Proper use of a litter box is an important part of every indoor cat’s life. The age when to start litter training kittens plays a crucial role. Inadequate training may lead to house soiling. Unfortunately, this can be quite problematic for both you the cat owner and your cat. This is why an untrained kitten will turn into an untrained cat. Sadly, this is the number one reason for cats being left at animal shelters. Thankfully this can be avoided with proper litter box training.
Table of Contents
- When to start litter box training kittens?
- When should you start litter box training kittens?
- How do you introduce a kitten to a litter box?
- Are kittens automatically litter trained?
- What kind of litter do you need for a kitten?
When to start litter box training kittens?
It’s a sad thing really since we know that litter training is extremely easy. But at what age should a kitten start litter training?
For most owners, litter training a kitten should be started as soon as they get him or her home. Why so soon you ask? Because after weaning your kitten from its mother, which is the time when the kitten is taken home, it’s already past the optimal time for when litter training should have been started.
What this means is that a kitten which is normally brought home at the age of 10 to 12 weeks, should already have completed litter box training. Ideally your kitten has already received some litter box training from the breeder as it ideally should have been started somewhat close to when your kitten was four weeks of age.
When should you start litter box training kittens?
Every form of training be it litter, behavior training, or where their scratching post stands is much better when started as soon as possible. The closer to the four weeks of age that you can start the training for your kitten the better.
Kittens start walking at the age of two weeks. Before that, they are not able to get even close to using the litter box. They simply do not have the physical strength or coordination to navigate getting in and out of a litter box. A kitten will just have begun to crawl around 2 weeks of age. The biggest reason for waiting until after the age of 4 weeks is that your kitten can’t go by themselves. Yes, up to the age of three or so weeks, your kitten is not able to eliminate by themselves. Which again makes the use of the litter box not realistic yet.
How do you introduce a kitten to a litter box?
At around four weeks of age, a kitten may start digging and playing with the kitty litter. Another reason this is the ideal time to start litter training is that this is when the instinct to bury feces starts to develop in your cat.
By “starting the litter training”, it does not mean to complete it successfully. You may place a kitten in a litter box, allow them to dig or play. If they does not play or scratch at the cat litter, raise their interest by showing your cat how to scratch the cat litter. You want to show them they can manipulate it with their paws by simulating digging. It’s not necessary for your cat to eliminate in the box when first trying it. This stage is getting them comfortable with the litter box and planting the seeds of what to do when they are in there.
Normally, kittens learn the significance of various locations of things of importance to them by the age of six weeks. That means they learn the place in the house where they should eat, play or do their business. It’s at this time when you may expect some success in litter training a kitten. This is because they are already able to learn that the litter box is the place to go. Naturally cats identify their toilet location by smell, touch, and observing the queen and other cats using it. Yes, having an older cat to show your kitten the ropes goes a long way in accelerating their training.
Your kitten may also taste the kitty litter. It’s a part of the the learning process. For example if you have small children, you have probably observed them gathering information by putting objects in their mouths. This is their oral phase and they put everything in their mouth including not so digestive system friendly things. Please don’t ask us how we learned that one the hard way with our first child. The same is true for kittens. Because of their desire to taste the soil, clumping litter would not be an excellent choice. After ingestion, it will form clumps inside your kitten’s digestive system which is not good.
Are kittens automatically litter trained?
If you are getting your kitten from a breeder, ask if they have been trained to use a litter box. If not, avoid this breeder. Not because the kitten is not using the litter box. It’s easy to teach that behavior, but any breeder who has ignored one of the most crucial parts of kitten care, is of questionable expertise. You can’t know what else the breeder “forgot” to take care of. Things like immunizations that must be given at the right times, in the precisely the correct amounts, and other items related to the healthy development of a kitten.
Okay, let’s assume you’ve gotten your kitten from a reputable breeder who has taken care of the young cat with the highest responsibility. And let’s assume further that the breeder has litter trained your new kitten well.
Then you are probably thinking, should I litter train a kitten if they’ve already been trained? Yes, you should! You are not the only one that asks this, most of our patients do as well.
Why should you continue with your kitten’s litter training? The main reason is that your kitten has already learned the location of the litter box in their old home. The problem is that they don’t know where in their new home (your home) the litter box is. There’s a lot to learn when they arrive in their new home so just make sure that their new litter box is easily accessible.
What kind of litter do you need for a kitten?
It’s best to use the same cat litter type (and if possible the same brand) as your breeder used in your new cat’s former home. Please understand that moving to a new home creates a lot of stress and confusion for your cat. You can lower it if you give them the litter they are already familiar with.
If possible, get an identical or similar litter box to the one your breeder used as well. Place it near the place where your kitten spends most of their time. Normally in the beginning, you should limit the range of movement in your home. For more information on how to bring a new kitten home, please see our article on How to introduce a kitten to their new home. In there, you’ll learn why a kitten should be allowed to examine one room only.
Please understand that you should continue on with litter training because it does not end at the age when normally kitten is taken home.
In most cases, you should continue to litter train a kitten up to the age of six months. It does not mean you will need to place your kitten in a litter box after every meal, play session, or after they wake up from a nap.
Your kitten will find their way on their own most of the time assuming you have provided a suitable litter box. However, out of the litter tray accidents will most likely still happen but will cease gradually.
Now that you know when to start litter training a kitten, please continue to our next article on How to train a kitten to use the litterbox. Once you learn how to train your kitten you will be happy and your kitten will be happy. And keeping your Pet happy is what we all want.