How to Train Your Cat to Use the Litter Tray

A litter tray and litter are two of the most important components of your cat’s life and are essential items if you want your cat to be house-trained. Even if your pet will generally use the great outdoors as his litter tray, it is advisable to start by keeping him indoors until he feels at home in his new surroundings.

Keep the litter tray in the same place but if you have to move it, do remember to show your cat its new location. Many owners keep their cat’s litter tray in the bathroom, shower-room or utility room, which makes cleaning easy. Also remember to keep “the litter tray out of the way of young toddlers, small children or dogs.

Some cats still have accidents after they have learned to use a litter tray – much to the exasperation of their owners. Accidents are caused by several factors, such as change in location, while others have physical causes or stem from psychological problems. Whatever the cause, do not shout at your cat, as there is a good chance he will reward you with even more misbehaviours. Behaviourists may refer to these problems as ‘inappropriate defecation and urination’.


There is a variety of different types of litter tray available, but all have one essential factor: a rectangular-shaped tray with graduated corners, which should be strong and deep enough to hold a 2-3 inch depth of litter. The hooded litter tray is now widely accepted. It varies from trays with basic plastic hoods, to more complex models with charcoal filters, to the most sophisticated of all, an air ioniser which works electrically to reduce odours.

There are many different types of litter on the market ranging from wood-based to clay-based, to minute particles of sponge designed to offer the maximum absorbency. The choice of litter is purely subjective, depending on how you evaluate the absorbency, weight, odour control and tracking factors.

Training Objective: To ensure that your cat uses the litter tray and does not have accidents around the house.

Training Steps

  • Cats naturally look for somewhere soft to use as a toilet, and most kittens start to use the tray naturally at around 4-6 weeks of age. Some late developers need help. This entails picking up the youngster after he has eaten and gently rubbing his rectum with a piece of kitchen towel, tissue or cloth. It is quite possible that he will urinate straight into it. However, if you quickly follow this action by placing him in the litter tray and gently paddle his front paws in the litter, he will soon start to use the litter. There are a number of steps that you can take if your pet will not use the tray but messes round the house instead.
  • Confine your cat to a pen where the litter tray contains the only soft material. Confinement means the cat is reduced to eliminating in the litter and, often, this is enough to correct all but the most determined cases.
  • Ensure that any areas where the cat has an ‘accident’ are fully cleaned and disinfected, and also that any remaining smell is removed. Cats often return to an area guided by smell. There are several proprietary products available to help get rid of any remaining odour.
  • Place your cat’s food dish on the spot where he messed (after cleaning of course!). Cats do not like eliminating in an area where their food is available.
  • If the problem persists, have your cat checked by a veterinary surgeon. It is possible that a medical problem has arisen, and this could be affecting the cat’s behaviour, or his ability to use the tray.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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