Litter Box Training a Cat

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Cats are normally pretty low maintenance pets. Unlike dogs which must be walked and brought outside for exercise a few times a day, a cat is perfectly happy to lounge around the house, napping and occasionally swatting at her favorite cat toy. While dogs can take quite a bit of time and patience to train, litter box training a cat is usually much easier.

Why Cats Use a Litter Box

The main reason that litter box training a cat is easier is because using a box mimics the way that cats eliminate in the wild. Most types of cats in the wild are vulnerable to predators. One of the ways that they try to hide from predators is by covering up the scent of their urine, which can reveal their location. Cats do this by using the claws to cover up their urine with sand or dirt.

Often when litter box training a cat, all it takes is the cat stepping in the box one time to realize that the box is a great place to go the bathroom as it will be quite easy to cover his scent thanks to all of the “sand”.


Very much creatures of habit, once a cat is trained, he will usually continue to use the litter box unless there is a medical condition or other extenuating circumstance.

Training Tips

Again, there is typically not a lot of formal training required when litter box training a cat. Of course, each cat is different. One cat might start to use the box after being tossed in just one time. Other cats might take slightly more work on the part of the owner. Here are some training tips to keep in mind.

  • Be sure that the size of the box is correct. This is especially important it you are litter box training a cat that is a bit larger. If the cat does not fit comfortably in the box, he will not be as likely to use it.
  • The location of the box is also important. It should not be placed in a high traffic area for many reasons. One is that you probably don’t want to have to look at the box all of the time. More importantly, the cat will be more likely to use the box if it is tucked into a less traveled area in the home.
  • Get rid of the competition. When litter box training a cat, you need to remove anything that would also be an appealing bathroom for the cat. The main litter box competition is household plants. Remove the plants until the cat is trained and then you can put them back. Of course, some cats will continue to prefer the soil in the plant to the litter box. If your cat continues to choose the plant over the litter box, you may have to decide to permanently place the plants out of reach of the cats.
  • If you catch your cat in the act of using the bathroom outside the litter box, simply pick him up and toss him in the box. Also, move the waste to the box as well.

How Long Should it Take?

As mentioned above, litter box training a cat is usually a very simple proposition. While each cat is different, if you find that the training has gone on for longer than a month without the desired results, you may want to consult a vet to see if there is a medical reason that the cat is not using the box. Once that is ruled out, you may want to consult with a professional animal trainer who can work with you and your cat.

What if my Cat Refuses to Use a Litter Box?

If your cat refuses to use the litter box, and you are not ready to visit a vet or professional animal trainer, there are a couple of things that you can try on your own. First, consider simply switching the types of litter. Remember that cats can be quite finicky. A cat may prefer one type of litter over another. If they are not using the box, switching litter might help.

Also, you can try moving the placement of the box. Again, each cat is different and some cats will not like one particular location, even if it is out of the way. Try moving it to another location and see if that helps.

Some find that when litter box training a cat it can be helpful to keep the cat confined for a while. Because most cats will not use the bathroom in the same place that they eat or sleep, you will have some control over when the cat uses the bathroom. Be sure that when you let the cat out, the first stop is to the litter box.

You should not have to keep the cat confined for very long for this to be effective. A week or two is all it should take.

Accidents

While litter box training a cat is usually simple, some cats may have accidents while they learn. Unfortunately, the smell of cat urine is quite strong. Do not try to remove the scent using typical household cleaners. Even if you can no longer smell the scent of the urine, that cat will be able to. As long as the cat can smell the scent of the urine, she may continue to use that spot to go to the bathroom.

You will need to use a scent remover that is specially formulated to remove the smell of cat urine. These products are usually inexpensive and are available at most pet supply stores.

Types of Boxes

One consideration when litter box training a cat is the type of box to use. There are open litter boxes, domed boxes and even boxes that will automatically scoop the waste into a receptacle.

With an open litter box, you will have to see (and perhaps smell) all of the waste any time you go near the box. A domed box often includes a filter. While the filter will not eliminate all of the odors, it does help. Also, with a domed box, you do not have to see the contents of the litter box all of the time.

Some cats have no preference while others prefer the privacy offered by a litter box with a dome.

When it comes to litter box training a cat with a box that automatically scoops the waste, there are a few things to consider. First, these boxes are quite expensive. They cost between $99 and $249. Some cost even more. Secondly, some cats are put off by the sound of the motor and the movement of the mechanisms. While these boxes use a motion sensor to only move once the cat has left the box, it only takes the cat getting spooked one time before he will not use the box anymore.

Switching Types of Litter

Once you are successful in litter box training a cat, there may be a time in the future that you want to switch the type of litter that you use for one reason or another. In order to avoid the need to start the training process all over again, it is a good idea to make the transition from one type of litter to another gradually.

Start by adding a small amount of the new litter in with the old. Slowly decrease the amount of the old litter while increasing the amount of new litter until you are using only the new type of litter. Keep in mind that some cats may reject certain types of litter, so you might have to switch back.

Litter box training a cat is not as difficult as some might think. Though some cats may require a bit more patience than others, the benefits of having a well-trained cat are worth any amount of effort.

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