House training your cat

Bringing a new kitten home is fun, but there are some toilet and hygiene issues to deal with. Here are a few tips to make this easier.

Any new cat should stay indoors for at least two weeks to help it orientate itself within it’s home and surroundings. Cats should be given freedom to roam throughout the home, so they can look out of every window to understand the position of the home in relation to the surroundings before they go outside. Kittens are very vulnerable to outdoor hazards including injury, infection and disorientation, so must be kept indoors until at least 2 weeks after their final vaccination. Some owners and vets choose to keep kittens indoors until they have been neutered.  Some environments are so hazardous for cats that their owners choose to keep their indoors all of their lives – these are ‘house cats’.

Whether you are getting a kitten or an adult cat, one thing is for sure – you will have to confine your cat to your house for a period of time.  Inevitably this means that you’ll have to cater for your cat’s toileting requirements indoors!


The first thing to do is to buy a litter tray and get your cat to use it.

There are several types on the market including covered ones, lipped ones and even electrical self-cleaning ones. Do some research to discover which one is right for your cat.

Choose the best place to put the litter tray, making sure your cat knows where it is. Keep the tray away from food and water bowls, as this will put the cat off using it. Position it in a quiet area where the cat won’t be disturbed, and avoid placing it near air fresheners.  You may decide to have multiple litter trays around the home so you cat is never caught short!

Get your cat used to it by gently placing him/her into the tray, speaking with praise and reassurance. It is learning that the tray is a nice, clean place to be.

When you see your cat relieving itself in the litter tray, give praise in a gentle voice. Once it has finished, give your cat a gentle stroke it and a treat. If you catch your cat about to go to the toilet elsewhere in the house, gently place it in the litter tray. If you catch your cat in the act and not in the litter tray, do not shout or punish it.

Cats like clean litter to stand on, so remove faeces and clumps of urine soaked litter frequently. Cats can be very fussy about the type of litter they tread upon, so if your cat is not using the litter tray, have multiple litter trays with different types of litter so you can determine which one they prefer.

Some cats in households with multiple cats will ‘guard’ litter trays and prevent other cats from using them.  This is why you should always have at least one litter tray for every cat, and one spare!

Litter trays with lips are great to prevent cats from kicking litter out of the tray, but sometimes a wide lip can prove difficult for older, arthritic cats to step over.  Deep-sided litter trays can cause similar problems for cats recovering from illness or surgery, and it may be helpful to provide some steps up to the tray.

If you are comfortable that your cat can start to explore the neighborhood, don’t remove their litter tray immediately. There will be an interim period when your cat will choose to toilet both inside and outside. A tip to get your cat to adjust to going outside, is to add some compost or earth and blades of grass from the garden to the litter tray, and allow it to use this new litter for a few days.

At the same time, place a second litter tray outside with the same mix of earth and grass as the indoor tray, in a private place where you’d like the cat to toilet in the future. This transition is unlikely to be a problem, because most cats usually prefer to go to the toilet in a natural environment, and soon forget having an indoor toilet.

Once the cat is content to use the outdoor tray remove the indoor one. When the outdoor litter tray is no longer used, remove it altogether.

Although cats take different periods to learn, with patience and praise they should adapt in no time and become a joy to own.

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