How To Potty Train Your Cat

Hint: It's easier than you think.

cat potty training

If this is your first time adopting a cat, you might be curious what potty training will be like.

You might be wondering: Is teaching a rescue cat to use a litter box as daunting as teaching a dog to use pee pads or to go outside?

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director at Behavior Vets in New York City, who explained it’s not nearly that complicated.

Do you have to train a rescue cat to use a litter box?

The short answer? Almost always no.

“Most cats will know how to use a litter box instinctively,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo.

In most cases, your cat learned where to go to the bathroom (and how to cover it up) from his mom way back during his socialization period, when he was just a tiny baby.

“So they usually know how to do this on their own, and you often don’t need to teach a cat to do this,” Dr. Tu said.

If, for some reason, your cat is going to the bathroom outside his litter box, potty training him isn’t the solution.

“There can, of course, be cases in which a cat has a litter box issue ... where they’re going out of the box,” Dr. Tu said. “[But] that’s a more complex issue.”

In that case, you’re going to want to talk to your vet, especially if you’re already on top of cleaning his box. (Since sometimes a good scrub can help with this problem.)

Things you’ll need when potty training your cat

Even though you probably won’t need to potty train your rescue cat, you’re still going to have to pick up some basic supplies, like:

  • A litter box
  • Litter
  • A litter scoop

When picking the right litter box, there are a few criteria you’re going to have to hit to make sure it’s the best option for your cat.

According to Dr. Tu, a litter box must:

  • Be 1.5 times the length of your cat
  • Have multiple entrances (and make sure they’re wide enough!)
  • Have low sides
  • Not have a door

Try this litter box from Amazon for $39.95

And this litter scoop from Amazon for $11.99+

It’s important to remember you should always have one more litter box than the number of cats in your home, especially if you already have a cat when you go to rescue a new one.

And definitely don’t rely on them sharing the same one all the time.

“Some cats will not use a soiled box,” Dr. Tu explained. “If you have two cats and one box, and [your cat’s] housemate just went in the box but [the other one] really [has] to use it, [he’ll] find somewhere else to go.”

(In other words, he might go to the bathroom on the floor, on your bed or somewhere else unpleasant.)

When it comes to choosing what to put in the litter box, you’ll want a litter that is:

  • Clumping
  • Unscented
  • Clay or sand texture

Dr. Tu recommends Dr. Elsey’s brand because it clumps super well.

Try it from Amazon for $10.99

Just make sure you never flush it! (That is, unless you want clogged pipes.)

And once you have all of these things, the “potty training” is pretty much over! In most cases, you can just show your cat his new bathroom, and he should be good to go (pun intended).

Cat potty training tips

Your new BFF should be able to pick up how to use his litter box on his own, but if you're finding that things aren't going as naturally as you thought, there are ways you can help to litter train your cat.

You can do this by:

  • Showing him where the litter box is
  • Rewarding him with praise or a treat after he does his business in his litter box
  • Putting him in the litter box after meals, in the morning and at night
  • Never scolding him for going outside of the litter box

These tips should help make your cat feel like using a litter box is second nature.

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