When kittens are about four weeks old, they will begin to play in, dig through and explore loose, soft materials such as dirt or litter. As a result of this investigative digging, kittens begin to relieve themselves in these materials. So, kittens do not have to be taught by either their mothers or humans to relieve themselves in soft, loose materials, or to dig and bury their waste. Kittens are simply born knowing how to do it.
It’s not necessary to take kittens to the litter box and move their paws back and forth in the litter. Doing so may be an unpleasant experience for them, causing them to have some negative associations with the litter box.
However, litter boxes that don’t provide an acceptable place to eliminate (from the cats’ point of view) may cause cats to relieve themselves elsewhere. That’s why it’s important to provide a litter box that meets the kittens’ needs. You want the kittens to ike the box and use it consistently.
Type & depth of litter
Number of boxes
To cover or not
Cleaning the box
Most people want to put the litter box in an out-of-the-way place so they can minimize odors and loose particles of cat litter around the house. Often, the litter box ends up in the basement, possibly next to an appliance on a cold cement floor.
But that type of location is often undesirable to cats. Young kittens may not be able to get down a long flight of stairs in time to relieve themselves. And adult cats new to a home may not remember where the litter box is if it’s hidden away in a distant location Another thing to keep in mind is that if your litter box is next to a sometimes-noisy appliance, such as a furnace, washer or dryer, cats may become startled when the appliance turns on. This may cause them to associate the litter box with the frightening noise, and they may then refuse to use the box in that location. Also, some cats like to scratch the surface surrounding their litter box and they may find a cold cement floor unappealing. You can compromise by placing the litter box in a location — such as a closet or spare bathroom — that gives the cat some privacy but is also conveniently located. If you place the litter box in a closet, make sure the closet door is wedged open from both sides to keep the cat from being trapped inside or outside of the closet. If the litter box sits on a smooth, slick, or cold surface, consider putting a small throw rug or mat underneath the box. The cats will have something to scratch, and less litter will be tracked through your house.
Research shows that most cats prefer fine-grained litters. Clumping litters are usually finer in grain than typical clay litter. With kittens younger than eight weeks, though, use only non-clumping litter. The reason for this is that very young kittens tend to taste their litter and play in it. If you use clumping litter, the dust from the litter can solidify in their respiratory or digestive tracts. Different cats prefer different depths of litter, but most cats don’t like litter that’s more than about two inches deep. Cats don’t choose areas for elimination where they sink into several inches of litter. It’s not true that the more litter you put into a litter box, the less often you will have to clean it. Regular cleaning is essential.
Try to have at least as many litter boxes as you have cats. That way, no one can be prevented from using the box because it is already occupied. It also keeps one cat from “guarding” the litter box and preventing other cats from accessing it. Litter boxes can be placed in several locations around the house. This practice helps to train young kittens because there’s always a box nearby that they can get to in time to eliminate.
Many cats don’t show any preference for a covered versus a non-covered litter box. If a cat is very large, a covered litter box may not allow sufficient room for him to turn around, scratch and dig, and position himself in the way he prefers. It’s better to use uncovered boxes when training kittens because it is easier for them to get into and out of the litter box. A covered box tends to provide more privacy and may be preferred by shy, timid cats. It’s a good idea to offer both types of litter boxes to discover which one the cat prefers.
Litter boxes should always be kept clean. Feces should be scooped out of the litter box daily. The number of cats and the number of litter boxes will determine how often the litter needs to be dumped and completely changed. Twice a week is a general guideline, but you may need to change it often, depending on the circumstances. If you notice any odor or if much of the litter is wet or clumped, it is time to change all the litter.
When washing the litter box, do not use strong-smelling chemicals or cleaning products because the smell of vinegar, bleach or pine cleaners may cause the cat to avoid using the litter box. Washing with soap and water should be sufficient. Letting the container air-dry is also a good idea, but it will be necessary to have a back-up litter box while the other one is being cleaned.
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