Master the Basics of Litter Training

Bringing home a new cat or kitten is such a fun time—the playing, the purring, the litter box training…wait. OK, so litter box training is not exactly fun, but it’s important and usually pretty easy.

Before you bring home your new cat, you will need to do a few easy things in advance:

  1. Purchase one or two full-size litter boxes. The general rule of thumb for how many litter boxes you’ll need is: one litter box per cat, plus one extra. So, if you have one cat, buy two litter boxes. Two cats? Buy three litter boxes, and so on.
  2. Fill it with litter: about three to four inches deep for clumping litter, and two to three inches for non-clumping litter. Cats like to dig and bury, so this depth allows them to do so. Consider the type of litter you are using as well. The surface should be smooth, without prickly particles, and the fragrance shouldn’t be overwhelming.
  3. Place the litter box somewhere private, quiet and easy for your cat to access. It’s best to keep a box on each level of your home if possible. If using clumping litter, plan to scoop at least once each day, and make it easy by keeping a few bags handy for waste disposal. For non-clumping, scoop solid waste at least once a day and be sure to empty the box completely at least once per week.

Once you have your new cat, you will need to train her to use the litter box.

  1. For the first couple of days, keep your cat confined to a room without carpet, such as a bathroom, with her litter box. Place her food and water in this room as well, but keep it on the opposite side of the room from the litter box. Once she is comfortable with using the litter box, you can allow her to explore the rest of the house. Do not move the litter box until your cat is fully comfortable in the house. Later, if you do move her litter box from that room, make sure you show her where it is. You may have to reintroduce her to the box.
  2. Keep the litter box clean. For clumping litter, scoop the box out at least once a day, refill as needed to maintain the proper depth, and do a full replacement at least every three weeks (more often if you have multiple cats). For non-clumping, scoop solid waste daily and toss out all of the litter to replace at least once a week (again, more often if you have multiple cats). Regularly clean out the box with fragrance-free soap and water as well.
  3. Never punish your cat for not using the litter box. Accidents happen, and they are frustrating. But punishing your cat after the fact or rubbing her nose in it will just cause confusion and fear. If you catch her mid-accident, quickly and calmly pick her up and place her in the litter box. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, bring her to the veterinarian as there may be an underlying medical issue.

Cats are naturally drawn to litter-like areas to relieve themselves, so they typically catch on to litter box training quickly. However, many cats experiences relapses and have accidents at some point. If this happens, stay calm, and remember that the problem is normal and it can be fixed. In the meantime, give your new kitty lots of love and enjoy this time with her.

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