How to Train Your Cat to Use the Litter box

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Training a cat to use the litter pan is probably the easiest time you’ll ever have teaching your cat to do anything. Cats are instinctively clean animals and will practically teach themselves to go in a litter pan assuming they know that one is available. 
 
The first step to any successful litter-training program is to choose a litter pan that is both functional and pleasing to both you and your cat. Let’s face it, if the cat finds the litter pan distasteful, he will not use it. Litter pans come in three basic models: covered, uncovered and automatic. The covered units will come in two pieces, the main pan and a plastic shell that covers it. The uncovered model will have a similar base but lacks the hard plastic shell that covers it. An automatic litter pan will consist of a base and a motion sensor rake that will scoop the urine or feces out of the pan after the cat exits the area. The pan you choose will depend on your budget and your cat’s preferences. Some cats will refuse to enter a covered pan and many do not like the noise automatic pans make, so be prepared to purchase more than one pan just in case.
 
The type of litter you choose will also be determined by what your cat prefers. There are several different litter media you can choose from: clay, clumping, and shavings. Clay litter is inexpensive and practical, though will require that your pan gets regular cleanings as the urine will sink straight to the bottom. Clumping litter allows you to scoop both feces and urine, keeping the pan cleaner longer. Some owners prefer a biodegradable litter such as pine shavings or cedar, which absorbs urine, smells fresh and will completely decompose in the environment. 
 
It is best to work with a younger cat when starting litter training. Younger cats have had less time to develop bad habits or specific aversions to litter.    After feeding your kitten, when he wakes from a nap, or after a few minutes of hard play, place him in the vicinity of the litter pan and encourage him to check it out. You may need to place the kitten in the pan in order to get him in the mood. Most kittens will quickly take advantage of the litter pan as it caters to their natural elimination behaviors by allowing him or her to cover the urine or feces afterward. Lavish plenty of praise on the kitten after he has finished. 
 
In the early stages of training, it is best to keep the kitten in close proximity to the litter pan so that he has the opportunity to use it on his own. Most will use it as a matter of choice rather than to relieve himself on the floor.
 
Older cats may present a slightly tougher customer when it comes to litter pan use. Older cats have either already developed idiosyncrasies regarding litter pan use or have developed undesirable elimination behaviors. The first step is to purchase several different types of pans and litters. Most often, litter pan aversion is caused by a particular dislike of a specific pan or litter type. Next, keep the cat confined to a small room with a slick surface floor. This will encourage him to use the pan instead of the floor. Some cats have a particular distaste for using a dirty pan, so make sure the pan is cleaned after each use. 
 
If the cat you are attempting to train is an intact male, the behavior you are witnessing is not associated with litter pan aversion, but with territorial marking. Have the male neutered and you may see a decrease in territorial urinating. Females can also do this in an attempt to assert dominance in a multi-cat household. Ensuring that all the cats in a household are spayed or neutered will help reduce these behaviors. If all else fails, mature cats can be placed on Valium to help with elimination problems.

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