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I have a stray (cat) I took in a few days ago; a ~2 month old female with a clean bill of health and no unusual behavior.

She immediately used the litter box correctly and has not had any accidents (yet), but I am trying to reinforce her litter habits anyways. I've been giving her a lot of praise when she's in the box, and sometimes a treat when she's done.

But now sometimes when I'm near the litter box, she'll jump in it and roll around or hang out.

So I have two little questions, actually:

  1. Do I even need to be doing this? She already seems to have the box down pretty well.
  2. If so, what action should I take when she goes in the box but then seems to be in there for non-bathroom reasons? Should I just do nothing in general then wait until she's finished before praising? Or does it not matter at all (should I even care about this)? I don't really want to take her out of the box, especially if she's actually going to end up using it.

I want to make sure she's well-trained so I can begin the process of letting her out of the room unattended, but I also don't want to encourage her to play in the litter box and make a mess.

It's been a while since I had a kitten. My other cat is very well-behaved, but I can't remember how he was trained; it was about 14 years ago.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

A stressed cat will sometimes cower it its litter box, as the remaining smell of her body from earlier uses will make her feel safe. This doesn't seem to be what is going on here.

Kittens will sometimes dig for 'practice' when young or because they like the feel of digging. This may be what you have, in which case you can just ignore it. If you want her out, bringing out a toy elsewhere might distract the kitten.

You might have even reinforced this, as the kitten now is intentionally heading for the box to cadge a treat from you only when you are around! If this is what is going on, you could find some other way for the mite to get you to give her a treat.

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Thanks. I think it might be the latter; it happens almost every time we're near the box at the same time, most times she jumps in, and rolls around while purring, stopping sometimes to look at me - the "I want to play" or "rub my tummy" look. For now I'm going to wait until after she uses the box to give her praise/treats, and just ignore her otherwise (I don't want to discourage her). Hopefully, she'll realize I'm not falling for that trick any more and that she doesn't like rolling around in the litter box so much if there's nothing in it for her. –  Jason C Jun 25 at 19:36
    
So, just an update, I stopped giving her praise entirely and simply ignored her when she was in the litter box and for a few minutes afterwards. There were no negative effects, she continues to use the litter box 100% and is very comfortable with it, and after only a couple of days she stopped rolling around in and playing in it. I also added a few more soft things in her room and gave her plenty of petting when she slept in them, and she stopped sleeping in the litter box as well. Success! Thanks! –  Jason C Jul 4 at 0:46
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