You are soon going to be welcoming a new pet into your home! Congratulations!
While you are obviously looking forward to playing with them and enjoying their antics, the bond that you will share with them and coming home to them, this is also the time to prepare your home with things and routines for their comfort and use.
No one really likes to talk about kitty litter or cat litter boxes or cat feces – how to clean it out and maintain a hygienic, odor-free environment for your pet. However, this is one of the most important points for your pet’s comfort, as well as the fact that your pet’s non-use of the cat litter box is one of the leading reasons why cats are often given up to shelters.
Read on to understand how you can best train your cat in the use of the litter box. Having some basic information and being prepared to prevent a problem might save you some frustration of correcting a problem once a behavior has been formed.
First – the good news! Kittens learn differently from puppies and the normal methods of reward and punishment do not seem to work for kittens. Hence you will not have to housebreak a cat the same way that you would need to do for a dog. Cats, in fact, have a natural instinct to do their business in sand or soil and have seen their mothers using the litter box already. So by 3 or 4 weeks or by the time they are about to enter a new home, they have an idea of what they need to do and where they need to do it.
Picking a Good Location
Pick a location that is comfortable, private and accessible to your pet – one that is away from distractions, TV noise, street noise, and definitely away from kids and other pets. Avoid places near the cat food as well.
The idea is to make the path to access the cat litter box as easy and comfortable as possible so that it forms the foundation of the behaviour that your cat is expected to follow.
Changing the Location of the Cat Litter Box
If you feel the need to change the location of the cat litter box, put the new one in the expected place as well as retain the old one in as usual place. After your cat has been introduced to his new litter box location, let him use both to adjust. Eventually, begin to clean the other litter box less frequently – since cats prefer a clean litter box anyway, they will be drawn towards the fresher box and begin to use the cat litter box in the new intended location.
Making Sure Your Cat Knows the Location of Its Litter Box and Is Comfortable With It
This essentially involves showing the cat its litter box – leading him up to it repeatedly, putting him inside it and using his paws to scratch around it. They generally need to use it after they have finished eating or playing and those would be good times to put them in it to accustom them to their litter box.
Number of Cat Litter Boxes
Most owners have seen that it is most beneficial to have one box for cat plus one extra. Most cats do not share their boxes with other pets and prefer to have a clean, fresh smelling cat litter box at all times. They also really like their privacy! Obviously, if you have a bigger place, or a multi-level house, you would need to have a greater number of boxes.
Choosing the Type of Cat Litter Box
While there is a wide variety of cat litter boxes including plain, covered litter boxes as well as automatic, self-cleaning ones, the first rule of thumb is to buy one that is the right size for your pet. Your cat should have enough space to move around in it very comfortably. More often than not, they will let you know in very clear terms what kind of box is most preferable to them.
Covered litter boxes work very well for spirited cats that scratch and bury very fast with the litter and create a mess. It also works very for cats who stand on the edge and tend to miss the mark.
There are also automated, self-cleaning litter boxes these days which come in very handy if you are gone for long periods of time. They typically have sensors that trigger a clean cycle anytime the cat has used the litter box. These boxes require good quality clumping litter to work effectively.
Choosing the Type of Litter
Most litter is clay-based and clay is generally thought to have best clumping properties. There are also types of scented and unscented litter – cats generally tend to prefer unscented litter. It is good to have around 2 inches of litter covering a box. In between cleaning cycles, we suggest that you replace the litter to generally maintain a level of 2 inches at all times. Using scoop able litter is also going to make your work easier if you are going to be doing the cleaning work yourself.
Keeping the Litter Box Clean
To keep things fresh and clean and to prevent odour and to also encourage use by your cat, try to scoop out the box the cat litter box at least once a day. Change the litter completely and wash the box out at least once a week. Wash the cat litter box periodically with a good mild detergent and water and periodically put out in the sun if possible. Try not to use any strong solutions with chemical odours. The amount of effort required to clean up your cat’s litter box will also depend on the kind of box and litter and the kind of food that your cat is being fed.