Cat toilet training: clearing up your litter training questions

Are you preparing for the pitter patter of tiny paws in your home? If you’re about to become a cat owner, you’re probably full of questions, like what you should call your new pet, what to feed your cat, and how to litter train a kitten.

Of course, we can’t help name your new furry family member. However, we are full of advice when it comes to caring for felines; our friends at Cats Protection have already helped us clear up what cats can or can’t eat and now we’re answering all the most common questions about cat toilet training.

From litter training kittens to tips for cats experiencing toilet trouble, here’s what you need to know...

Will my kitten arrive toilet trained?

Unlike pups, kittens tend to arrive home litter trained. This is because their mums teach them good toilet hygiene early on.

How do the clever mummy cats do this? Until their kittens are around three to five weeks old, queens — the name given to unspayed female cats — will stimulate their kittens to wee and poo by licking their tummy or perineum. They’ll then carry their young away so they do not soil where they sleep, and clean away any accidents in or around the nest. The clean kitties will also cover wherever they do poo or wee with a loose material, like soil or litter.

This instinctive behaviour reduces the risk of infection and avoids unwanted attention from potential predators. The behaviour is picked up by the kittens and consequently passed down from feline to feline, and is the reason cats very rarely soil their nest area or neglect to use a dedicated litter tray.

While your clever new pet is likely to arrive toilet trained, they'll need to be directed to their new toilet area. However, if you already have a cat, the new arrival may be able to sniff out the designated area using the odour of their feline friend’s waste.

When to start cat toilet training?

A suitable litter tray should be ready and waiting for your kitten as soon as they arrive home, which should be at around eight weeks of age or older. If your new kitten comes home younger than this, then you’ll need to step into the paws of mummy puss and start litter training as soon as possible.

If your kitten is really young, you’ll need to stimulate their toilet behaviour using wet cotton on their tummy or behind, then let them go to the toilet directly into the litter tray. Then, at about four to five weeks old — or as soon as your curious kitten begins to wander and explore — you’ll need to commence cat litter training.

What will you need for cat litter training?

Here’s a handy list of what litter training kittens will need for success:

  • A pen or crate
  • A litter tray that is shallow enough for your tiny kitten to step into
  • An unscented litter that is light enough for your kitten to move and rearrange
  • A litter scoop and poo bags
  • Absorbent sheets or towels to clean up those inevitable little accidents
  • Odour eliminator spray
  • Plenty of patience

How to litter train a kitten: step by step

Step one: Using a pen or crate, section off a small area that includes your kitten’s food, water, a snuggly bed, and their litter tray. As your kitty will likely have arrived knowing not to soil their bed, they’ll naturally see their litter tray as a suitable place to use as a toilet. However, to avoid causing your kitty confusion, start by keeping the area relatively small.

Step two: Of course, your kitten will need plenty of supervised playtime outside of their pen or crate area. During this time, if your kitten displays signs of needing the toilet, such as beginning to rake or dig, then quickly guide them back to their dedicated litter tray.

Step three: Eventually, your kitten will be regularly and reliably using their litter tray. At this point, you can increase the size of their dedicated area until they’re free to roam — just be sure to always give them clear access to their cat litter tray.

Also, it’s important to note that our feline friends understandably don’t like to eat or drink near a toilet. So, as your kitten grows and litter training comes to an end, be sure their toilet is positioned away from their food and water. New cat owners should also provide plenty of water supplies, to encourage their kitty to stay well hydrated.

How long will litter training take?

Providing they’ve received proper training from either their moggy mum or their owner, then a kitten will learn how to use a litter tray fairly quickly. In fact, kittens will commonly associate a litter tray as their toilet by the time they’re four to six weeks old.

Problems litter training your kitten?

Cats are extremely clean creatures and can quickly develop an aversion to a litter tray. So, if you’re having problems litter training your kitten or are pet sitting a cat who is continually having accidents, it’s worth wondering whether it’s because...

  • The litter tray is not clean enough — a litter tray should be checked and cleaned twice a day, and completely cleaned on a weekly basis
  • The litter is not deep enough
  • The litter is scented
  • The litter tray is positioned in a particularly public or busy area of the home
  • The tray is too small or not covered
  • Your cat has experienced a urinary infection or obstruction, and so associates the litter tray with pain
  • They can’t access the litter tray easily enough
  • They did not have appropriate litter training in kittenhood

If your kitty or a cat in your care is having toilet troubles, remember that TrustedHousesitters members can call the Vet Advice Line to talk to an expert, day or night. Simply dial the number on your dashboard to get help and advice from our team of dedicated veterinary nurses.

Watch our short video explaining how to find a pet sitter with the wonderful world of TrustedHousesitters — the kind and caring alternative to catteries and kennels.