How to Litter Train a Kitten

Persian kittenSo you have an adorable new Persian kitten in your home. Now you need to think about how you will keep your home clean and smelling fresh for both its human and feline occupants by ensuring that your Persian is properly litter trained.

Most cats will arrive in your home litter trained, having learned from their mother at a young age while still with the breeder, but this is not always the case. Also, changing environments can disrupt the litter habits of a trained kitten, so you may need to retrain them.

Regardless of whether they are trained or not, you will also want to do whatever you can to ensure that they develop and maintain good litter habits throughout their life for their health and wellbeing. This is particularly important for Persians who can struggle to maintain their cleanliness due to their long hair and can also be prone to health problems if they build up bacteria on the skin under their hair.

So let’s get started…

Choosing a Litter Tray

Persians are generally indoor cats, so they will be exclusively litter tray users. This means picking the right tray and litter for your Persian cat is extremely important.

Your breeder will probably let you know the type of tray and litter they use, and it is advisable to use the same tray and litter. This is because your cat will be accustomed to this set up, and also, as a Persian breeder, your breeder is likely to have a good knowledge of what will work best for Persians.

If you do need to select a tray from scratch, for Persians an open tray, rather than an enclosed tray, is probably your best bet. While closed trays are often popular both because cats prefer some privacy while eliminating, and because it helps contain odours, this is probably not the best choice for a Persian.

Open trays give your Persian more space to move, meaning that they are less likely to need to contort themselves to fit in the tray in a way that will get litter caught in their long hair. For this same reason select a larger tray than is generally recommended for the size of your cat. Again, this makes it easier for them to move meaning that they are less likely to get litter caught in their hair and can more easily avoid clumps and dirt in the tray.

Also, a covered tray can mean out of sight, out of mind for you, which means that you may forget to clean it. Persians like their trays clean, and an open tray will allow you to easily keep an eye on whether this is needed.

Alternatively, self cleaning automatic litter trays can be a good solution.

Selecting your Litter

If your breeder hasn’t recommended a cat litter, go for something dust free that is fine to medium grained. Your cat will prefer the fine grain as it feels softer, so dust free is important to ensure that it is less likely to get caught up in their hair. Avoiding dirt and litter in your cat’s hair is extremely important for Persians as their hair makes them highly susceptible to this, and it can be difficult for them to clean themselves thoroughly. Also consider something hypoallergenic, to minimise problems if catching does become a problem.

Look for something that is clumping. Your cat will prefer this as it is easier for them to avoid areas of the tray which they have already used, and it also makes it easier for you to quickly clean their tray on a regular basis.

Something made from clay works well, as it is fine grained, clumping, and good at containing odours, which is especially important if you are using an open tray.

There are several litters out their designed and marketed specifically for long-haired cats, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something appropriate.

Most importantly, when you find a litter that your Persian likes, stick to it! Don’t be tempted by sales, cats don’t like change!

If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to quickly find a tray-litter combination that your cat will be happy to use. However, if your cat proves particularly finicky, do experiment with different trays and litter until you find something that suits.

Location

Now that you have selected your tray and litter, it is important to make sure you put it in the right place in your home to maximise your cat’s willingness to use the tray from day one, and their long-term comfort.

Although it seems like a good idea, do not place your cat’s tray in an out of the way place – it needs to be easily accessible. Find a convenient but private place in the parts of the house that your cat uses regularly.

Also, keep the tray a good distance from your cat’s food and water, as instinctually they will not eliminate too close to where they eat.

Cleaning the litter

All cats, but particularly Persians, can be extremely fussy about the cleanliness of their litter tray.

In general, you will want to keep the litter quite deep, but there is no rule of thumb as some cats like very deep litter, while others prefer something shallower. Start with a depth of about 2 inches, and adjust depending on your cat’s habits. If you find that they are digging all the way to the bottom of the litter before eliminating, go shallower. If this isn’t a problem, you can try deeper. Don’t worry if you need to go shallower, extra litter doesn’t help keep the tray clean.

The only way to keep your cat’s tray clean is for you to clean it regularly. Scoop your tray at least twice daily, and really any time that you see it has been used. There are litter bins, akin to nappy bins, that you can keep close to your cat’s tray to quickly scoop out clumps while on the go.

How often you need to change all the litter in the tray will depend on the type of litter you use. Some should be changed completely every week or so, while others can simply be topped up for up to a month. Follow the advice on the litter’s packaging, and keep an eye on the smell and consistency of your cat’s litter to decide how often it needs to be changed.

