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Teaching your kitten the basics

Teaching your kitten the basics

Training your kitten to use a litter box and eventually a cat door, requires time, patience and a plan. Everyone in your home needs to understand how the training works, so they can reinforce good behaviour and support success.

Tip 1

Litter tray training

If your kitten doesn’t already know how to use a litter tray, this will be their first major challenge. Or potentially, your kitten will arrive partially trained. Either way, patience and rewards will help you with this process.

Choose a litter tray
Getting an appropriate litter tray will make toilet training easier. The sort of tray you will want to buy depends on who else is living in your house and whether your kitten will eventually be given the freedom of outdoors.

  • If your aim is to eventually train your kitten to go outside to the toilet, an open litter tray will be adequate.
  • With open litter trays for kittens, choose a model that has high sides to prevent litter flying everywhere during vigorous digging and burying.
  • If you have small children and dogs in the house, an enclosed litter tray is a good idea. It will prevent the kitty litter (and its contents) becoming a rather unhygienic play thing.
  • If your kitten will always be an indoor pet, definitely go for the enclosed litter tray. It will give your cat privacy and help to manage the smell. Most enclosed litter trays have replaceable carbon filters to reduce odour.
  • For indoor living situations with multiple cats, the most suitable number of litter trays is the total of cats in the house plus one, so a three-cat household needs four litter trays. This prevents territorial issues that can lead to cats toileting in unsuitable places.
  • Litter tray liners are an optional extra that make it easier to change the litter.

Find a litter type that works for you

Tip 2The main types of kitty litter available are: clay, clumping, crystals, recycled paper and wood pellets. The best cat litter for kitten is the one that fits with your living situation.

  • To avoid putting used litter in the rubbish, choose one that can be spread on your garden as mulch or soil conditioner. Basic kitty litters made of clay, recycled paper and wood pellets are all suitable for garden disposal. However, we don’t recommend spreading used kitty litter on vegetable gardens.
  • If you live in an apartment or home without a large garden, you might want to choose a litter with odour control properties. Crystal cat litters absorb moisture quickly and prevent odours. (This is not recommended for young kittens in case it is ingested). You can also buy a type of clumping cat litter made from clay and charcoal, which captures odours.
  • All litters have potential to be flicked out of the litter tray, so it’s a good idea to make your kitten’s toileting place on a non-carpet surface. Alternatively, you can protect carpet around the litter tray with a plastic sheet.

Tip 3

Kitten litter training

Kittens that spend longer with their mum before they’re adopted have a better grasp of the right place to toilet. Kittens that are adopted young – eight weeks or less - may take a little longer.

  • Each time your kitten finishes eating, drinking, playing or sleeping, pop it into the litter tray.
  • When your kitten successfully pees or poos in the litter tray, give them praise and pats in a calm, positive way. Don’t get too excited or you'll scare them.
  • Giving your kitten an edible reward (piece of dry kitten food or a cat treat) after success is another way to reinforce good behaviour.
  • When your kitten is exploring new rooms, be watchful – sometimes toileting in an area nearby is easier for a kitten than trying to find their litter tray.
  • Don’t punish your kitten for going in the wrong place; just pick them up after the accident and put them in the litter tray. Say nothing. Praise is reserved for the correct behaviour.
  • As your kitten begins exploring more areas of the house, consider relocating the litter tray to a central area.

Tip 4

Keep the litter tray clean

Keeping the litter tray clean is important, as many cats don’t like to use a dirty litter tray. How often you change the litter tray depends on the type of litter you use; at least once a week is recommended.

  • Remove poops as soon as they appear. They can be flushed down the toilet if there’s no clinging litter, otherwise bury them in the garden (not vegetable patch) or put them in the rubbish.
  • Litter soaked in pee can also be removed using a litter scoop. Don’t flush litter down your toilet, because it may cause a blockage.
  • When changing the litter entirely, wash the litter tray with water and detergent before adding clean litter.
  • Any accidents your kitten has around the house will need to be cleaned quickly and thoroughly with pet-safe cleaners. Any residual smell could attract your kitten to the same spot for another accident.

Cat door training

A cat door is convenient, for both you and your cat. Here’s a quick introduction to the types of cat doors available and some basic training tips.

Tip 1 cat door

Types of cat doors

The best type of cat door for you will depend on where you want to put it and how many cats are in the neighbourhood. You’ll find a full range of cat doors at Animates, as well as experts who can help you to make a good choice.

  • Microchip cat doors only work for your microchipped cat (or cats). If there are lots of other cats in your neighbourhood (potential cat burglars), this is the way to go. Batteries need to be changed regularly or your cat might find itself locked out. 
  • Magnetic cat doors also only admit your cat, but your pet has to wear a magnetic collar key.
  • Standard cat doors let any cat through, but they can be locked in various ways.

Cat door tip 2

Training your kitten to use a cat door

It is recommended that kittens shouldn’t have complete outdoor freedom until they are six months old, fully vaccinated, desexed and microchipped. If you do cat door training earlier than this, be prepared to lock the door and keep your kitten inside when you’re not around.

  1. If your cat door has a removable flap, take it off for initial training. If the flap isn’t easy to remove, pin it open with duct tape. 
  2. With your pet on the inside and you on the outside, use toys or kitten treats to entice the kitten through the hole. Calling your kitten’s name will help too.
  3. When your kitten successfully walks through the door, reward them with verbal praise, playtime, or a treat (or all three).
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your kitten is confidently going backwards and forwards through the door.
  5. Put the door flap back in or remove the duct tape, then repeat steps 2 and 3. If your kitten is hesitant about pushing against the door flap, push your hand through to make the flap swing. Your kitty will soon get the idea.