Do New Cats Need To Be Litter Trained?

By Langley Cornwell

Whether you are introducing a new cat into a multiple cat household or you’re bringing your first kitty home from the shelter, you’ll have to help the new family member get acclimated to the litter box.

All change is stressful for cats, and going into a new home can be a nerve-racking experience. Some cats require a longer adjustment period than others, so it’s important to do what you can to help your feline friend feel safe and secure. Even if it seems like your cat is one of the fast learners, the key factor in helping him get used to his new home and his new litter box is to move slowly.

Teaching a cat where to eliminate is much different than the rigors of house training a dog. With cats, instinct is on your side; cats naturally like to relieve themselves in the sand or dirt. Therefore, when you introduce your cat to a litter box, with a bit of encouragement he’ll happily go there instead of making a grand mess in your house.

At the beginning, it’s a good idea to restrict your new cat to a single room— but only for a short time. The transition will be easier on him if you have plenty of food and water, a bed, some toys, a scratching post and a litter box in “his” new room. Put your cat’s food, water, bed and toys at one end of the room, and the litter box at the other end of the room. Since cats appreciate privacy, he will be more inclined to use the box since it’s in a low-traffic area and away from his eating and resting area.

If possible, choose a room for your cat where you intend to keep the litter box after he’s allowed full access to the house. You’ll want to start with the litter box that you plan to use for a long time so the cat gets accustomed to it.

As soon as the two of you come home, go into the room and gently place your cat into the litter box. Allow the cat to stand in the box as long as he chooses (or not; whenever we place our cat in a litter box he jumps right out). Don’t make any sudden movements or do anything that may startle him; your cat needs enough time and space to get used to the new smell and feel of the box.

Spend time in the room with your new cat. Get in the habit of placing him in the litter box when he awakens and whenever he eats a meal or drinks water. Some cats will immediately understand what to do and others are slower to catch on. Either way, if there are no medical conditions present your cat will eventually recognize the purpose of the litter box.

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool. When your new kitty uses the litter box appropriately, offer plenty of praise and perhaps a tasty tidbit, such as the new grain free Pure Taste cat treats from CANIDAE.

Never discipline a cat while he is in the litter box or he may associate the box with punishment. Likewise, do not attempt to teach your cat to use the litter box by moving his paws back and forth in the litter. This unpleasant experience may make him afraid of the litter box.

Once your new cat is consistently using his litter box appropriately, gradually offer him access to more and more of the house. Even if you set up (or already have) litter boxes in other rooms, try to allow your cat access to the litter box in his former confinement area so that he can return there to eliminate if he’d prefer.

For related reading, check out:
Controlling Cat Litter Scatter;
The Accidental Invention of Kitty Litter;
Which Cat Litter is the Best?

Top photo by Kcheckeye 
Bottom photo by abbamouse

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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