you to fail:

  • Medical problems: cats with urinary issues such as infections or blockages will often urinate in abnormal places in the house and not in the tray. If your cat has started urinating in weird places, see a vet. Also to remember: male cats can develop a urinary blockage which fully stops their ability to eliminate. This is a life-threatening emergency, and so if your male cat is suddenly urinating abnormally, call a vet immediately.
  • Cat anxiety. If your feral baby is stressed, they are more likely to cause accidents around the house.
  • Location. Consider looking for a better location, as they might not like the corner you chose for them.
  • Litter. Try changing the type of litter you use as they might not like it.

When all else fails, remember to consult your vet or schedule a video consultation with one of Cooper Pet Care’s qualified vets! 

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