Bringing a kitten home is an exciting time for many pawrents. A new bundle of furry joy brings fun, love and cuddles to your home. But there are a number of steps to tackle before you can comfortably let your new kitty roam free in your home.
From choosing the right food and treats for your kitten to settling them into their new environment, there are plenty of things to consider when welcoming a new kitty. Without a doubt one of the least pleasurable things – for both you and your cat – is toilet training. Spotting the tell-tale signs to know when your kitten needs to relieve herself and having the right kit will keep accidents to a minimum.
Spotting the tell-tale signs
Toilet training your kitten is much different to housetraining your puppy. Dogs need to be trained to let their pawrents when they need to go outside, whether that’s barking or scratching the back door. Cats, however, should be taught to go to the bathroom as and when they need to, whether it’s in the litter box or out in the garden – which they could have open access to through a cat flap.
In order to train your kitty to go to the bathroom in their litter tray, you must place them on the tray when they need to go. So, you need to be able to pick up on when your cat needs to go to the toilet in order to get them onto the litter tray in time. There are a number of tell-tale signs to look out for, including…
After eating and drinking
Just like us humans, kitties will need to go to the bathroom after eating or drinking. Shortly after feeding time, take them directly to their litter box, place them on the tray and leave them to it. After all, you wouldn’t want someone watching you go to the bathroom. Give your cat some privacy. Return after a few minutes and, if your kitten has successfully used their litter box, give them plenty of praise and attention.
Digging or kneading
When going to the toilet outdoors, cats tend to look for private areas to avoid being seen as they are vulnerable during this time. Outdoor cats will generally look for soft ground, in order to cover up their mess afterwards. Your kitty may seem to be digging and pawing at the ground when they need the bathroom. If you spot your cat exhibiting these behaviours, pick them up and take them straight to their litter box, again rewarding them if their trip is successful.
Before going for a number two – or sometimes a number one – cats often get into a squatting position. When litter training, or even afterwards, if their tray is blocked or messy, you may find your cat squatting in unsuitable places around your home. If you do notice this, be sure to quickly pick them up and take them to their litter box, training them to go there themselves next time they are desperate.
If your cat’s litterbox is blocked off or unclean, they may cry or paw at the door when they are unable to get out. Firstly, it’s important to listen out for these attention cries. A cat flap or door is also a great addition to your home, allowing your cat to come and go as they please.
But also consider where you place their litter tray. It should be easily accessible, without regular blocking by doors or chairs.
Litter training basics
Before you even bring your kitty home, you should pick out a litter tray ready to go. It’s important to choose the right litter tray from the start, to carry your cat through their lives. You can buy a new litterbox as and when you need them. But consider how quickly your kitten will grow. Buy one that will be big enough for them fully grown, not just in their first few months.
Remember, cats are notoriously private animals, so they don’t like being in an open space when going to the bathroom. Be sure to place the litter box somewhere quiet and away from food and within easy access.
Some kitties may prefer an enclosed litterbox, with walls and a roof so your cat can have their own little room within your home. This is also great for containing the odour of the litter tray.
Which cat litter is best?
There are a number of different types of litter available, all with their own pros and cons.
Clumping litter uses a form of clay called sodium bentonite, which is very popular with both cats and pawrents due to its easy clean-up nature. When clumping litter gets wet (from your cat using their litter tray), the sodium bentonite expands and forms hard clumps – hence the name – making it easier to scoop out soiled areas.
One of the main issues with clumping litter is that it can cause intestinal problems for your cat if they digest the particles. Some cats, especially kittens, tend to eat their litter, especially when they’re getting used to their new box. When ingested, these particles can block the digestive system and can cause stomach issues for your kitty. If you do use clumping litter, be sure to keep a cautious eye out.
Recently, silica gel crystals have become a popular litter option for pawrents. The gel particles are significantly better at absorbing fluid and odour than other litter variants, keeping your home smelling fresh. Crystal litter also tends to last a little longer than clay variants, so you may need to change it less frequently.
However, crystal particles can get stuck in your kitty’s paws, sometimes feeling sharp on their feet. Cats can even nibble and lick at the crystals when cleaning their paws, which can cause intestinal issues if your cat ingests too many of them. Crystal litter is also more expensive than other forms of litter, so it’s worth weighing up your options.
