Training your cat to use a litter box

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not born litter box trained. Kittens learn this at an early stage by watching mom, but if you need to litter box train your kitten, here’s how:

Litter:

Some cats develop a preference about the kind of litter in their boxes. Experiment to see which kind your cat prefers.

The litter must always be kept clean – cats are fussy and wont use a dirty box.

Too much/too little litter can also be a deterrent – put enough in the box to cover the whole surface. It should be about two to three centimeters deep.

Location:

Don’t put the box in the middle of a walkway. Anywhere quiet and private will be suitable.

It must always be accessible or your cat will find an alternative.

Don’t put the litter box next to food/water/beds.

Number:

General rule of thumb is one box per resident cat, plus one extra just in case.

Training:

Take your kitten to the box every 45 minutes or so.

Start to scratch in the sand with a finger and encourage your kitten to use the box.

When she does, wait until she’s finished (don’t interrupt!) and reward her with a kitty treat.

If she’s made a mistake elsewhere, don’t scold or punish her at all. Rather just clean up when she’s not around.

Cleaning up:

Generally cat urine needs to be cleaned thoroughly. There are various products available on the market, and your vet should be able to advise you on those. Cats in particular are highly sensitive to certain chemicals found in disinfectants. Some of the most dangerous are those containing phenol (found in TCP and similar disinfectants) and chloroxylenols (found in Dettol). Other chemicals that you should steer clear of include iodine, hexachlorophene and iodophors. Refer to the disinfectant container for details of the chemicals used. Whatever disinfectant you use for cleaning up, do not be tempted to use a higher strength solution that what is recommended. Doing this can actually considerably increase the risk of a low-toxicity product. You can also use normal dishwashing liquid, diluted in luke-warm water and sponged on liberally before rinsing several times. Test for colour fastness on fabric, and then use some surgical spirits to remove any fatty deposits.

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