Pet Factsheets

Litterbox training

©VetFolio LLC and Vetstream Ltd. Created and peer-reviewed by VetFolio LLC and Vetstream Ltd.

Cats are usually easy to litterbox train as they are naturally clean and prefer to bury their waste. However they may refuse to use the litterbox if something about it is unappealing. If you are having trouble litterbox training your cat, ask your vet for advice.

How do I train my cat to use the litterbox?

First, make sure that your cat knows where the litterbox is. Keep your cat in a small area or room with clean water, fresh food, and a clean litterbox until he or she is successfully using the litterbox and seems comfortable. Do not use a covered litterbox during the training period because it might complicate the process. If your cat urinates or defaecates outside the litterbox, place the waste in the litterbox; the smell should help your cat find and use the litterbox in the future. If your cat isn't using the litterbox after a day or two, try placing your cat in the litterbox after he/she eats and briefly scratch the litter with your finger. Don't force your cat to stay in the litterbox though - you don't want your cat to have a negative experience in the litterbox.

Why won't my cat use the litterbox?

Cats may refuse to use the litterbox if something about it is unappealing. If your cat won't use the litterbox, try addressing the following bulleted list, but do not punish your cat. He or she may have a medical or behaviour problem that your vet can address.

  • The type of litter is unappealing. Most cats prefer an unscented, scoopable (sandlike) litter. Many owners also prefer scoopable litters because they control odours and absorb liquid (clump) well.
  • The litterbox location is unappealing. Most cats prefer a quiet place with several escape routes. Keep your cat's food dishes as far as possible from the litterbox.
  • The litterbox is dirty. Scoop it out at least twice daily, add new litter as needed, and wash the box with baking soda or an unscented soap and fill it with clean litter once a week.
  • The litterbox is too small.
  •  The litterbox has a liner or hood, which some cats dislike.
  • The litterbox isn't easily accessible.
  • There aren't enough litterboxes. Provide one litterbox per cat, plus one extra box.
  • There's too much litter in the litterbox. Most cats prefer the litter to be 1 to 2 inches deep.

What can I use to clean up after my cat?

Do not clean up your cat's "accidents" with an ammonia-based cleanser. Urine contains ammonia, so cleaning with an ammonia-based product could tempt your cat to urinate in the same spot again. Use a product specifically for cleaning pet accidents.