How to Successfully Train Your Cat to Use a Litter Box

If you’ve recently become a cat owner, you may be wondering how to effectively train your cat to use a litter box. While many kittens already have this skill when you bring them home, some may require a little extra training. Don’t worry, though! In this article, we’ll discuss an easy way to train your cat or kitten to use their litter box. We’ll also address common hurdles and provide solutions for overcoming them.

Supplies Needed for Litter Box Training

You probably already have all the necessary supplies, but just in case, here’s a list of what you’ll need:

Litter Boxes

It’s obvious, but you’ll need at least one litter box for your cat. You can choose between a covered or uncovered option. Starting with an uncovered litter box is often recommended, especially for kittens. It’s best to use a shallow litter box that is easy for your kitten to walk into.

Kitty Litter

There are various types of cat litter available, with clumping clay being the most common. If you want to avoid the silica dust associated with clay litter, consider using corn-based or wheat-based alternatives. Cats are generally adaptable when it comes to litter, but if you plan to switch from one type to another, make the transition gradually by mixing the new litter with the old.

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Training Supplies

For this training, you’ll need a clicker. If you’re unfamiliar with clicker training, you can find a basic overview here. Your kitten needs to understand what the click sound means, and you can find instructions for “priming the clicker” on the website. Additionally, you’ll require the following supplies:

  • Clicker & Target Stick: A handheld device that makes a clicking sound when pressed. There are versions available that include a target stick, which simplifies the training process, as you won’t have to juggle both separately.
  • Treats: These are essential for rewarding your cat after each click. Treats can be as small as a pea. It’s best to use freeze-dried treats or small amounts of kitten food instead of treats that contain unnecessary additives.
  • Spoon: You’ll need a spoon or a flat tray for your cat to eat the treats from, especially since you’ll be training around litter. Your cat won’t want to eat treats that have fallen into the litter.

For more information on training supplies, check out our article on the 5 Essential Cat Training Tools.

How to Litter Train a Kitten

Follow these steps to train your new kitten to use a litter box:

  1. When you bring your kitten home, set them up in a smaller room that includes their litter box. Avoid moving the boxes around, as your kitten may forget where they’re located.
  2. Show your kitten the litter boxes and spend some time petting and praising them around the boxes. Encourage them to sniff and interact with the boxes.
  3. Set a timer or create a schedule for placing your kitten into their litter box. This could be before and after meals, after napping, or after playtime.
  4. You may need to move the litter around a bit to encourage your kitten to scratch and cover their waste. This behavior is instinctual for cats.
  5. After your kitten uses the litter box, click the clicker and give them a treat from the spoon.
  6. Continue this training consistently until your kitten is fully litter trained.
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Praise and petting can serve as a reward for kittens who aren’t interested in food at a young age. If your kitten has an accident outside the box, gently pick them up and place them inside without scolding or yelling at them. Scolding will only make them fearful and hinder their litter training progress.

How to Train a Cat to Use a Covered Litter Box

Many cats have no issues using a regular litter box. However, introducing a covered litter box can sometimes be a challenge. Covered boxes may appear dark and intimidating to cats. To overcome this hesitation, you’ll need to train your cat to enter and exit the box cover.

For this training, we recommend using a target stick or a clicker/target stick combination. Follow these steps:

  1. Start with the lid off the litter box, leaving only the pan filled with litter. Use the target stick to guide your cat into the litter box. Click and reward them with a treat.
  2. Target your cat back out of the litter box. Click and treat.
  3. Place the cover on the litter box. If it has a door flap, remove it for now. Use the target stick to guide your cat into the litter box. Click and treat.
  4. If applicable, add the door flap after a few sessions without it. Continue targeting your cat in and out of the box, clicking and rewarding with treats.
  5. If your litter box has a ramp, target your cat up the ramp, click, and reward.
  6. It’s a good idea to have a second litter box that’s just a pan with litter until your cat is fully trained using the covered box.
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Troubleshooting Tips

Here are some common questions and problems related to litter box training, along with helpful solutions:

How many litter boxes should I have with multiple cats?

You’ll need more than one litter box, especially if you have multiple cats. Some cats have particular bathroom habits and preferences. As a general rule, have one litter box per cat, plus an additional box to avoid disputes. For example, if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes in total.

Where should I place my cat’s litter box?

Ensure the litter boxes are in an area where your cat feels safe. Unused closets, extra bathrooms, or the laundry room are suitable locations to consider. If you have dogs or young children, make sure your cat’s privacy and peace won’t be disturbed while using the litter box.

How often should I clean a litter box?

It’s recommended to scoop your cat’s litter box daily, or at least every other day. This prevents the accumulation of urine ammonia fumes, which can cause respiratory problems. Cats prefer clean litter boxes, so scooping regularly will discourage them from going outside the box due to it being too full.

How much litter should I use in a box?

If you’re using clumping cat litter, cover the bottom of the litter box with about 2-3 inches of litter. For non-clumping litter, use 3-4 inches, as it requires more litter to absorb urine.

How often should I change cat litter?

If you scoop the litter regularly, a complete litter change is only necessary once a week or every other week.

How often should I wash a litter box?

Since litter absorbs urine effectively, a thorough washout is needed only around every 3-4 weeks. If there’s a significant urine buildup or lingering odor even after scooping, wash the box more frequently. Use mild dish soap and rinse thoroughly. Avoid using bleach if there is still urine in the box, as bleach and ammonia can create toxic chlorine gas.

By following these tips and being patient with your cat, you’ll successfully train them to use a litter box. Remember, consistency and positive reinforcement are key. Happy training!


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