Date updated: 17 11 2017
First off, it might be easier to think of this less as training and more as pointing in the right direction! Right from the start, your buddy hates the idea of leaving a surprise on your carpet. They’d love a more private way of doing their business, and with litter training, that’s exactly what you’re giving them.
With the right tools for the job, a little encouragement and plenty of TLC, here’s how to nudge your buddy towards really getting the hang of toilet time…
Adopting your kitten? Carry on where they left off...
Over the last 10 weeks or so, your little buddy’s learnt a lot from mum - and that includes following her to and from the litter tray. In fact, chances are that they know what litter training is all about - even if they haven’t totally got the hang of it just yet!
So rather than starting from scratch, adoption is more often a case of keeping up the good work. And your mission is to try and make this as easy as possible…
Sometimes, the seller will actually give you the tray and a bag of litter; in which case, use it! If not, find out what your new buddy is already used to. Is it a semi-enclosed box type or open tray? How big is it? What type of litter have they been using (scented or unscented)? It’s all about making the transition as smooth as you can.
Have more than one box
By nature, most kittens will ‘get’ the idea of litter trays - but as to how they use it, some cats are a bit fussier than others.
Some cats prefer to urinate in one and defecate in another. Many want a space of their own - and won’t use a tray that any other cats in the house use. As a starting point, kit out your home with one box per cat - and one extra. See where you go from there.
Positioning: a little privacy, please?
Would you feel comfortable using a toilet in one of the busiest corners of the home? The best locations are tucked out of the way, but not somewhere they’re going to feel boxed in (cats love an unobstructed view to watch out for possible ambush!). Your buddy probably won’t feel comfortable doing their business close to where they have their dinner, so keep them away from feeding stations, too.
Exactly where you put your trays will obviously depend on the layout of your home. But good spots can include corners of the living room, bedroom or kitchen or in the garage. If it’s quiet, a little out of the way - but still gives a good view of the room, you’re probably on the right track.
A little coaching can go a long way…
Lots of newly-adopted kittens start gravitating toward their tray and basically get on with it from the moment they arrive. Others need a bit more encouragement.
Soon after they arrives, take your new buddy over to the box and let them scratch around. They might catch on to what it is straight away - or they might jump right out of it immediately. If it’s the latter and “little accidents” are happening through the day, it’s time to be a bit more proactive...
There are certain times when your cat’s more likely to need the loo: first thing in the morning, post-nap, and after a meal or playtime. These are the times you should physically carry them over to the tray, and then give them a little privacy.
To scold or not to scold?
If you come across a surprise on the carpet, how should you react?
Shouting and scolding won’t get you very far. For one thing, you’ve probably only noticed it after the event. Your cat just isn’t going to be able to make that connection between what’s on the carpet, this cross human in front of them - and what they have to do with any of it!
Stern words can end up being counterproductive. Same thing goes with some of the other “tricks” you might have come across - like a blast from a squirt bottle. The most likely outcome is a scared and confused kitten; definitely not the mindset you need for getting the hang of important new tricks.
So keep your cool. And hang on in there with the coaxing and carrying your kitten over to the litter tray. Eventually, they do get it!
But what if they just don’t get it?
You’ve coaxed. You’ve carried. You’ve played around with different locations for your tray. You’ve even tried different types of boxes and litters. Still nothing.
If this goes on for longer than a month, now might be the time for some input from your vet. Various medical issues (urinary tract conditions or intestinal parasites, for instance), can either hinder your buddy’s ability to hold it in or can make it painful to ‘go’. The quicker these issues are fixed, the sooner they can get down to business!