Litter training your cat
Bringing a new kitten or cat home is an exciting time for your family and your feline. But while you may be eager to start playing and introducing them to their new surroundings, it’s vital for your cat (and your carpets) that you start litter-training as soon as possible.
All cats will instinctively seek out sandy places to do their business, so they already have a head start on you, but there’s still plenty you can do to encourage them to use a litter tray. First on the list is to buy one. According to cat behaviour experts, most owners buy litter boxes too small for their cats, so choose one that’s at least one-and-a-half times her length, and fill it with the same litter they have previously used.
There are several different types of litter – you may want to experiment to see which suits you and your cat the best. ‘Clumping’ litter forms ‘clumps’ when exposed to moisture. This makes cleaning the tray very quick and easy – you just remove the clumps and add a little more litter. Clumping litter is often made from an absorbable clay, which can be dusty and isn’t biodegradable, but dust-free, biodegradable alternatives made from plant fibre are available.
Non-clumping litter can be made from many different materials, including crystals of dried silica. Although this litter can be expensive, it tends to last for a long time and is dust free and biodegradable. Other non-clumping litters can be made of biodegradable recycled paper or pine wood pellets, which are absorbent and non-dusty, but need to be cleaned out more regularly.
Next is choosing where to put the tray. It’s important that it’s placed somewhere that’s quiet and easy to reach, always accessible and in a different location from their food dish. Soon after you bring your cat home, show them where the tray is and reward them after they have used it for the first time. If you have a kitten, gently encourage them to use the tray by placing them in it at various points of the day, such as first thing in the morning and after meals. Like humans, cats prefer privacy when going to the toilet, so don’t sit staring at them while they are using the tray.
You should scoop out the clumps of litter once every day and replace the entire litter once a week, after cleaning the tray with a mild disinfectant and rinsing it thoroughly. You may have a few accidents, particularly with young cats, but gentle persistence and some patient scrubbing will have them trained in no time.
As your cat gets older, they may find getting to their litter tray more difficult, so add a few more around your home to ensure they don't have to travel far to reach one. Conditions such as arthritis may also make getting into a high-sided tray more difficult, so consider swapping these for lower-lipped versions. And whatever age your cat, if they suddenly stop using the tray and eliminates around the house, book an appointment with your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.
If you are still in the consideration stages of getting a kitten, then our guide to getting a kitten will help you make up your mind.