Cats and litter training – Part 1

When we moved house, we decided that one of our cats, whom we had adopted as a stray and who had always gone to the toilet outside before this, was going to become a fully ‘indoor’ cat as we didn’t want to risk her getting lost in the new neighbourhood. Of course, the big problem there was teaching her to use a litter box, as in the past she had always shied away from them.

We started off by getting a litter box for her exclusive use, and moved the other cat’s litter box upstairs so that neither of them would get confused over which one to use. At first she simply wouldn’t use it, preferring to go in corners of the room or on newspaper that she could tear up later to cover her ‘doings’ when she had finished. So we moved the litter box into the corner of the room she used most often and filled with with torn-up newspaper. Whenever we saw her using this makeshift litter box, we made sure to give her lots of praise and treats so that she knew that what she was doing was good.

After a couple of weeks of this, we started to put less newspaper into the litter tray and more cat litter (we used clumping so that it was easier to clean – apparently our cat thought that going to the toilet in the same place all the time was quite unhygienic and so we had to clean the litter box twice as often as with our other cat!). She didn’t like this at first but we continued to give her positive reinforcement whenever she used the litter box. Occasionally we had to lift her into the litter box if we saw her about to go in one of her old corners, but gradually she got used to the idea. Now she uses a tray filled with almost entirely cat litter and has no problems with going, as long as it’s kept clean for her.

One important tip I’d offer when litter training an older cat who doesn’t seem to have been introduced to litter boxes before is to make sure that they have their own litter tray if there are other cats in the house. At one point our other cat used her litter box instead of his own, and she refused point blank to use it again until it had been scrubbed clean and disinfected. She felt that it wasn’t her territory any more because it smelled of the other cat.

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