When you do change the litter, clean the tray thoroughly, but avoid using strong smelling cleaners or chemicals, as these may be toxic to your cat, and they can find the smell off putting.

Some people prefer to use liners in their litter tray to facilitate cleaning, and your Persian shouldn’t have a problem with this. You do need to ensure that the liner is properly anchored as it is easy for it to get caught in your cat’s claws and get pulled up, creating more mess than it prevents. If you do choose to use a liner, just monitor how your cat manages with it.

Consider putting a sprinkling of baking soda at the bottom of the tray as it helps keep the odour down, but doesn’t have a strong smell that will repel your cat. Don’t be tempted to put air fresheners near the litter tray, as again, this is likely to put your cat off using this location.

Persian cat in litter box

Number of Trays

Always keep one litter tray per cat. While it is hard to ‘assign’ cats individual trays, your cat won’t use the tray if it is occupied, and may also avoid it if it has been used recently – like people who won’t use a toilet that hasn’t been flushed. Sound advice, in general, is to have one tray per cat, plus one extra.

Even if you only have one cat, you might want to consider multiple trays, especially if you have a particularly fussy Persian. This means that they will always have a clean tray if they are particularly fussy about cleanliness, or don’t want to use a certain area of the home to eliminate for some reason.

Training

While your cat shouldn’t need training as they should have learned to use their litter tray while with their mothers, if you do need to train your cat, or your new kitten is having trouble adjusting to using the litter tray in their new environment, there are several steps you can follow.

  1. Place your cat in their tray when they are likely to need to eliminate

Cats generally need to use the litter tray after a nap, when they have been playing and running around, or after eating. If you have a good idea of when your cat needs to eliminate, at that time place them in their litter tray to help them learn that this is the appropriate place for them to do their business.

Similarly, you can play with your cat near their litter box, knowing that this will encourage them to need to eliminate, so again you can place them in their tray when they are likely to need to eliminate.

Your cat may decide to sleep in the tray, but if this happens don’t worry, it won’t continue.

  1. Show your cat how to use the tray

When you have placed your cat in the tray, show them what they need to do using your own fingers. Before they have gone, dig a shallow hole using the tips of your fingers. After they have eliminated, again cover their feces using your fingers. They will learn from observing you.

Do not grab their paws and simulate these actions with their paws. This can be quite a traumatic experience for the kitten and may create negative associations with the litter tray.

If your cat goes on the floor, scoop it into the tray, and again show them the process of covering the feces.

  1. Eliminate problem areas

If there is an area in your home, other than the litter box, where your cat is continually eliminating, place their food and drink bowls here. Cats are hard wired not to eliminate near where they eat, so this will break this habit.

  1. Try a short confinement period

If showing your cat the location of their litter box and how to use it doesn’t work, try a short confinement period.

Find a room in the house where your cat can be safely and happily confined. Place their bed and food at one end of the room and their litter tray at the other. Make sure the room is large enough that they aren’t too close together causing your cat distress.

Your cat’s desire to eliminate away from their food should encourage them to use the tray. If they continue to go on the floor in the room, sprinkle the floor with litter. Eventually, they should go on the litter and begin to associate the litter with eliminating.

  1. Consult your vet

If your cat continues to have problems, never punish them! They aren’t trying to cause problems, and this may be a sign of a medical problem.

Urinary tract problems may cause your cat to urinate on tiles, cement or wooden floors, as they are looking for something cool to the touch and smooth against their skin. Keep an eye open for blood in the urine which again can be an indicator of urinary tract problems, or other kidney and bladder problems.

If you notice any of these problems, or your cat persists in not using the litter tray despite training, take them to the vet for testing. There may be a simple medical problem that can easily help your kitten become more comfortable using their litter tray.

Final Thoughts

Good litter tray habits make for a happy and healthy cat, as well as a clean and happy house, so it is important to take the time to ensure that your kitten is properly trained to use their tray.

However, maintaining your cat’s health and happiness through good litter habits doesn’t end with training. It is important to regularly monitor your cat’s litter habits and make small adjustments if their habits change. Cats can decide that they don’t like a certain cat litter or try location for reasons which seem inscrutable.

Also, never become complacent about the cleanliness of your cat’s tray, this can manifest in poor behaviour as a response, and in Persian cats, poor cleanliness as it is harder for them to use their tray in comfort.

Because of their long hair, Persian cats may have continual problems with properly cleaning themselves after using the bathroom. In order to minimise mess, odour and risk of infection, you may need to trim the hair in that area. Also, don’t forget to bathe them regularly, which is good practice for Persians generally.

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