I got a very young kitten about a week ago. From the previous owner, she was litter trained, and only had a couple accidents.

I get her home, and I can't seem to get her to use her litter box at all. She's peed her basket and the couch a couple times, and poops on the guest bed (which is where her food bowl and litter box are). I've managed to catch her peeing a couple times and put her in the litter box, but that doesn't seem to catch on for her. I also threw all her poop into the litter box, and very thoroughly washed the sheets.

Before she was weaned, she was kept in a single room, where her food, litter box, and toys were all there. Her food dish and litterbox are still in the same room, but I'm using a different type of litter; she had newpaper pellets before, and I'm using a gravel type now.

Every time I put her in the litter box to show her where to do her business, she just jumps right out. What can I do to re-train this kitten to use her litter box?

  • 2
    How young is "very young"? (Do you know?) Are you using the same kind of litter as the person you got her from? Where did that person keep the litterbox? – Monica Cellio Nov 25 '13 at 17:43
  • @MonicaCellio She's a little over two months. It's a different type of litter, so I was expecting a little bit of a problem getting her used to it, but I didn't think she'd ignore the box entirely. – fbueckert Nov 25 '13 at 20:37
  • I’ve always wondered how cats are litter-trained. Even having taken animal-psychology courses in university, I still find the act of teaching a baby animal to go to the bathroom in a specific place to be baffling and impressive. Ours were trained before we got them, but I recall that a part of the training involved bringing home some of the litter with the mother’s urine odor in it and putting that in the litter box at our home. – Synetech Dec 5 '13 at 2:06
  • @Synetech "Litter training" is a bit of a poor phrase for cats. They aren't really trained. They'll instinctively go for soft places they can dig in, whether their mother shows them or not. If they're going outside of the box this, it means they couldn't find a place they approved of to go. Usually you can just place them in the box when it looks like they are about to go, then they'll realize "oh hey, this box usually has good stuff to dig in" and continue to go there. You're not training them to use the box, you're showing them that the box is the place that has what they're looking for. – Jason C Jul 16 '14 at 21:45
  • Think of it more like; you, right now, as an adult human already know how to use a toilet (kitten's know by instinct so, same starting point). When you're in an unfamiliar place you don't need to be taught how to use a toilet, you just need somebody to show you where the bathroom is. You might forget and need to be shown again. That's what litter training a cat is like. – Jason C Jul 16 '14 at 21:52

Cats, even young ones (who tend to be more adaptable), can react badly to changes in their environments. It sounds like you have moved the cat (you just got her a week ago from a previous owner), given her access to more of your living space (not just one room), and changed her litter. Anecdotally, changes in food and litter types often cause problems, hence the common advice to make these changes gradually.

Your top priority now is to prevent her for forming bad habits. Switch back to the type of litter she was using right away. Later you can transition to the type you prefer (possibly using multiple boxes). But right now you've got to stop the inappropriate elimination, so give her as close to her "previously normal" environment as you can.

You might also want to restrict her space. Try keeping her in the one room (with plenty of people time) for a little while. Even a kitten who knows where the box is (and knows to use it) may sometimes struggle to get there in time if your house/apartment is large. So work up to that.

Finally, if this kitten has not yet been to the vet for initial exams and vaccines, you should do that right away -- both as general good practice, and because inappropriate elimination can be a sign of a medical problem.

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