In order to avoid litterbox problems in adult cats, it is extremely important to get your kitten off to a good start. Fortunately, most kittens use a litter box easily since cats prefer to dig and scratch prior to elimination. By choosing a suitable litter, placing it in an appropriate location, keeping it clean and dry and encouraging its use, most kittens can easily be house trained. If you have more than one cat, add at least one litterbox for each new can to ensure there are enough clean boxes available at any one time and to reduce the possibility of confrontation or conflicts at the litterbox (cats are very territorial about litterboxes). If your kitten is having difficulty with using the litter box there are a few things you should consider.
Litter boxes must be appealing and accessible. Young kittens do not have a strong location or litter preference and may not be motivated to search for a little box of litter in a large house. Place boxes in a convenient area on each floor (remember your cat's convenience is not necessarily yours). It is a good idea to keep your kitten within eyesight at all times or to confine it to a room with its litter when you cannot supervise. If your kitten stops playing and begins purposely sniffing around, there is a good chance it needs to go the bathroom. Gently pick the kitten up and carry it to the litterbox. Praise any sniffing or scratching and give it loads of praise or a small food treat for doing it's business properly. Do this for at least the first two weeks until it has established a regular pattern of using the box.
Litter box: Because your kitten is small the size of the box may not be an important factor now, but as it grows it may be important so just be sure the box is of ample size for your cat to gain entry be able to turn completely around in without it's back side having to worry about hanging outside the box. It should be big enough that an adult cat can stretch and scratch. If your box has a lid on it (again is a convenience to the owner and not the cat), this can sometimes deter cats from entering. If your cat is going just outside the box, you might consider taking off the lid and see if this eliminates the problem. As mentioned earlier, if you have more than one cat then you need more than on box. Your kitten does not want to offend other cats in the home so may be reluctant to use their box and would prefer his own.
Litter type: Usually kittens are not picky about litter, but you should consider this if your kitten is preferring the rug around the box or your favorite plant. You may offer several boxes with different litter types (unscented is preferred by most cats). Some kittens may prefer a different texture or type. Traditional clay litter, clumping litter, recycled newspaper, plastic litter pellets, cedar shavings, even a little potting soil or sand added to the litter may prove to be more appealing.
Cleanliness: Clean the litter box daily. More frequently if you have multiple cats. Cats are a very clean species and dirty litter boxes are not acceptable to them. Empty daily, clean entire box weekly.
Accessibility: Location, location, location. You may have a specific location where you prefer to locate the box, but it must also be acceptable for your kitten. The box should be easily accessible to your cat, especially when it wakes up from a nap or after eating and playing. If it is located in an inconvenient spot or hard to access, your cat will seek out a more convenient spot. If it is located in an area that is highly trafficked, where there may be interruptions from dogs or people it may deter its use (who wants to be disturbed by a dog sniffing you or a human opening the door to go outside while you are trying to do your business). If it is located near an air vent or other such machinery that make noises intermittently, again very disruptive. Try to determine if they is anything about the location that might be deterring to your cat.
If your kitten still does not want to use the litter box, please contact us. It is important to find a solution early before bad habits are permanently formed.