How to Train a Cat to Use a Litter Box

Learning how to train a cat to use a litter box is fairly easy. As any cat owner knows, there are tons of products to choose from when it comes to different types of litter boxes, litter, and pet stain removers. If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried quite a few of all of the above.

Since litter and housebreaking are similar topics which tend to go together, I will be covering both of them in this section. You’d be surprised at how many different types of litter boxes and cat litter options there are nowadays.

Litter Box Training

One of the first things you focus on when you get a new cat or kitten is getting them to use the litter box. A huge benefit with cats is that for the most part, it’s relatively easy to housebreak them. In this category, a kitten makes it much easier for their owners than a puppy. Kittens typically know to get in the box when they need to go to the bathroom especially if you are getting them at the suggested 8-week old mark.


Bringing a Kitten Into Your Home

Usually with kittens, you want to start them off in a section of the house or maybe one room. Depending on how young they are when you get them, they may not be moving around all that much or even opening their eyes yet.

For the reasons stated above, it’s usually best to set them up in a confined space. You don’t want them crawling around and getting lost. Plus they are really small and can fit in places you wouldn’t expect.

You also want the kitten to be close to the litter box and not have to walk too far to get to it. Putting kittens in a single room when they are new to your home makes the litter box training part super easy.

Housebreaking a Kitten to Use a Litter Box

Kittens tend to know instinctively to use the litter box. You just need to put one out and show your kitten where their litter box is located which is as simple as putting the kitten in it.

Start off with a shallow box that a kitten can easily get in and out of. Although the kitten will use the box pretty much right from the start, most are a bit messy and will often kick it out of the box, so a lot of cat owners put newspapers under it and all around.

Cat Litter Box

One of the first items you need to buy when you get a cat is a litter box and litter. If you are getting a kitten, your first litter box will likely be small so your kitty can get in it. But after a few months or so, you will need to upgrade to a larger cat size one.

Surprisingly there are many choices as far as size, shape, and there are even self-cleaning ones. If you want to be fancy, you can get one that doubles as an end table or some other type of people furniture.

My cats like the larger corner litter box

How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need

One cat households typically only need one litter box. Some cats can be finicky and want two boxes, one to pee and one to poop. You may be laughing at that statement, but I have family and friends where this is the case.

Multi-cat households will vary. The typical rule of thumb is one box per cat. You can probably get away with one large box for a couple of cats, but beyond that, I’ve found the one box per cat rule is about right. I’ve gotten by with one less box than the number of cats – for example; you could probably be fine having two boxes for three cats, three boxes for four cats, etc.

What Kind of Litter Box Is Best

There is no correct answer to this question. Some of it will come down to your personal preference and/or you cat’s. People may prefer ones that are enclosed and have a door flap to keep the smell a bit more contained. Some cats like to be in a private space, but others don’t like to be confined. You will need to try it out with your cats.

rectangle -litter-box-with-flap

Our house has two different shaped litter boxes. We have a couple of the corner box types with the opening so the cats can see into it. We also have the more conventional shaped box with the flap. The corner boxes seem to be the more used ones.

Which Litter Is Best

Cat litter also provides you and your cat with many choices. There are clay, cedar, scoopable and “organic” types to name a few. Clay and scoopable tend to be more dense and heavier in weight. Cedar is the lightest option and has a nice smell. Pick one and see if you cat likes it.

I’ve been using the cedar cat litter for a while now. It smells good, it’s natural and dust free. Cedar is also a lot lighter than any of the other ones. The cats still track it, but it’s no worse than the clay litter they were using before. It has a natural fragrance which I prefer to the scented litters.


For older cats that came from a shelter or another house, they may have a preference and reject a new kind. When I say reject, what that translates to is the cat won’t use the box and will go outside the box. You may be able to get them to switch by following the suggestions below. If your cat is stubborn, you may need just to give them what they want.

Changing Cat Litter Brands

Switching litter types are possible. I’ve done it myself with success. Sometimes you can just put out a box with the new stuff, and the cats use it without an issue. Other times you may need to acclimate them to it by mixing it in with their current litter, then slowly using less of the old kind and more of the new type until you are completely switched over.

Switching from clay to cedar or finer clay texture I’ve found is easier than changing to an entirely different texture which is typically the case for the organic litter types. Trying to go from clay to litter made out of corn was a harder sell for my cats, and it didn’t work.

Relocating a Litter Box

I’ve never had any issues moving a litter box to another area of the house. You just to follow the rule above – move the box to the new spot then put the cat in the box, so they know where it is. The cat should just go to the new location.

Litter Mat

Unless you have some set up where your kitty has to go in and walk through sections, your cats will track litter. Sometimes they even kick it out, depending on the type of litter box and how open the box is for them. Buy a cat litter box mat to at least decrease some of the litter from being spread and tracked around the house.

You can purchase a mat marketed for this specifically or you can use another option. I’ve successfully used door mats which are much larger to cover more area around the box. Additionally, you can buy large doormats for much lower prices than a huge “cat litter mat” so to speak.

Cat Litter Tracking Solutions

I bought a cordless Dyson vacuum cleaner which hangs on the wall nearby. I use that thing at least once a day, if not more. It may seem like an extravagance, but if you can afford one, you will not regret the investment. It is surprising how full the little bin gets after just once through the cat box areas. In general, I’ve been very pleased with the Dyson brand products I’ve bought because I have found them to be the best vacuums for pet hair and dander.

Okay, this is somewhat obvious, but not everyone does it. Vacuum or sweep the litter box areas on a regular basis. It can be tedious, but it will help keep the litter from tracking through the house. Every time a person or animal walk through the area, they contribute to transporting it throughout your home.

For you DIY types, here’s another option. I found this video which shows you how to make a litter trapping wooden platform. If you are handy, check it out.

Pet Stain Remover

As with any pet, there will be messes to clean up whether it be an accident, acting out or vomiting. A good pet stain remover can be challenging to find, especially if you have light colored rugs. I will be sharing ones I’ve used and the results.

It is especially important that you focus on pet odor removal when cleaning up accidents because you don’t want your cat to be able to smell their scent. Even if the area looks clean, but you don’t thoroughly remove pet odor from the rug, your cat may continue to have accidents or act out in that spot repeatedly.

Get a Carpet Steam Cleaner

You may want to invest in a good carpet steam cleaner for pets if you have a lot of rugs in your home. Cats have accidents and also act out at times. Hairballs are a common occurrence and often cats will vomit up food trying to get up the hairball. Depending on what kind of cat food you feed them, it can leave hard stains to remove, especially from light colored rugs.

Another good thing with steam cleaners is they can eliminate odors too. Getting rid of the smell is important if you cat is peeing or pooping on the rug. You don’t want them to be able to leave that scent behind because they will keep going back to that spot and going again.

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