Allow me to let you in on a little secret; most kittens do not need to be trained on how to use a litter box. The only reason you may need to "assist" your kitten in this area is if he or she was taken away from their mother too early. Kittens should be allowed to stay with their mothers until they reach ten weeks of age. You might be able to get away with removing them from mom at eight weeks; however, ten weeks is the ideal age if you want a healthy, well-adjusted kitten.
When a kitten reaches three weeks of age they are usually ready to begin using the bathroom on their own. Before this milestone, they will still need the assistance of their mom in order to "go." Yes, mommy cats teach their kittens how and where to eliminate, however, kittens are also born with a natural potty instinct (so they have two things going for them in the "potty department.")
What type of litter box is best?
If you hadn't noticed, kittens are small. Because most kittens only stand five inches tall, you will need to help him out a bit when it comes to his litter box. Average size litter boxes may be difficult for kitty to get into, therefore, he will simply eliminate outside of the box, or, god forbid, inside of your favorite pair of shoes. An ideal kitten litter box should only be one to two inches in height. Many pet supply stores sell kitten litter boxes, or, if you wish, save your money and use a cardboard box.
Next, obviously, is litter selection. It is very important that you use a "kitten friendly" litter. Like most baby animals (this includes humans) they explore just about everything with, you guessed it, their mouths. Regular clumping litter that you use in your adult cat's box SHOULD NEVER be used in a kitten's litter box. Why? Well, as I just mentioned, kittens explore with their mouths. If they ingest clumping litter it has the potential to cause serious internal problems which in turn…will mean expensive vet bills! There are several different litters on the market that are NOT HARMFUL if eaten. World's Best Cat Litter, for example, is made of corn…which will NOT hurt your kitten if he decides to eat some for breakfast.
It is important that you place your kitten's litter box in an "easy to get to" location. Kittens don't have very good memories so their litter box should be out in the open. Don't make going to the bathroom more difficult for kitty than it needs to be. Place his litter box in a familiar location where he spends a lot of time. When he gets older, you can change not only the type of litter you use, but the location of the box as well.
If your kitten just doesn't catch on and refuses to use his litter box, don't worry, there are a few things you can try. First of all, take some poop and pee from your adult cat's box and place it into your kitten's box. As gross as this may sound, it will make your kitten's box smell…well, for lack of better words, like a cat toilet. This just might clue him in that he is in the right place when it comes to "doing his business." Another thing you can do is place your kitten inside of the litter box. Next, take a cotton ball and gently rub over his genitals in small circles. More often than not, doing this will make your cat urinate…which is exactly what you want. After he "goes" take his paw and gently show him how to cover his urine with litter. By doing this, you are acting as his mommy (awwwww). Mommy cats lick their kitten's genitals in order to get them to urinate. I know, more than you probably ever wanted to know. But hey, I'm just giving you the facts, people! It is also a good idea to place your kitten in his or her litter box right after they eat. Kittens often have to use the "toilet" shortly after they eat a meal. Make him stay in his litter box for at least three to five minutes. He may dig and play, but eventually, he will probably "go."
Please, NO Yelling!
In closing, I have two more important bits of information for you when it comes to training a kitten to use their litter box. First of all, if your kitten has an accident and you find poop in the corner of the room, do not scold him. Your kitten will have NO IDEA what you are yelling at him for and all you end up doing is scaring him to death (this is not a good thing as you don't want a scaredy cat…do you?). Secondly, do not buy your kitten an automatic cat litter box. While these state of the art cat toilets are amazing, they scare kittens! Automatic cat litter boxes often make noise, while a regular kitten litter box does not. It is important to make your kitten's bathroom time peaceful and pleasant. If you don't, well, you probably will end up with poop in your shoe. Or worse. Good luck!
AnnaCia on March 12, 2012:
Hi, Thank you for this article. Very good and so useful. Vote up
Cygstarz (author) from Maryland on July 30, 2009:
TW: Thanks for the comment and good luck with your new bundle of fur!
T W on July 29, 2009:
Thanks for the advice/help! My kittens just turned 3 weeks old this past sunday, and are moving and playing, and now peeing on the carpet apparently lol!!