Kittens – Litter Training 9 – a few new tricks

16 July, 2007

(a continuation of the Litter Training saga with the new 2007 Litter!) 

Up until last week the kittens still weren’t getting the hang of what the litter trays were for. 

I had trays scattered about the living room, but I must admit I think my mother cat isn’t very good at training them on how to use them.  She’d use the trays in front of them, but the kittens still persisted in leaving puddles.  Plus, mum cat and Teddy were overzealous in doing botty duty and the kittens were still having their bums suctioned clean at the age of 5 weeks.

It’s my fault.  From advice given by other breeders, what I should have done is pen them with a litter tray until they learnt to use it, because at the end of the day, cats are clean creatures and don’t like being dirty. 

Instead I let them run round the living room.

Despite my errors, I have some good news to report – the kittens are getting the hang of the trays, thanks to a few tricks.

(1)  Don’t clean the litter trays too often – this leaves the scent of urine in them and attracts the kittens to them.

(2)  The first few times kittens pee, they crouch and cry out with a loud mew, almost as though they’re in pain.  When you hear that cry, pick them up and put them in the nearest litter tray.  It may not pee then, but there will be that occasion when you get lucky and the kitten will give you a look of gratitude.  Of course this means that you will have to watch the kittens like a hawk to catch it at that moment.

(3) When the kitten is in the litter tray, encourage it to pee by wiping its bottom with wet cotton wool to simulate a mum’s cat tongue, or even massaging its tummy.

(4) Put the kitten in the litter tray after or shortly after a meal.

(5) Kittens like finding corners in the room to pee in.  Put litter trays there.

(6) There are kitten and puppy training aids like Swiftie (by Bearphar) that you sprinkle onto the litter tray that attracts kittens.

(8) Place the litter tray onto a MDF/fibreboard.  This makes cleaning easier.  If the board is white, you can spot the puddles quicker.  I bought some of these MDF boards and they’re under the living room table and under litter trays.  I also have these boards on the carpet in the hallway where the previous litter of kittens had peed – I suspect there is a residual smell there, and I want to prevent this litter of kittens from emulating them.

(9) And finally, last, but not least.  Pen the kittens up when you first start litter training.  You will need a large-enough pen to contain their bed, litter tray and space for food and water.  You will also need to be thick-skinned to ignore the squeaks of the kittens as they press their noses to the front of the pen and plea to be let out.



  1. Oh thank you sooo much. These tips sound warranted. I am having a struggle training my little girl. But where do you get the Swifty attractor if not on the net?

  2. Hi Marie,

    You can get Swiftie from any good pet shop in the UK. (I think it’s made by a company called Bearphar). I’m not sure if you’re in the UK or the US? If in the US, you’ve probably got more choice in finding urine attractants for kittens. There’s even a brand of cat litter that has something added to it to be attractive to cats/kittens – unfortunately I can’t remember what it’s called.

    What problems exactly are you having with your little girl?

    OK, what I’ve learnt from this last litter is this: take away any soiled bedding and wash that thoroughly. Do not replace that bedding as that just enourages them to use the bedding instead of the litter tray. Try to confine the kittens in a large pen with just the litter tray. Do not let the kittens wander around when they are not litter trained. If you are going to let them wander around, make sure you watch them, and make sure that there are litter trays everywhere. When you clean the soiled areas, put a little of the soiled stuff into the litter tray. Put the kittens in the tray and holding their front paws, scratch the litter a little with them. Do this after every meal. If you ever catch a kitten using a litter tray, praise it to high heaven.

    Hope this helps!

    Let me know how it goes.

    Best wishes,
    The Cat’s Whiskers

  3. Sent by Marie:
    Love to Rona,

    Thank you so much. I’ve tried what you said, -scratching her paws in the litter. After I’m done, she just runs off like she has better things to do and never to return again. I’ve tried confining her only to find her each time on the other side, not a moments rest of trying to get out upon confinement. I dont think that shes scared of the litter box. She just doesn’t see a use for it -I guess. Well, I dont know. I’m getting frustrated. Maybe she’s naturally an outdoor cat or something???….that doesn’t use litter boxes??? Who knows. Anyway, I’m goin to try another confinement, and I’ll even test it in the store. How about that? Thanks for your best wishes, the same to you.

