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How to potty train a kitten

Litter training a kitten

Learning how to potty train a kitten will help avoid unwanted accidents. Kittens tend to learn quickly, so with the right encouragement, they'll soon be reliably using their litter box. 

It's natural for cats to want to bury their waste, so kittens often need little encouragement to use a litter box once introduced to it. Many kittens are already potty trained by the time they come home from their breeder at around 8 weeks old, but if not, litter training a kitten is quite simple

When should you potty train a kitten? 

Kittens are ready to start being potty trained at around 3 weeks old. If you're raising a litter of kittens, you can start introducing them to a litter box at around this age. When you adopt a kitten or buy a kitten from a breeder, they shouldn't leave their mother until 8 weeks old. By this stage, they're often already litter box trained or have at least started the litter training process. However, if they still need to learn, you can start litter training them right away. 

Before you start potty training your kitten

Choose the right litter box

It's tempting to choose a litter box that your kitten can grow into, but young cats can get overwhelmed by oversized litter pans. As such, it's best to choose a small litter box, measuring no more than 11 by 15 inches and ideally closer to 9 by 13 inches. It should have a lowered front or be shallow enough all the way around for your kitten to easily get in and out. It's best to start with an open litter box rather than an enclosed one. While some cats get on fine with covered litter boxes, others are reluctant to use them because they can't see their surroundings and they can get smelly inside. Therefore, kittens should start with open litter pans while learning the potty training ropes, then you can try them on covered options down the line if you prefer.

Pick the litter carefully

Choose a litter that feels soft as hard or rough litter might put your kitten off using the litter box. Most cats prefer fine to medium grain litters rather than pellets, as they're easier to dig in and bury waste. Ideally, select a cat litter made from natural materials as kittens are still exploring the world around them and may attempt to eat them.

 Position the litter box correctly

Cats like to feel safe when they use their litter box, so position it in a quiet corner of a room where they regularly hang out, where they won't feel too overlooked. However, avoid hiding the litter tray away in a little-used room as your kitten is less likely to seek it out. If your home has more than one floor, place at least one litter tray on each floor.

How to litter train a kitten

Introduce your kitten to the litter box

Soon after you get your kitten home, take them to where the litter box is located and gently put them down on it. Let them sniff it and use it if they want to but don't force them to stay on it. This is merely an initial introduction to the litter pan so they know where to find it if they want to. 

Take them to the litter box when they need to go

Your kitten probably won't instinctively start using the litter box right away, unless they've already had some litter training experience, so it's up to you to take them to the litter box when they might need to go. Kittens are most likely to need to do their business soon after eating, drinking, playing or waking from a nap. You can also watch for signs that your kitten might need to go, such as sniffing the floor, meowing or squatting. When you think it's time for them to go potty, gently pick them up and put them in the litter box. As before, don't force them to stay there if they don't want to. This will only make them scared and anxious about using their litter pan. If they need to go, they'll probably sniff and dig in the litter before doing their business. 

Reward good litter habits

When your kitten uses their litter box, reward them for doing so, whether you put them in it or they found it on their own. This part is crucial to potty training your kitten quickly because they learn fast with positive reinforcement. You can verbally praise them but using treats is often even more effective. Conversely, you should never punish your kitten if they have an accident or don't use their litter tray. It's not only cruel to your kitten but it won't help them to learn any faster because they're unlikely to realize why they're being punished. 

What you need to buy for potty training a kitten

Van Ness Small Litter Pan

Measuring roughly 10 inches by 14 inches, this is the perfect size for a kitten, plus it has a lowered front to make it easier to get in and out. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Chewy

Naturally Fresh Unscented Walnut Cat Litter 

This unscented natural cat litter is made from walnut shells and is dust-free and non-toxic, making it safe for sensitive kittens. It's soft on the feet and doesn't track so it reduces mess.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, PetSmart and Chewy

DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop

This large, durable litter scoop is just what you need to keep your kitten's litter box clean. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

ORIJEN Freeze Dried Cat Treats

Rewarding your kitten when they use their litter tray can help speed up the potty training process. These freeze-dried treats are tasty enough to interest even picky kitties. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Chewy


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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