You know you’re a Cat Breeder when …

6 May, 2010

… you receive a photo of a kitten in a litter tray and his owner tells you it’s the first time he’s used it properly, and instead of going “ack!” you and his owner both glow with pride and make happy noises.

This adorable little fella is Mittens who was last seen in a previous post (his mother had been waking his owner up at 4am in the morning). 

Naomi, his owner, had been informed that the mother cat would teach the kitten to use the tray.  So when accidents started happening, she asked me for tips on litter training. 

I told her that contrary to what she’d been told, some mother cats don’t consciously teach the kittens how to use the tray.   Instead, they teach by example, by using the litter tray when the kitten is around.  I, myself have observed my mother cat squat in a kitten tray that’s way too small for her and do a wee, just to show her kittens what to do.

Anyway, here’s the standard advice I sent Naomi:

  • no bedding in the box
  • don’t use bleach to clean up mistakes (because bleach contains ammonia which smells like pee)
  • confine kitten to a small space
  • don’t let kitten wander far away from a litter tray
  • encourage kitten to use tray after meals
  • praise kitten if he’s used the tray successfully.

For a few days, it looked as though nothing was working.  And I didn’t dare tell Naomi that I’d had kittens who took weeks to master the art of using a litter tray.

And then … oh, the relief of it all!  As you can see from the photo above – one clever kitten and from Naomi and myself, sighs of relief!

(fyi – this is one very smart, very clever kitten – and he was about 5 weeks’ old when this photo was taken.  It took him less than a week to figure out what the scratchy stuff was and why mom made such a fuss when he peed outside the tray.)



  1. I can’t believe I didn’t know bleach has ammonia in it! Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen mom kitty ‘teach’ baby kitties about the litter tray, but perhaps they do when I’m not watching. A few more tips (and I don’t know how valuable they are), but I put a tiny tray out as soon as the kittens can waddle and encourage them to play in it, stagger through it, etc. I set them in the tray frequently (esp. after meals as you suggested), and I also keep small pads (like makeup pads) available and when a kitten is in the tray looking confused, or seems to be “looking” for a place I set him/her in the tray and wiped his little bum to stimulate him which it often will. I also leave the a kitten’s first ball of urine (or some of mom’s) in the litter box so they can smell it. They are always confined in a corral with the litter tray until 4 – 5 weeks of age. I’ve never had a kitten not figure it out and have had very few ‘accidents’ during the corral phase and none after.

    • Thanks, these are great tips! We should hire ourselves out to desperate owners whose kitties won’t be potty-trained!

      I haven’t tried wiping the kittens’ bums though.

      We tried the leave-a-little-bit-of-pee-in-the-tray trick too – mum’s pee because she’d already mopped up baby’s pee by then.

      Yeah … bleach … ammonia. Or that’s what I’ve been told. Also, it’s alkali, and something acidic is better. The breeders in the UK clean with a biological detergent (the sort used for laundry) which has enzymes to digest dirt, followed sometimes by a urine eliminator.

      And yes … my mother cat used a litter tray meant for kittens. It was a small little triangular-shaped one, meant for hamster cages, with very very low sides. She peed in it and it was full to brim in no time – trying to carry it without spilling the pee was impossible! And oh … the smell of adult cat wee – ack. Two kittens were watching her pee, one with its head angled to the side – very cute.

      Best wishes,

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