*Today’s post was made possible by Modkat, and features gifted product for the purposes of a candid review. All opinions are my own.
If you’ve been following along since last year, then you know we adopted two kittens over the summer. Five months later, those “kittens” look like they’re practically full-grown—or, at least, Marlo does. Joe still has some catching up to do, but he’ll get there. While they might look all grown up, though, they still act 100 percent like kittens. They’re constantly running around wrestling with each other or playing with toys, they eat like Labrador Retrievers (i.e. insatiably), and their litter habits have been a little slow on the uptake. I thought I’d break down some of the litter training tricks that have worked for us in case you’re in the same boat with your kittens or cats.
Oh, and I should mention that the photos in today’s post are all from a batch of promotional images I was hired to shoot for Modkat just before the holiday season got rolling. Our kittens were such good models, and I love that I’m able to show off their hard work here in today’s post. We genuinely love our Modkat pet products, by the way. Links to their goodies are throughout the post below!
Getting back to the topic of litter training, our situation is a little unique because of the fact that Joe is “special needs.” You can read more about his story and hard start to life here, but the gist is that we suspect he has some brain developmental delays because of an infection he got from a head wound as a tiny kitten. Joe spent the first weeks/months of his life actually living with our vet to recuperate under her watchful care, and since we adopted him in August, we’ve had him on all sorts of meds. He struggled at first, but seems to be growing much better now. We’re finally weening him off the meds, and hope the worst is behind him.
All of that to say, that litter training has kind of been the least of our long list of worries. We just wanted our little guy to be healthy and thriving first! Now that he seems to be on the upswing, we’re getting really serious about training him to use a litter box. Joe has always been good about keeping stool in the box, but he has chosen several spots around the house to pee on at his leisure—the couch in the sunroom, two rugs, the bath tub, a dining room chair. I know I said his litter training was “the least of our worries” before, but it has definitely been a major stressor for me.
My home is my sanctuary. I thrive here and pour my heart and soul into this space. It’s also my job to have it looking its best, so I really struggled when Joe was peeing out of control. I actually have, up to this point, only ever adopted female cats because I had heard that marking was more common with males, and Joe seems determined to prove my assumption correct. But I also do suspect that his developmental delays have a lot to do with his bad habits. The good (spectacular!) news is that he seems to be getting better, so I thought it was finally time to dive into the things we’ve done to help Joe along when it comes to using his litter box every time he needs to go.
Kitten Litter Training Tips:
1. Buy multiple litter boxes, even if you have just one kitten: I’m sure you’ve heard that you need to buy “one litter box per cat, plus one extra.” We actually have five now, but I’m hopeful that we can slowly reduce that number as our kittens age out of the training phase. The more boxes the better when they’re learning, though!
2. Use a variety of litter box types: We mostly use the Modkat XL Litter Box in our home (the one you see pictured in today’s post), but we also have this box and another simpler, slightly smaller style box available for Joe and Marlo. I want to make sure they have plenty of options depending on their preferences and needs.
3. Create multiple litter zones throughout your home: We have converted our guest room closet and my office closet into special litter box zones for our kittens, and we also have added a third zone in our living room. This means I can quickly place Joe in a litter box if I feel like he’s acting like he needs to go, and, again, it gives the kittens lots of bathroom options as they physically move through their day.
4. Keep the litter zones clean: Just like you and me, your cat/kitten wants a clean bathroom to use! I scoop the litter from all five of our boxes every morning and night into this odor-controlling Litter Keeper, and I also tidy up loose litter around the openings of the boxes with this dust pan kit.
5. Use a special attracting litter: When we found out that Joe was peeing outside of his litter box, our vet suggested that we switch to Dr. Elsey’s “Cat Attract” litter. It’s a little dustier and courser than our old clumping litter, but both Joe and Marlo seem to like using it, so it’s now all we buy for their litter boxes. It apparently has some kind of special natural herbal attractant that’s supposed to (you guessed it!) attract cats.
6. Physically place your kitten into the litter box: One of the very best things for us has been physically placing Joe inside his box every hour or whenever it looks like he needs to go. We don’t have to do that every hour now that he’s a little older (we see him go into the litter box more often on his own now), but it helped a lot in the beginning. He went almost every time we placed him in the box, and that gave us some peace of mind that he wasn’t going to soil our bedding or furniture for at least a little while.
7. Deep clean any marked areas: We use this portable carpet and upholstery cleaner to deep clean any furniture Joe has had an accident on, and this upright shampooer has been great for cleaning rugs. Our vet suggested this Urine Off cleaner, and we use that in our machines as the liquid cleaning solution. We also keep a spray bottle of the Urine Off handy under the kitchen sink for spot-treating areas as needed.
8. Discard things that are soaked beyond repair: Unfortunately, some things were just too far gone after a while. We would clean them really thoroughly, but Joe kept coming back to mark those same spots. We ended up having to throw away some clothing storage bags he had marked and two rugs. Sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices for your pets… Happily, we haven’t had to throw anything away in over a month, so we’re hopeful that phase is behind us.
9. Cover the areas they tend to target: One thing we did after having to throw out the living room rug was physically cover the spots on the new rug that were near where Joe marked before. I laid down two of these reusable pet training blankets on top of the rug to catch any urine from penetrating the new rug. The blankets are washable, so I figured I could just clean them if anything bad happened, but so far, Joe has left them alone. I think getting rid of the old rug and starting fresh with a clean rug that had no smells helped a lot.
10. Use diffusers and sprays to deter marking: I have always relied on these calming sprays and diffusers to keep our cats from doing bad things. I’m not entirely sure that they work, but I’m willing to try anything at this point! It certainly can’t hurt, and they come highly recommended by veterinarians. It’s one of those invisible things that I guess we just have to trust is working.
11. Treats and praise: Finally, praise your fur babes when they do get it right! I keep cat treats in all of our litter zones so that I can give Joe and Marlo little bonuses when they successfully use their litter boxes. A happy voice saying “Good job!!!” seems to go a long way, too, along with lots of soft pets and cuddles.
It definitely hasn’t been an easy few months getting through this unpleasant stage, but we love our pets and would do anything for them. We’re so grateful to have ended up with these two cuties, and are really proud of the progress they’ve made in their litter training. I hope that we can get Joe to a place where he’s comfortable using his boxes at all times. Please send your happy thoughts as we keep working our way through training (it definitely is working!), and if you have tips of your own to share, leave them in the comments.
*I earn a small percentage from purchases made using the affiliate links above. Affiliate links are not sponsored. Rest assured that I never recommend products we wouldn’t use or don’t already love ourselves.