cat and litter box

How to Litter Train Your Kitten

Today we have a guest post from Annie Anderson, founder of MeowKai.

Compared to dogs, cats are relatively easy to litter train. In fact, the mother initiates the process of litter training once the kitten has been weaned. When you bring your kitten home, he should already be used to using the litter box, so your job of litter training is made even easier! However, if the kitten is a stray and hasn’t had his mother to teach him, you can take over the litter training process.

Young Kittens up to 3 weeks old

Very young kittens will need help relieving themselves after each feeding. With a warm paper towel or wash cloth, gently rub the genital area until your kitten defecates and urinates. This must be done after each feeding. This may seem like an unpleasant task, but it’s something the mother would do, and if there is no mom present, a human must take over the job. Feedings may require plenty of help as well, which might be easier with a baby bottle for the first week or so.


Kittens over 4 weeks

Once your kitten is up and around and walking on his own, he should be able to start feeding himself. At this stage you can introduce the litter box. Cats dig by instinct and it shouldn’t take him long to discover that the litter box is where he needs to go to relieve himself. You may have to place him in the litter box a few times after each feeding, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly he instinctively discovers what he has to do.

Here are the steps you need to take in order to make sure your kitten is litter trained properly:

  1. Purchase your litter box with care: When you choose a litter box, go for a larger one instead of a smaller one. It may seem too big for your kitten now, but remember that they grow quickly and if you buy one that is too small, you’ll have to go out and get a bigger one eventually anyway. If you switch litter boxes, you may have to start the training process all over again, so it makes sense to start with the box you’re going to use for the long term. If you’re worried that your kitten won’t be able to climb inside, make a little ramp out of plywood and affix it to the side with duct tape or other adhesive. Remove the ramp once your kitten has grown enough to get in and out with ease. You’ll also have to decide whether to buy an enclosed litter box or an open one. An enclosed box cuts down on mess and odor, but it’s important to buy one that has plenty of room for your cat to do his business. Many cats need space to turn around and dig so they can bury their excrement. Some cats prefer the enclosed space, and some cats prefer open spaces, but you can transition them easily by removing the swinging door until your cat gets used to it.


  1. Buy cat litter: There are many different brands of cat litter on the market – scented, unscented, clumping, non-clumping, multi-cat, etc. The truth is, you don’t need anything fancy or expensive. Try and choose a brand that is dust-free to help reduce the mess around the litter. Remember that cats like to swipe and dig in the sand so dust can accumulate in the entire room. Dust can irritate cat’s lungs, not to mention irritate the humans in the house! Most cats do not like scented litter, as they can irritate a cat’s senses and they may decide to use another space for their business –  like your carpet or furniture. Also consider using scoopable cat litter, as it is easier to clean and will keep things neat and tidy for your cat. It’s best to use a brand that is widely available and to use the same brand consistently. Changing the brand can irritate your cat, and he may decide to go somewhere else.  Also consider using a liner for the box. This makes clean up even easier. If you don’t want to use liners, you can just as easily use a garbage bag. Simply place the bag inside the box and put the litter in the bag. To clean it, simply pull the bag up and out; the litter will be inside and ready to put out to the curb on garbage day.
  2. Placement matters: Place your cat litter away from your cat’s food and water source. Think about it – would you want your toilet in your kitchen or dining room? Cats prefer some privacy in their ‘bathroom’ so place it in a peaceful location away from high traffic areas. If you must place the food in the same room as the litter, don’t keep them too close together. Whether you use an automatic cat feeder or you fill their dish yourself, you’ll need to make sure that the dish doesn’t accidently get moved too close to the litter box.
  3. Be patient: While your cat has a strong instinct to dig and bury, it will take some time for him to get used to using his litter box. Generally, it shouldn’t take more than a week or so to get him fully litter trained, but be prepared for some accidents along the way. Never discipline him harshly in case of an accident – simply place him in his litter box so he starts to understand that is the place he needs to go.

Pro Tips:

  • Consider having a separate litter box for each cat in your home. Cats can be territorial and may not enjoy sharing their bathroom with other cats in the house.
  • If you buy unscented litter, you can place baking soda on top to help reduce odor. You don’t need a lot, just a light dusting. It will get mixed in with the litter when your cat digs and buries.
  • If you want to minimize accidents outside the litter box, make sure it is cleaned every day. Cats are good at letting you know when they’re dissatisfied with things, and that includes the litter box. If it gets too full, they will stop using it, and find other places to go.

2016-11-09_annieAuthor Bio: Annie is the founder of MeowKai, where she and her associates write about cat behavior, health issues, and tips and tricks on how to get your cat to behave! It concentrates on creating the best life for you and your cat so you can enjoy each other’s company and build that trust that is so important between pet and human.

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  1. Great post. When I brought Bear inside, he was about 8 months old and I was really worried about litter box training him since he was used to being homeless and going wherever. But we didn’t have even one accident. After he ate, I put him in the box and scratched a little bit … and I think that actually confused him. When he had to go, he just went and it was done :)

  2. We try to avoid baking soda in the litter, because the dust can be harmful to cats. I use a solution of baking soda and water to sanitize the litter boxes, and any other mishap that happens around them, however. We have four litter boxes for two cats, and we’ve purchased cheapo plastic cement mixer boxes from the hardware store; they are big enough for Chuck who is a long cat, and being black matches our decor better than red or blue.

  3. Great tips! Chizzy was born outside to a feral mom but Gramma wanted to adopt him. They put a litter box outside for him. TW would place him in it and scrape his paws. He got that part, but didn’t get the next part but he learned before he went indoors. BTW, I like to eat at the Litter Box Lounge. My food isn’t near the box but sometimes when I won’t eat the gut rot, TW places near the box and I’ll eat it.

  4. That is good advice. Eric and I were 5 1/2 weeks old when we came to our forever home. We were born in a barn where the young bulls were kept and had never been indoors. I used the litter box from the very first time, but Eric preferred to poop behind the door even though he was shown where to go and saw me go there. Some strategically placed holly twigs soon changed his mind and after a couple of days he was using the litter box too. He was funny though. My mum used to keep a bucket outdoors to clean the litter boxes into which she then emptied onto the horse dung heap. Several times she saw Eric perched on the rim of the bucket to poop directly into it.

  5. Excellent advice! I agree that cats are easier to little box train than dogs are to potty train. Cats seem to want to use a litter box. I adopted Manna when she was 3.5 weeks old (she was an abandoned stray) and she took to the litter box right away. I was surprised about how easy it was to convince her to use the litter box.

  6. Great post Chatty Cats, the P.A.’s neffur had a kitten to train, but if she effur gets one, now she knows exactly what to do! :D


    Basil & Co xox

  7. We’ve always adopted adult cats here, so we’ve not had to train anybuddy. But this is great advice for those with babies. We will share with our foster and adoption team at PAWS! :)