Proper use of a litter box is one of the most important parts of indoor cat’s life. Inadequate training may lead to house soiling, which is number one reason for cats being left at animal shelters. It’s a sad thing, especially if we know, litter training is very easy. But at what age should kitten start litter training?
For most owners, litter training a kitten should be started as soon as they get him home. Why? Because the time when the kitten is taken home, it’s already past when litter training is best started. That is, kittens are normally brought home at age of 10 to 12 weeks (unless it comes from a terrible breeder, or it’s a rescue kitten). However, litter training should be started somewhat close to four weeks of age.
Start litter training as soon as possible
Every training (be it litter, behavior training or math) is much better when started as soon as possible, but earlier than four weeks would not make sense for litter training. Kittens start walking at age of two weeks. Before that, they are not able to get even close to the litter box. Also, up to age of three or so weeks, the kitten is not able to eliminate himself. Which again makes no use of the litter box at all.
At around four weeks of age, kitten may start digging and playing with the litter. Besides that, it’s when instinct of burying feces starts to develop. An it’s also when the litter training is best started.
By “starting a litter training”, it does not mean to complete it successfully. You may place a kitten in a litter box, allow him to dig or play. If he does not, rise his interest by showing how you scratch the litter, or manipulate his paws, simulating digging. It’s not necessary for him to eliminate in the box, when first trying it.
Normally, kittens learn the significance of various locations by age of six weeks. That is, they learn place where they should eat, play or eliminate. It’s the time when you may expect some success in litter training a kitten, because he already is able learn, that the litter box is the place to go. Naturally cats identify it by smell, touch and observing the queen and other kittens using it.
Your kitten may also taste the litter. It’s a part of examination, and if you have kids, you know they gather information by putting objects in their mouth, including not so digestive system friendly ones. Same is true for kittens, and because of their desire to taste the soil, clumping litter would not be an excellent choice. After ingestion, it will form clumps inside your kitten’s digestive system, which is not good, by the way.
Do breeders litter train kittens?
If you are getting a kitten from a breeder, ask if he has been trained to use a litter box. If not, avoid this breeder. Not because the kitten is not using the litter box. It’s easy to teach that, but breeder, who has ignored one of the most crucial parts of kitten care, is of a questionable expertise. You can’t know what else he “forgot” to take care of.
Okay, let’s assume you’ve got your kitten from a reputable breeder, who has taken care for the young with the highest responsibility. And let’s assume, the litter training is done well by the breeder.
Then should you litter train a kitten, if he’s already has been trained? Yes, you should!
First, it’s kitten has already learned the location of the litter box in his old home, but he does not know a thing about his new one. There’s a lot to learn, and litter box should be easy accessible.
It’s better to sue the same litter type (and, if possible, brand), as in his former home. Moving to new locations creates a lot of stress and confusion in kitten, and giving a litter, that he is familiar with, will lower this. If possible, get identical, or similar litter box, as well, and place it near the place where kitten spend most of the time. Normally, in the beginning, kitten should be allowed to examine one room only.
Second, you should carry on litter training, because it does not end at the age when normally kitten is taken home.
In most cases, litter training must be continued up to age of six months. It does not mean you will need to place your kitten in a litter box after every meal, play of sleep. Kitten will find his way on its own most of the time, assuming you have provided a suitable litter box. However, out of the box accidents may still happen, but will cease gradually.
This article is a part of series about cat litter and litter box issues.