There are a number of litters available that are biodegradable, including corn, wheat and pine. These are more environmentally friendly as they will naturally decompose quicker when you dispose of litter. They also produce little or no dust, meaning they’re a healthy option for those living with asthma – including both cats and pawrents.
The only problem with biodegradable litter is that it does not clump in the same way as clay litters, so it can be more difficult when it comes to cleaning. Some cats may also have an intolerance to some of these natural ingredients, so be sure to look out for any signs of irritation, upon which you should switch your litter material.
Scented vs unscented cat litter
It might be tempting to choose a scented litter to mask odours but typically kittens and cats prefer unscented litter which is more natural.
To clump or not to clump?
Ultimately your cat is boss and will have a particular preference towards one. If you choose one they’re not keen on, they might choose to toilet elsewhere, so do your research and test which litter your kitty prefers to avoid toilet mishaps.
How often to change cat litter?
It’s important to clean your cat’s litter tray or box every day. If it starts to get too messy or begins to smell, your cat may not be willing to go inside. Clumping litters are easier to clean as you can remove the soiled areas effectively, but it’s still important to completely remove all the litter, clean out the tray or box and refresh it with completely new litter at least once a week.
Some disinfectants or cleaning bleaches can be toxic or poisonous for your cat, so you should choose one with limited ingredients, or simply use hot water and a sensitive-friendly detergent. You may also want to use a little lemon juice or scented anti-bacterial cleaner to neutralise the scent of the litterbox. Use rubber gloves and a damp cloth to wipe over the surfaces, making sure it’s entirely dry before adding fresh litter to the tray.
Using positive reinforcement
Like most animals, and humans for that matter, one of the best ways to train your cat is to reward them for good behaviour. The same approach works for litter training, too. If and when your kitty uses their litter tray for the correct reason, whether you’ve placed them on it or they’ve gone of their own accord, it’s important to reward and praise them.
Plenty of positive feedback, tickles and cuddles will teach your kitty to associate the litterbox with positivity and love, leading them to use it more consistently. If you’re using treats to reward good behaviour, you should make sure you’re not overfeeding your kitty. Only give them treats with plenty of nutrients and limited additives – and remember to steer clear of human foods like cheese.
We like to use our Scrumbles Gnashers Dental Bites, which are perfect for using as a tasty and beneficial litter training reward. Packed with delicious British Free Run Chicken to reward your kitty, plus an active ingredient clinically proven to reduce plaque formation and support healthy little teeth.
After all your hard work and efforts litter training your cat, it can be frustrating and disheartening if they have an accident. But remember, even fully trained adult cats may have an accident from time to time. And punishing them will not stop it from happening again. In fact, they may not even understand what they are being punished for.
Be sure to continue rewarding your kitty for positive behaviour to keep their training consistent. There are a number of reasons that your kitten may start to have accidents, after months of litter training:
- Their litterbox may be too dirty, and they may be put off going inside
- Your cat may be seeking attention that they aren’t getting elsewhere
- Your female cat may have reached sexual maturity and struggle to hold their bladder
- They may feel their territory has been invaded, causing them to mark their personal space with their scent
If none of the above seem to be the impacting reason for your kitten continuing to have accidents, you may want to seek a vet’s attention to get your cat back on track with their training.
Promote good digestive health
To encourage healthy and regular bowel and bladder movements, it’s important to make sure their kitten food has the best ingredients with all the nutrients they need. As obligate carnivores, cats and kittens need plenty of protein from chicken and fish to keep them happy and healthy. Choosing a recipe packed with probiotics will aid and promote great digestive health.
At Scrumbles, we tailor our cat food recipes specifically for both adult cats and kittens to make sure they’re getting all the goodness they need for their health. Try our recipe for your kitties with our personalised subscription boxes, choosing the best food and the perfect amount of nutrients to keep your cat healthy.
Be sure to let us know below whether your cat loves our recipe as much as ours does. And if you have any handy tips and tricks for litter training your kitty, let us know over on Facebook or Instagram so we can help all the other pawrents out there!
Whilst you're here, why not read:
- When Can Kittens Go Outside?
- Kitten Vaccinations
- Let's talk About Feeding Kittens
- A Guide to Bringing a Kitten home