  4. Hi Marie,

    I know how frustrating it must be when your little cute kitten won’t use the litter tray! Believe me, I’ve been there, and it is possible to train them to use the tray! So hang in there, and let’s look at the options and strategies.

    It could be that if she’s previously only done her poos and pees outdoors, that she’s not used to the litter box. In which case, it will be a slower process, but it is still possible to train her to the litter box. However, if you do manage to let her out, that might be best because then she will do her business outside where she’s used to it. One of my kittens once got used to going out and doing it in the flower beds. When she went to her new home she didn’t want to use the litter tray, but in the end she learnt.

    You mentioned she was a kitten, but I can’t remember how old and whether or not she was a stray?

    Anyway, what you need to do is make sure that you get some of her kitten poo or pee and put in the litter box so that the smell is there (maybe a kitchen towel with some of the pee on it). This is very important as it tells her that the litter box has a smell that is associated with pooing and peeing.

    You didn’t mention where she’s been doing her poo and pee – if she’s soiled on carpets or other parts of your house, you must clean those spots thoroughly, either with an enzyme-based pet urine remover, or biological soap and water. If she’s peed on the bed, don’t let her on the bed. Wash all bedding in a hot wash. Just the slightest trace will encourage her to use that spot again! Vinegar helps to neutralise the pee too. If you don’t get rid of that smell then she will then to use that spot! If it’s a rug that she’s done it on, get it cleaned. If it’s carpet, you must clean the carpet. You can also cover that spot up with a box/plastic sheeting. Whatever it is, you’ve got to teach her not to use the carpet/rug/floor by removing any scent traces.

    Cats are quite fussy about the location of their litter boxes too – if the litter box is too close to their food, they won’t poo/pee in their litter box – that’s to do with their ancestors in the wild not wanting to leave their scent near food. So make sure that the box isn’t near food or water, and is in a quiet spot away from traffic so that she has privacy. I once had a kitten go to his new home and the owners put his food and water next to the tray so he wouldn’t use it. And if the litter box is in an area where it’s noisy or there’s no privacy, maybe she won’t use it.

    When I say confine her, I mean not in the litter tray, but confine her either in a kitten pen with the litter box, and a bowl of water (not next to it!), and that’s all. No bedding otherwise she’ll do it in the bedding. It is hard, but if the pen is in a room, close the door and leave her to it. The other alternative is to put the litter box in the bathroom and confine her to the bathroom. Yet another alternative is to put the litter box over any spot she frequently uses – she has associated that spot with where to do it – so by putting the litter tray there, we hope she’ll use the tray. Then once she’s doing that, you gradually move the tray bit by bit to where you want it to be.

    I only put the kittens in their trays and scratch their front paws, after they’ve eaten. That’s when they’re most likely to do a poo because their bowels start moving after they’ve eaten.

    The other thing you want to maybe change is the litter in the tray. What kind of litter are you using? You might want to try something else. For e.g. I use several types of litter. One is a pellet-type which is cheap, but the kittens don’t quite like it – they prefer grainy, sandy type litter. I like World’s Best Cat Litter, but that’s expensive. I’ve found the name of the cat litter that’s supposed to help with litter training – it’s called “Cat Attract” made by Precious Cat http://www.preciouscat.com/. It’s worth trying if you’re desperate! The site also has advice.

    Litter trays: you should match this to the size of the cat. When my kittens were very very small, I used a small litter tray – the plastic lid of a chocolate box, lined with paper kitchen towels so it wasn’t an effort to get into it. I made sure that one of the kitchen towels had cat urine on it so they realised that that was where to do their pee. Later I got larger trays, but without hoods on. Then even later, I got hooded trays, but I take the front door/flap off. What kind of tray are you using?

    Whatever tray you have, if you let her wander round the house, you must make sure there are trays in the rooms she goes into because kittens’ bladders are small, which means when they have to go, they have to go!

    Please try all these alternatives. Your kitty loves you and will learn how to use her litter box. It may take a bit of effort, but it is possible!

