Animal Medical Center of Southern California

24/7 General + Emergency Care (310) 575-5656

2340 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California

Animal Medical Center

While most cats can be trained to use a litter box, it’s important that you help your kitten get off to a good start.

Housetraining Your Kitty.

While most cats can be trained to use a litter box, it’s important that you help your kitten get off to a good start. If possible, obtain a kitten that has already bee litter box trained in his previous home.

The Right Stuff

When you get your kitten, find out what type of litter was used in his previous home. Use the same type of litter at first, then gradually introduce a new brand if necessary. A plastic box is the most practical and easy to clean. The sides should be low enough that your kitten can easily climb in and out. Place the box in a relatively quiet area with minimal traffic that is easily accessible. Kittens are creatures of habit. Once you find a litter, litter box, and location that the cat likes, stick with it.

Some kittens dislike certain scents or litter liners, so it is usually best to start with an unscented clay or clumping litter in a clean, dry litter box. If you already have cats at home, provide at least one additional box for each new cat. Most kittens will use kitty litter in preference to other surfaces, except perhaps the soil of a potted plant. To prevent mishaps, keep plants out of your kitten’s reach or cover the soil with pinecones or decorative rocks.

To ensure that your kitten uses his litter box, keep him within sight at all times. If he stops playing and begins sniffing around, gently carry him back to the litter box. Praise any sniffing or scratching and give him loads of praise or a small food treat for eliminating. Whenever you are unable to watch your kitten, restrict him to a small, cat-proofed room with his litter box. Continue this for at least the first two weeks, until he is using his box regularly.

Using a covered litter box can help control the odor in your home and can be helpful for kittens with poor aim. If your cat is reluctant to use a covered box, you might first try using a large cardboard box with the entry end left open and then switch to a covered box if successful.

It’s a Dirty Job but You’ve Got to Do It

You must keep the box clean so your kitten will return to use it. To start, it is better to err on the side of being too fastidious about the cleaning. Scoop the box at lest once daily and more often if you have the time. Replace litter regularly so the depth remains constant. Clean the box once a week, unless you are using a clumping litter (which might only need a complete cleaning every two to four weeks). To clean the box, empty the contents, use soap and hot water, then rinse well to remove all soap odor.


Once you find the litter, type of box, and location your kitten likes, avoid making sudden changes. If you need to change the litter box location, place a separate box in a new location but do not take away the old litter box until your kitten is using the new location. If you decide to switch brands of litter, gradually replace the old litter with the new over a couple of weeks. Alternatively, add a second box with the new litter but do not remove the old litter until the cat is using the new one.

Since it is important that your kitten feel comfortable where is eliminates, try to prevent anything unpleasant from happening when he is near his litter box. Don’t give your cat medicine or scold him when he’s near the box. Locate the box in an area free of startling noises, such as a washing machine, radiator, or furnace. To keep your kitten’s litter box away form children or dogs, use a baby gate or a cat door to give him some privacy.

Causes of Housesoiling

If your kitten eliminates outside his box, it won’t take long for him to develop a habit of using this undesirable area. Therefore, it is essential that you immediately identify and correct the cause.

These are some common causes of litter box problems:

  • The brand of litter was changed.
  • The litter has scented additives or the odor of cleanser/deodorants.
  • The litter box is not cleaned frequently enough.
  • The litter box was changed or moved to a new area.
  • The kitten was frightened or something frightening happened in or near the box.
  • The kitten has medical problems.
  • The kitten has found a more appealing area or surface.

When Mistakes Occur

When mistakes occur, thoroughly clean all soiled areas with a commercial odor neutralizer. Many cats will not soil where they eat or play, so you can place the pet’s food bowl or toys in the area that has been soiled. To decrease the appeal of the soiled area, place a sheet of plastic carpet runner (nubs up), two-sided tape, an aversive odor (perfume, citrus, commercial spray), or a motion-detector alarm in the area. Never punish your kitten for making a mess outside his litter box. Punishment can make the problem worse and might cause the kitten to fear you, especially if you swat him or rub his nose in the mess.

If your kitten continues to eliminate out of the litter box, take him to your veterinarian. A physical exam and lab tests can determine whether there are medical problems. For example, bladder disease, diarrhea, and constipation can irritate your kitten when he eliminates and cause him to avoid the box.


Spraying is a form of territorial marking that may begin around six months of age. The cat will back up to a vertical surface, such as a wall or sofa, and spray urine against it. Although neutering eliminates most spraying, some neutered cats do spray. If the problem persists after neutering, seek advice from your veterinarian.

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The Animal Medical Center of Southern California is devoted to providing the best medical, surgicalm and emergency critical care available in veterinary medicine. As important as our medical expertise is, we believe that excellent care combines state-of-the-art veterinary medicine and surgery with a focus on compassion and respect for your pet and for your family.

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