Cats are fastidious by nature and in my experience, require little work on the way of toilet training as most kittens are already litter trained by the time they come to their new home. Their mother plays a large role in this, training her kittens from an early age.
Starting on the right foot with your kitten is by far the best practice. Preventing bad habits developing will save you both a lot of anxiety.
What age should I start toilet training a kitten?
Once kittens start the weaning process, which is around three to four weeks.
Use a kitten-safe litter which has no fragrance, and is non-toxic. Kittens are curious and a lot of things they encounter will go in their mouth.
Encouraging litter box use:
Most people adopt kittens from the age of 10-12 weeks, by which time the majority of kittens will already be litter trained. However, a move to a new home can sometimes set a kitten back until it gets used to its new home.
Confine your new kitten for the first few days:
When your kitten comes home, keep him confined to just one or two rooms for a few days so he is not overwhelmed. Keeping the litter tray close by will help reinforce good toileting habits.
Don’t change the brand/type of litter:
Until the kitten is reliably using the litter tray, stick with the same type and brand. If possible, find out from the breeder or shelter what litter the kitten has been using.
Choose the right litter tray:
Provide your kitten with an appropriately sized litter tray. Start with a small tray with low sides which are easier for a kitten to climb in and out of. I personally prefer to use an open litter tray (ie: one without a lid/lid and flap) until the kitten is older.
Choose the right location:
Don’t place litter trays in either very high traffic areas or hard to find spots. A kitten cannot be expected to use a litter tray that is up two flights of stairs or hidden in the basement. Place the tray within eyesight of his bed, so he can easily find it when he wakes up. Where space permits, the litter tray should go in the corner of the same room the food and water bowls are located, but not directly next to them. They don’t like to go to toilet where they eat.
Encouraging litter tray use:
Immediately after your kitten has eaten or woken up from a nap, place him in the litter tray to encourage him to use the toilet.
If your kitten does have an accident, do not punish him. This will have the opposite effect and will lead to further toileting issues down the track. In the event of an accident, clean the area well with white vinegar and baking soda or a commercial pet urine cleaner which can be purchased from any pet store. Never use ammonia-based products as they will encourage your kitten to go back to the same spot.
Keep it clean:
Make sure you clean out your kitten’s litter tray frequently, cats are fussy and will go elsewhere if their litter tray is dirty. Scoop out solids twice a day and completely empty all litter/replace with clean once a week.
How many litter trays?
Ideally, each cat should have its own litter tray as well as one for the house. So, if you have two cats, the ideal number of litter trays is three.
Choosing the right litter for your kitten:
Stick to the litter their kitten was using prior to his adoption. If you would prefer to change to a different type of litter (for example from clay to crystals), do this gradually, over a few days by mixing in the new litter with the old.
There are several types of cat litter including clay, clumping, crystals and recycled wood/paper pellets. Avoid using clumping litter with kittens as some may eat it, leading to an intestinal blockage.
With a little forethought, litter training your kitten should be a relatively easy process for both you and the kitten. Avoiding common mistakes will go a long way.