    Best wishes again,

  5. This is the best advice I have read on the net, and I have been searching for ages! I have two 9 week olds, and one of them stopped using her tray a few weeks back (I still can’t figure out why – nothing in her environment changed). I have been at my wits’ end, but am making slow progress by confining both of them to the bathroom while I am out, and today we had some fun playing in the litter boxes together, which resulted in my problem kitty having a wee in one of them! Thanks so much for the advice – it’s good to know there are options.

  6. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for your kind commments! I’m glad that sharing my experiences have helped. I’m really chuffed.

    That’s fantastic about your one of your kittens using the tray! I know how it feels when it suddenly happens.

    You are not alone. I am a member of a breeders’ forum, and one of the top 5 topics is … litter training. Some of the breeders have got the hang of it better than I do. They just confine the kittens in a kitten pen without any bedding, just the trays. They say that eventually the kittens get tired of doing it where they’re sleeping and start using the trays – cats, they say, are at the core of their nature, very clean creatures. It also helps if you’re around when they first start litter training so you can intercept them before they do it in the wrong place. But for that you need like eight arms and eyes on the back of your head!

    BTW, don’t keep the trays too clean in the beginning so that there’s some scent left of their previous wees and poos. Or if you prefer to clean the trays, put a little of the previous litter in it so there’s always a scent to remind them what the litter tray is for.

    I hope that your kittens continue to be good and use their litter tray. It may take a bit more work on your part, but I’m sure they will master the litter tray soon.

    Let me know if you need any more advice, and have you any photos of your kittens?

    Best wishes and good luck!

  7. Hi Sarah,

    I was re-reading your comments, and you said that one of the kittens had stopped using her tray a few weeks back, even though nothing in her environment had changed.

    This could be due to a number of reasons:

    — maybe she wanted a litter tray of her own? I don’t know how many trays you have, but the general rule is one per cat, plus one. If you clean frequently, then one per cat may be enough. I had a kitten go to a home where they had two litter trays for her, side-by-side which she liked because she used one to poo in and another to pee in. Cats are funny that way.

    — maybe the other kitten prevented her from using the tray? It sometimes happens with dominant cats that they stake their claim to territory, this includes litter trays. A friend of mine who has 3 Bengals and 2 other cats told me that her Bengal boy loves to hide near one of the litter trays and waits until the Somali tries to use it, and then pounces! He thinks it’s fun, but the Somali thinks it’s bullying. So, the solution in her case was to have litter trays in different locations of the house. After all, the Bengal boy could only stake out one tray at a time. So, you need to keep a lookout for the dynamics between the kittens and see if one of them is stopping the other from using the tray.

    — inappropriate elimination is sometimes caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), like human cystitis. The cat will have a full bladder and want to go, but when it goes in the tray it experiences pain, so may associate the litter tray with pain and decide to do it anywhere convenient. Often this means the front door mat, the bathtub, beside the bed, on the bed. Anything to alert the owner that it’s in pain and wants the owner to do something to help it. In that case, you need to consult a vet to make sure it’s a UTI and not something else, and get medication from the vet. Or, if you prefer, homeopathy, which I have found to be amazingly effective even in one instance when antibiotics didn’t work.

    — something scared the kitten when she/he used the tray. I heard of someone who used to locate the tray in a conservatory, next to the glass wall. The neighbour’s cat used to get into the garden, and one day appeared at the glass wall just as the cat was using the litter tray, giving it a shock. After that the cat stopped using its litter tray, so they had to move the litter tray to somewhere more private and cave-like.

    It seems though that your kitten is taking to her tray again. I do hope that she stays happy with her litter tray again.

    Best wishes.

  8. I have a year old cat and her 4month old runt. Her other kittens went to good homes and have had no problem using the litter box, but sketchy refuses to use anything but cloth items. I have cleaned up every place and thing she was using and got her a privacy tray that momma cat doesn’t use and all I got from that was her using my bed. My husband and I work all day, and I’m concerned about leaving her locked up in the spare restroom with her tray. Would that affect her personality at all? She is very loving and I wouldn’t want to make her feel neglected or anything. Your site is awesome, by the way. The best I have found.

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