Training your cat to use the litter tray can be very easy or can be very difficult1 In an ideal world your cat has been litter trained by the breeder and you have no problems other than scooping out from a litter tray. However sometimes we may adopt an older cat that has never been litter trained. This is where it can be far from an ideal scenario!
Of all the stress that goes with owning a new pet, litter training often ranks among the highest. Unlike reptiles, fish, and birds that stay in some kind of container, free range animals like kittens and puppies could go at all hours of the day or night. While puppies require a lot of extras when it comes to housebreaking, cats are much easier.
The Convenience of Cats
Veterinary surgeon and bestselling author James Herriot once wrote, “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.” But cats are also one of the most convenient pets that can share your house. Because they self-groom then unlike dogs there is no need to take them off to the groomer for things like bathing or to have their teeth brushed.
Cats use a litter tray, which means that there is almost no reason to ever go outside in the rain in the middle of the night if they have to go to the bathroom! And even more importantly, because they use a litter tray, they are easier to housebreak than almost any other pet. Here are some tried and true tips for training your cat to use the litter tray.
Top 5 Tips For Training Your Cat to Use the Litter Tray
- LOCATION – Where is your cat’s litter tray? Is it in a spot that provides a perfect combination of privacy and easy access? This may be different depending on several factors including the layout of your house and the age of your cat. Cats might avoid going to the litter tray if it is too close to a noisy appliance, like the clothes dryer.
- FOOD & WATER – You wouldn’t store human food in the bathroom, so don’t subject your cat to that either. Cats do not like the smell of the litter tray while they are trying to eat, and can you really blame them? Plus having the litter tray away from their eating area reduces the risk of litter (or worse, the waste itself) blending with their food or water.
- PET DOORS – If your cat’s litter tray is in the basement, bathroom, closet, or some other out of the way spot that is closed off by a door, then consider adding a small pet door. This will let your cat access the litter tray or escape the room even if someone has accidentally shut the door.
- LITTER TYPE – The most popular litter types are clay, sand, gel, and wood based pellet litter. Each one has its own benefits and downfalls. What type you choose will depend on what your cat likes best. If you have multiple cats in the same household, you might find that you need more than one type as different cats could each want its own litter tray.
- SCENTS – Scented cat litter can help humans cope with the odors associated with the litter tray, but it can actually have an adverse reaction for cats. Instead of using scented litter or air fresheners to deodorize your cat’s litter tray, use a thin layer of baking soda along the bottom of the box and keep the litter scooped at least once per day.
When Your Cat Refuses to Use the Litter Tray
Cats are prone to serious bacteria and viruses that cause cold-like symptoms. These are not only extremely contagious to other felines, but when left untreated it can cause upper respiratory infection in cats which could require prescription medication, or perhaps a stay at the local vets. The state of the litter tray could have a lot to do with how quickly your cat recovers from some type of disease.
There are some times when your cat just refuses to use the litter tray. This could be due to illness, but it could be due to a change in lifestyle. For example, dog whisperer Cesar Millan states on his website that introducing a dog to a cat in a way that leaves a bad first impression can really freak your cat out. This could result in your cat hiding and avoiding the litter tray, especially if accessing the box means crossing paths with the dog.
Cleanliness is Next to Feline-ness
Just like keeping your bathroom clean prevents your human family members from catching a virus, keeping the litter tray can help keep your cat healthy. If one cat is sick, you can help prevent the others from catching it by switching out the litter more frequently, cleaning the floor around the litter tray, and disinfecting the tray itself.
You wouldn’t want to use a dirty bathroom and your cat feels the same way about its litter tray. How frequently you clean the area depends on the number of cats you have as well as their health and age. However whenever you are cleaning up your cat’s litter area, be sure to wear disposable gloves during the process. Afterward, dispose of the gloves, paper towels, and sponges for the health of your human family members.