Potty Training Cats: Techniques and Tips for Effective Training

teacher-cat “Potty training” or “housebreaking” cats is something of a misnomer. In most cases, you don’t really need to toilet train a house cat because the cat’s instincts along with training from their mothers lead them to choose only one place for their elimination needs.

If an indoor kitten is shown that the litter box is the appropriate bathroom area in the house, she’ll use that area and only that area. Of course, certain problems can interfere with the natural order of things and there may be times you need to help your kitty learn to keep her “business” in the box.

Training Kittens

Mother cats typically teach their kittens to use the litter box, so there’s no need for human interference. Sometimes, though, when the kittening box is far from the litter box or the house is full of activity, the mother may not feel safe taking her kittens to the litter box. Instead, she lets them do their business right there in the kittening box where they sleep.

The kittens then learn to pee on the bedding in the kittening box and may continue to wet on your bedding or furniture when they’re older. And naturally, orphaned kittens need a little help from humans to understand what the litter box is all about. In these cases, the process for potty training kittens is similar to the process for adult cats.

One thing to avoid is Continue reading

Cat Urine Problems: Training or Re-Training Adult Cats to Use the Litter Box

Although training issues aren’t usually a major concern with cats, in some cases cat urine problems may be a result of improper litter box training.

Work with Your Cat’s Instincts

Most cats don’t have to be trained to use the litter box. The exceptions are feral (street) or semi-feral cats who reached adulthood never having seen a litter box and cats with long-standing litter box problems. And even with these kitties, limiting their bathroom activities to one or two designated areas still comes as instinct. Because urinating in random places around the house goes against your cats instinct, its a sign something may be wrong.

Your cat may have a health condition, such as a urinary tract infection, that causes unusual urination behavior. She may be under stress from any of a variety of things ranging from a new cat in the house to noisy roadwork nearby. There may be something unappealing about the litter box, such as the type of litter or the box’s location. If the cat is favoring one spot on the carpet or elsewhere, it could be due to lingering urine odor that draw her to use that spot repeatedly. So, you’ll need to clean thoroughly and totally neutralize any odors to break kitty’s habit.

Health problems require prompt veterinary attention, but there are cheap and easy ways to control stress, improve the litter box and even totally remove cat urine odors. I’ve explained these solutions in detail in Cat Urine Problems Eliminated and the blog also contains a lot of effective methods for dealing with the root causes of cat urine problems.

Use Positive Reinforcement Only

One of the most common litter box training mistakes is treating a cat like a dog. These two animals think in decidedly different manners. Punishing a cat does not work. Cats are simply unable to connect the punishment with their actions. That means the punishments appear to be random acts of aggression. Hitting a cat will only make her afraid of your hands. Rubbing a cats nose in her soiling may make her fearful to let her near you. But it won’t make her stop peeing on the floor. In fact, stress from living with a person she perceives as aggressive and unpredictable may make her behavior worse.

What cats react to is positive reinforcement, or praise. Cats are are all about “What’s in it for me?” When your cat realizes she gets something she likes–attention, petting, tasty treats–for a certain behavior, she’ll continue that behavior. And don’t worry that she’ll stop using the litter box if you stop the praise. After a few weeks, once she’s in the habit, it will be so natural she won’t expect cuddles every time she piddles in the box.

When your cat wakes up from a nap or finishes a meal (times she’ll likely to need the bathroom) carry her to the litter box while speaking to her in soft, comforting tones. Put her down in or beside the box and continue to pet and praise her. You can even feed her a treat. The idea is to build your cat’s good associations with the litter box. You may need to keep this up for a few weeks.

Stop Your Cat Urinating Where She Shouldn’t

The only way to stop your cat urinating where she shouldn’t is by solving the problem that’s causing her to go outside the litter box. The cause could be a health problem, stress, or something wrong with the litter box, among numerous other issues. While nearly all problems that cause inappropriate urination behavior are fairly easy to solve, it may take time to accurately identify the problem. Once you do, though, there are some other things you can do to help get your kitty back in the litter box habit.

Make the Litter Box Attractive

The goal isn’t so much to discourage the cat from using the carpet, the furniture or the bathroom sink. It’s to encourage him to use the litter box. Make sure the litter box is large enough, such as a box of 25 inches by 19 inches or larger. If you have a covered box, try an uncovered one. Some cats dislike confined areas, while others dislike the concentrated cat poo smell inside the box. Try different litters, too. Fine-grained, unscented litters go over well with most cats, but some require softer or grittier material. Location also matters. Keep the box away from the cat’s food and water and clear of any foot traffic or noisy household appliances. There are a number of other considerations and just to confuse matters, believe it or not, long-haired cats, declawed cats and tail-less or stubby-tail cats have their own litter box needs. Fortunately, changing things about the litter box is easy and just making the litter box more appealing may stop your cat urinating around the house.

Make Other Areas Unattractive

Many cats dislike the smell of citrus. Rubbing orange or lemon peels on the carpet or furniture may help, but the smell fades fast. Another method is to freshen up your carpets and furniture with a citrus-scented air- or fabric-freshened. Clean floors and other wood items with Pine Sol or Orange Glo, both of which repel many cats. If there’s one spot on the floor you cat keep kitty away from, cover it with foil food wrap until you can stop your cat from urinating outside the box and get the spot totally clean. Most cats won’t walk on foil, although some will just pee right next to the foil. There are also a number of products available to keep cats from marking (peeing) where they shouldn’t. No-Mark Spray by Pet Organics is one of the more effective formulas.

Retrain Kitty if Needed

Usually mother cats show their kittens how to use the litter box as soon as the kittens are physically able. Sometimes, though, the mother cat isn’t able to due this because the litter box isn’t easily accessible from the kittening box. Other times, humans interfere with the training process. They common method of putting a kitten in the box and taking hold of her paw to dig in the litter can actually put some kittens right off the box. There are a number of ways to do this, but they all involve positive reinforcement. Punishment does not work on cats the way it works on dogs. One way to start is by carrying your cat to the litter box after meals or when she wakes up from a nap, times she likely to need to go. Speak gently, pet her and maybe even giver a build your cat’s good associations with the litter box.

You can solve your cat’s inappropriate urination problems and get your home completely free of cat urine odors, but the solutions may not always be obvious. Instead of wasting time learning by trial and error, read the book Cat Urine Problems Eliminated to discover proven-effective ways to retrain your cat and regain your home.