Kittens – litter training 4 – aka Don’t do as I do

23 August, 2006

Like I said, I’m still new to cat breeding, and where litter training is concerned, I was relying on that mysterious innate trait of kittens to gravitate naturally to a litter tray. I’ve since discovered that latter assumption is a myth: not all kittens are equal where litter training is concerned, so I’ve decided to draw up a tip sheet of what to do and not to do to save you the hassle of making the same mistakes.


1. Do not let kittens roam freely until they all know how to use the litter tray. With a big litter it’s hard to know which kitten has used the tray because it’s not as if the poos are colour-coded to the kitten (sigh. if only). Most breeders are savvy and confine the kittens to the pen until they all use the tray. They also make sure there’s a litter tray right outside the door to the pen so the kittens have to step in it when they exit the pen.

If you let kittens roam freely, it’s likely you’ll end up with a room full of litter trays to catch those moments, because kittens just do it when they want to and they don’t seem able to walk 6 inches to do it in a tray. Now is now!

I currently have 6 trays downstairs.

2. Do not put newspaper in the litter tray or wrap the tray in plastic bags. While this may save time when you clean the trays, in reality it programmes the kitten to use any newspaper you leave lying on the ground as a litter tray. Ditto plastic bags. Kittens do not discriminate between today’s and yesterday’s editions of The Times, and whether you’ve read it or not.

3. Do not allow kittens near rugs with fringes. Fringes seem to trigger something in kittens that make them want to pee/poo.

4. If kittens poo/pee on a rug/doormat, immediately, that’s IMMEDIATELY wash the rug/doormat. Otherwise kitten will smell the residue and will associate rug/doormat/that particular area as having suitable peeing/pooing potential. Then you will have to break the habit which is difficult.

5. Do not allow kittens run of garden until they are litter trained. Otherwise they will prefer to use garden and not litter tray. This will create problems if they go to homes without outdoor access and gro-bags.


1. Do get lots of litter trays. Most books say that the rule of thumb is one litter per adult cat.  I think you can get away with fewer for kittens, especially when they’re just starting out because they’re not as prolific at that stage. Start with small shallow ones, like the lids off large Ferrero Roche trays (“Oh Ambassador, your Ferrero Roche boxes make divine litter trays …”). Get ones for rabbits/ferrets that have cut outs in the front section for easier access to small creatures.

2. Use a cheap-ish litter so you can change frequently, at least once a day. Cats/kittens don’t like using dirty litter. It’s the equivalent of flushing the loo after you use it. I use Yesterday’s News. Make sure that if the kittens sample the litter it won’t clog up their insides. For that reason, something organically-based, like Yesterday’s News, Shweat Scoop or World’s Best is safe.

3. Do add a little dirty litter to the fresh litter. This is really applicable only in the beginning when you want to encourage kittens to learn what a litter tray is for.

Some breeders say that Catsan seems to attract cats to pee/poo. I wonder why, but it’s a tip worth remembering.

There’s also a brand of cat litter that contains something that attracts cats to it – must try to remember what it’s called.

4. Bleach is excellent for disinfecting litter trays. I have shares in the company that manufactures Milton Disinfecting solution.

5. Get a good cat-urine odour destroyer.

6.  Do encourage the kittens to use the litter tray after they’ve eaten – you do this by putting the kitten in the tray and moving their front paws so they “scrabble” the litter.  This may trigger the pee/poo urge.

7.  When you send kittens to their new homes, try to include a bag of the cat litter, plus a bag containing a little used cat litter – when they get to their new homes this allows them instant recognition of where their litter tray is.

There are other dos and don’ts, and I’ll post them as and when I make the mistakes.

In the meantime … happy litter tray training!



  1. Would be very grateful if you have any advice re: our kitten who uses the litter tray but who keeps stepping in his poo whilst he is trying to cover it up. He also sometimes doesn’t spread his legs enough whilst doing his poo!! Otherwise he seems a very intelligent kitten. Please help!!

  2. Hi Helen,
    I sent this to your e-mail address – don’t know if you got it?

    Many thanks for your e-mail.

    Now … I am not an expert … just sharing my experiences so far in my blog. So maybe someone else has another explanation – I encourage you to post this question to as many breeders as possible.

    The first question I would ask you is: what kind of litter are you using?

    I sometimes find that with the pellet type of litter, it doesn’t quite provide that crunch factor for scratching – it’s too large and feels like pebbles is the closest I can come to it. With a softer or sandier litter (like say, OKO plus or Catsan) it’s easier for a kitten to scratch and cover its litter. At the moment I am using Yesterday’s News which is recycled newspaper made into hard pellets – it’s cheap so I can change twice a day and absorbs very well, but it’s hard on the paws.

    I also read in Vicky Halls’ books (she’s a cat behaviourist) that as cats grow up they may prefer softer litter that is more “soil-like” to pellet-type litter.

    So … you may want to change the litter you use if it’s uncomfortable to your cats paws – you want something that encourages it to scratch.

    It’s true that certain litters encourage the “scratching” – something with “crunch” and a small particle size.

    Secondly, I find that I need to keep litter fairly clean in order for the kittens to use the tray and scratch. Cats are fastidious creatures! At least once a day is the ideal to aim for.

    Thirdly, if say the answers to one and two above are “a good soft/crunchy non-pellet litter” and “I clean everyday”, then maybe you need to teach the kitten how to scratch the litter. Some cats don’t cover up – I suspect it’s all due to the litter they were brought up with. If say, you immediately pounce on the litter tray as soon as the kitten has a poo, then he may get lazy and think “why bother?”. I had a kitten go to a home last year and she used to do it in the garden and got used to just squatting and never covered it up – apparently in her new home she goes outside and just squats and later her owner picks up after her.

    Maybe … and only maybe … you need to show him how to cover up his litter. My mother cat makes a big deal of peeing/pooing and scratching and digging to China in front of her kittens.

    Please let me know if any of this makes sense … I know what a hassle litter training can be.

    Looking forward to your reply,

    And a further question:

    Sorry, one more question … how old is your kitten, and what breed is he?

    I’ve heard that Persians have problems with pooing/peeing – it’s beneath their dignities to have to cover up!

  3. Hi,

    I have just got a kitten yesterday she is 10-12 weeks old, i dont think she had a great home b4 hand and was happy to take her away.

    She has not used her litter tray thought, i am not even sure if she was trained to use one, any cat i have had b4 now has always gone in the cat litter tray as soon as i have brought them home.

    This cat however will not use it, it firstly done a wee on the leather sofa, i immediatley cleaned this but 1st took some stones from the litter try to soak up the scent then placed them back in the litter try.

    Since she has pooed behind the sofa and now gone to using her bed to wee, just discovered this….

    Do you have any advice for me, !!!!!!

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