How to litter train your cat

Cats are usually very clean animals, however if you have adopted a new cat or kitten you may find that they have trouble using the litter tray at first.

It’s important to remember to be patient with your cat and never punish them if they go to the toilet outside their litter tray. They won’t understand why you’re telling them off and it may cause more problems as they’ll get stressed and anxious.


Why won’t my cat use the litter tray?

There are lots of reasons your cat might not want to use their litter tray. We would recommend visiting your vet first to rule out any underlying medical issues.

  • Stress. If cats are stressed, they are more likely to have accidents around the house. You can read up on how to prevent your cat from getting stressed on our pet care pages.
  • Illness. Cats might also urinate outside of the litter tray if they have a urinary tract problem, especially if they are quite vocal when trying to pee. You will need to take your cat to the vet for treatment if they are showing signs of a urinary problem.
  • Age. Very young kittens who have not been taught by their mother may not understand what the litter tray is for. Similarly, older cats who aren’t used to a litter tray may not want to use one at first, especially if they’re used to going to the toilet outside.
  • Location. Where you put your cat’s litter tray is very important. Our vets recommend that you should provide at least two trays for your cat. These should be away from their food and water areas in a quiet part of the house.
  • Litter. There are lots of different types of litter available and our felines are known for being fussy! Some cats prefer ‘gravel’, others love the clumping sand style litter. There’s a chance they may not be using their litter tray simply because they don’t like the type of litter you’re currently using.
  • Tray. As with litter, our cats can be fussy about their litter tray as well. Some prefer higher sides, some are happy with a standard tray and some cats like the covered ones.


How can I get my cat to use the litter tray?

If your cat just won’t use their litter tray, there are several steps you can take to help them learn to use it. Again, never tell your cat off as you could end up making the situation worse.

Step one – litter tray location

If you’ve set up your cat’s litter trays in a certain area they aren’t using, pay attention to where they do go. Try putting a litter tray down where they’ve been going to the toilet to encourage them to go in the tray.

Keep a close eye on your cat if they look like they want to go to the toilet. With kittens, place them in or near their tray to encourage them to go to the toilet in there. It may take them a few times to grasp the idea but keep trying.

Step two – the right litter and tray

If you’ve moved your trays to the place your cat always seems to go to the toilet, but they still aren’t using it, it might not be location that’s the problem. Try experimenting with different types of cat litter – you may find they have a preference. Some types of litter can be uncomfortable on their paws, others may not absorb urine very well which can mean the cat avoids getting their paws wet in there.

If they seem happy with the litter and dig around but still don’t like to go to the toilet in their tray, try using a different tray. Some cats prefer the hooded trays over the standard open ones. If they are straining to go to the toilet, seem uncomfortable or haven’t been toileting as normal, then it is always best to seek advice from your vet immediately.

Step three – reward good behaviour

Once you’ve found what tray and litter your cat prefers and where they like their tray, keep an eye on them when they look like they might need the toilet. Give them lots of praise once they have been to the toilet in their tray so they know they’ve done something really good.

It may take a bit of time but your cat will eventually always go in their trays. Remember to keep an eye on them and take them to the vet if you think they are having problems going to the toilet. If you have a male cat who is straining to pass urine , then this could be a real emergency and he will need to be seen by the vets immediately.


Top tips for litter training

  • Always keep your cat’s trays as clean as possible, as they won’t go in a dirty tray.
  • Never punish your cat for having an accident. Instead, reward the good behaviour so they see the litter tray as a good thing.
  • Experiment with different types of litter and trays if they aren’t using their trays at first.
  • Clean up any accidents straight away to stop them from going in the same place again.
  • Keep your cat as stress-free as possible. A stressed cat is more likely to have accidents.

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