Do Kittens Use a Cat Litter
In this article I am going to answer a question that I get asked a lot of times. The simple question is do kittens use a cat litter? In all honesty the question has slightly different meanings for the people asking that question.
Some people mean is cat litter safe for kittens, whereas others are really asking, will kittens actually use a cat litter, or is it safe for a kitten to use a cat litter. Whatever the intention of the question maybe, hopefully I will be able to provide some useful advice in this article.
By pure instinct cats will use a litter box. That is because their natural instincts are to do their toilet business in sand or in soil. Ask gardeners and they will verify this for you. It is also the main reason why you should never have an open sand play area in your garden.
So both kittens and cats will instinctively look for somewhere to do their toilet business. If they are indoors, then you want to make sure that the place is of course the litter box.
New Kittens and Cat Litter
Kittens learn almost everything in the first few weeks from their mother. Typically a new kitten will start to use a litter box in about 3-4 weeks after they are born. If you have bought or received your kitten from a pet store or from a shelter, then it is almost certain that they will have already learned how to use a litter box.
It is of course something you should ask the person from whom you are getting the kitten. If that is the case then there is certainly no further need to train your kitten. Any of you dog owners out there will know that a new puppy is a very different matter, and they will need much more training than a kitten.
However, it is always a very good idea when you bring your kitten home, that you take it to the litter box. They need to be shown the location of the litter box, and ideally that box should be placed in a quiet area. Over the next few days it is all about reinforcing the use of the litter box routine.
Place the kitten into the litter box gently a few times everyday. The best times to do that are as follows:
- First thing in the morning
- After the kitten has had a meal
- After they have woken up after a nap
- After they have been in play mode
These are the normal times that any cat will want to use a litter box. It is also a very good idea to show the kitten how to dig a little by carefully holding their front paws, and scratching the litter. This early training need only last a few days and that will be your kitten trained for life.
Depending on the kitten, this may take a short time or it may take longer. Kittens and even fully grown cats are all very different. If your kitten is adverse to using the litter box, you may need more time and I can assure you a great deal more patience.
The huge majority of kittens will easily adapt to their new litter box. It is however almost certain that with a new kitten there will be a few accidents.
Your behavior and reaction to that is vitally important. Frustrating as it may be, you have to remain calm and continue on bringing them back to the litter box until they learn to always use it.
It is also easy at this time to get angry and frustrated, but in all honesty, a kitten or a fully grown cat, does not understand what you are saying or yelling at them. It may help you to vent but to a kitten or cat it is completely meaningless.
Don’t scold or ever punish a kitten for an accident as they just don’t relate the two things. I have heard of people advising cat owners to use a squirt bottle with water to spray the kitten or cat. That doesn’t work either as again they don’t relate the accident to the punishment.
Cats don’t like being squirted with water so they will run away. However they have no idea why they got squirted in the first place.
So if an accident happens clean it up using some type of enzyme cleaner. Bring the kitten back to the litter box and carry on with the development process of getting the kitten to use the box. Once you are satisfied that the kitten is using the box, then leave them to get on with it. Cats enjoy their privacy when using the box, so just let them get on with it.
One final thing worth mentioning is that most kittens when you get them are healthy and have been well looked after. There is always the possibility that the kitten may have some type of infection that is causing them to have accidents, or being reluctant to use the litter box.
Intestinal parasites or a urinary tract disease could be the cause of that and also of diarrhoea. If you find the problem persisting then always get them checked out by a vet.
Which Type of Litter Box Should a Kitten Use?
This is a good question and actually not that easy to answer, however I will give you my opinion on this. There are many types of litter box available. These include:
- Self flushing
- Self cleaning
- Covered boxes
- Corner boxes
- Dome shaped boxes
- Top entry boxes
- Litter trays or pans
For kittens I would avoid considering an expensive self-flushing option. The noise may scare them away and in all honesty they are so expensive that not that many people can really afford them.
The most important thing to consider when buying any litter box is the size of it. Most cat owners buy one that is too small, and that is something that you want to avoid.
Now I fully understand that a small kitten may initially look very lost in a large litter box, but that small kitten is going to become a normal sized cat pretty quickly. Rather than buy a small box I would recommend using a large box to begin with.
Your kitten truly will not care that the box is too big for them. The automatic self-cleaning boxes do save you a huge amount of time, but like the self-flushing type, they may just be a bit too noisy for some cats and kittens. Any of the other types of boxes will suit a kitten and they will use any of them with a little help and encouragement.
The top entry models are a good choice if you also happen to have a dog in the house. Dogs do tend to eat cat poop and these top entry litter boxes help keep them out.
How Many Litter Boxes Do You Need?
The advice from any cat expert is that you should have one box per cat, plus one extra box. So if you have one kitten or one cat then you should have two boxes. If you had 3 cats then you should have 4 boxes. The logic behind this is that some cats will not use a litter box that another cat has used.
Believe it or not some cats like to pee in one box and poop in a different box. Cats are indeed very strange creatures and this information is based on best practise.
Where Should the Litter Box be Located
There is a lot of information about where the best place to locate a cat litter box should be. I have written a full article here on the best places to locate a litter box. However for the purposes of this article about kittens, the quick answer is somewhere they can easily access, and somewhere that is quiet.
Kittens just like cats prefer their privacy, and also like to have a clear field of view. If you happen to have a dog or dogs in the house then place the litter in a room where they can not access but your cat can. Many cat owners use a baby gate for this specific purpose.
Which Cat Litter Is Best for a Kitten?
Based on a lot of research kittens and cats always prefer a litter that feels like sand or soil. That of course goes back to their basic instinctive behavior. That means that a fine texture seems to work best for them. So a good clumping litter does seem to be the better choice, though it does come with its own problems.
Clay based litters rater than natural or silica gel litters are better for kittens as that helps them develop their natural instincts to use them and also to dig and cover up. You can read here about the advantages and disadvantages of clumping and non-clumping litters, and make your own mind up.
The best advice is to also avoid scented litters. While these are good at masking cat urine odors, generally speaking cats do not like the smell of scent around their litter. It is better not to use a scented litter and focus on making sure the litter remains clean as explained below.
Keeping Your Litter Clean
If you observe cats like I have you will notice that they spend endless hours cleaning themselves. They are very clean creatures and if you have a dirty litter box, they will simply not use it. Litter boxes should be cleaned daily and all poop and clumped litter removed and replaced.
I have written a full article here on how to properly clean a litter box. If you don’t have time to read that now then in summary poop should be scooped daily, and the litter should be fully replaced every 1-2 weeks. Don’t use a strong smelling disinfectant to clean the box as that scent may send your cat running from the litter box.