House Training Cats

Ann Roberts
Kitten in the litter box

House training cats is essential for happy co-habitation, and it's easier than you might think. Cats are really very clean animals, and they have a strong instinct to relieve themselves in a regular spot, and not soil their entire territory. However, some cats and kittens experience emotions and urges that cause them to work against their inborn instincts.

How to Litter Train Cats

House training a cat is usually a relatively easy matter as long as you follow a few basic guidelines.

Essential Equipment

You will need:

  • A litter box - You can choose a standard tub model, or go whole hog with a self-cleaning litter box.
  • Fresh cat litter - Clay litter, recycled newsprint, Fuller's Earth and sand are a few possible choices.
  • A slotted litter scoop - This is for removing solid waste and litter clumps.

The Training Process

  1. During the initial training period, you should confine your cat in a small area with its litter box. This might be in a utility room or the family bathroom, but the idea is to keep your cat or kitten in close proximity to the box so it will easily find it when needed.
  2. A cat instinctively covers its eliminations, so your pet should naturally be attracted to the litter, and will likely begin using the box without much further ado. However, if your cat is going someplace other than its box, you need to transfer some of the feces or urine into the litter so its scent will draw your cat there for subsequent potty stops. Then, be sure to clean the soiled area with diluted white vinegar or an enzymatic cleaner made especially for cat urine to remove the smell of the accident.
  3. Although you need a small amount of your pet's eliminations to make the litter more attractive, an overly dirty litter box is a deterrent to house training cats. Clean the box every two to three days as needed, but add just a bit of the soiled litter on top of the clean to keep your kitty on the right track.
  4. In just a few days, your cat should be using the litter box without further problems, and you can now allow your pet more freedom. If your pet begins to have accidents in other areas, go back to step one, and thoroughly clean the site of all accidents.

Nuisance Spraying

Occasionally, house training cats doesn't go as smoothly as planned, and some bad habits can arise. Spraying urine is perhaps even more objectionable than the average household potty accident, and it can happen for several reasons.

  • Urinary tract infections often lead to inappropriate spraying since your cat doesn't have full control over bladder spasms. If your cat begins spraying around the house, it's a good idea to have him/her examined by your vet to either rule out a medical cause or receive treatment for the illness.
  • Sexual maturity can also trigger the spraying behavior as your cat instinctively wants to mark its territory. If this turns out to be the cause, having your cat spayed or neutered should resolve the problem.

The Peninsula Humane Society reminds pet owners that periods of stress, a change in environment, or a general lack of understanding regarding the litter box can leave a cat ripe for litter box issues. The most important thing about dealing with house training problems is to deal with them swiftly before the behaviors become ingrained with your cat. Contact your vet right away if you suspect your cat has a medical condition that is interferring with traiing.

A Word About Cat Litter

There are several different types of cat litter available to line the litter box with, but there is a bit of controversy over which one is best for your pet.

Clumping cat litter has been the most popular choice since it's invention over fifteen years ago, but there has been some concern over use of the product's main ingredient, sodium bentonite. Sodium bentonite is a highly absorbent material that can hold up to fifteen times its weight in moisture. As the product absorbs cat urine, it clings together in a clump which is very easy to simply scoop from the top of the litter box, leaving plenty of clean litter behind. It's this scoopable quality that makes clumping litter so appealing to owners.

Some cat lovers have expressed concerns that cats may accidently ingest sodium bentonite pellets as they clean their paws, believing this could result in intestinal blockages. There is also concern that as cats scratch in the litter, they might breath in silica dust, another by-product of clumping cat litter.

To date, there seems to have been no serious scientific study as to whether these concerns are valid, but they do give owners something to think about when deciding which litter to use. In fact, many veterinary sources such as VetInfo.com are expressing concern regarding the potential hazards of clumping clay litter. In response, some pet owners choose to go with "eco-friendly" litters manufactured from recycled newspaper and by-pass the clumping types. This may actually be a reasonable choice for kittens because they tend to explore everything and may be tempted to taste the litter in order to figure out what it is.

A Supportive Source

The good news about house training cats is that after your first pet is trained, any new additions to the feline family will usually train even faster since they have a "seasoned" cat to show them the way. Still, cats are often unpredictable. As mentioned previously, environmental and psychological stressors can have a profound effect on your cat's ability to learn new behaviors. Providing your cat with a calm, relaxed and clean environment will help to set the proper stage for housetraining.

House Training Cats