Training a kitten to use a litter box is a lot easier than training an adult cat to use a litter box. Kittens seem to be born with the instinct to cover up their waste, which is easier to do in soft earth, light gravel, sand or kitty litter. Sometimes this instinct only manifests as peeing in the corner and scratching on the floor directly outside of the litter box, but it’s still there, anyway. Work with it.
If You Are Raising the Kittens
Perhaps your female cat slipped away for a night on the town and came back pregnant. If you are raising the kittens from birth, finding good homes for them and have an appointment to spay the mother cat, good for you. But whether Mommy cat became pregnant (or “in kitten”) on purpose or by accident, training the kittens to use the litter box is the same.
When they start walking fairly well at about three or four weeks old, gently pick them up and plop them in the litter box. They will sniff around and then stare at you as if you are a moron. If they can see their Mom use the litter box, this helps makes lessons a lot quicker.
Whenever you catch the kitten in the act of peeing or pooping, pick them up gently, carry them to the liter box and place them gently in there. Then, praise them for standing in the litter box, looking at you with a clearly baffled expression. Then, go clean up the mess. These are kittens. Any mess will be very small.
If You Are Bringing The Kitten Home
If you haven’t raised the kitten from a newborn, you need more patience and paper towels. If you have adopted the kitten from an animal rescue, then the chances are really good that the kitten is already familiar with a litter box and what kittens are supposed to do in litter boxes. If you’ve just been given the kitten or adopted a stray kitten who followed you home (it does still happen), then you’ll have more work.
But basically, the training methods are still the same. Place squatting kitten gently in litter box. Praise. Clean up any mess. Eventually, the kitten will cut out the part about having to be carried to the litter box and just go to the litter box to do his business. Remember that kittens have very small bladders and are like young children in that they don’t have muscle control yet.
Most kittens are litter trained in days or weeks. If your kitten seems to be having a particularly hard time of it – or suddenly relapses after a long time of using the litter box – please see your vet. There could be a medical condition that needs urgent attention.
“ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats.” James R. Richards, DVM. Chronicle Books; 1999.
Pet Education. “Litter Box Training for Your Kitten: The Basics.” Katherine Hillestad, DVM. http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=1+2174&aid=3288
Pet Place. “Why Do Cats Cover Their Waste?” http://www.petplace.com/cats/why-do-cats-cover-their-waste/page1.aspx