Teaching Your Kitten to Use a Litterbox
Training a cat to use a litter box is much easier than training a puppy to go outside, but it still requires some effort on your part. Most kittens will naturally start to dig in sand or litter by about 4 weeks of age. If you see him doing this, don't interfere. Most cats prefer some privacy when they eliminate, and if you hover over him or try to help you may instead convince him to go elsewhere. You can and should praise him when he's finished, however, and even offer him a treat.
You can also encourage your kitten to use the litter box by placing him in it at regular intervals, especially if he's recently eaten or awakened. Place him in the box, and if he doesn't do anything, try gently taking his front paws and scratching the litter with them. When you let go, he may continue doing it on his own, and then feel compelled to go ahead and eliminate.
If you catch your kitten eliminating outside of the litter box, quickly pick him up and deposit him in the box. Don't yell or be rough, which will just frighten him and possibly cause him to associate the litter box with punishment. It's helpful if you can get the scent of his urine, perhaps by wiping the wet area with a paper towel, and put it in the box.
Although kittens take to litter box training easily, they can be picky about what sort of box and litter they use. You should have at least one litter box per cat, and then add one extra. Place the boxes well away from each other, as some cats can be territorial about boxes. You can use a smaller box for a kitten than for an adult, and in fact, be sure the kitten can get over the sides without having to jump. The box should be made of nonabsorbent material (no cardboard, unless it's just for a day). Many people prefer litter boxes with tops, as they look better and contain odors better. However, some cats don't like using covered boxes. When first starting, you'll probably have better luck with a topless litter box.
Place the box in a quiet location away from your kitten's eating and sleeping areas and from traffic areas, but close enough so the kitten doesn't have to go far to find it. Make sure that closed doors can't block the kitten from accessing it. A corner location is best because it allows your cat to keep a watchful eye for enemies when he's in the vulnerable act of eliminating. Once you've found a place for it, leave it. Don't constantly move it around.
Avoid clumping litter for kittens, because they may eat it and it could possibly cause blockages. Avoid using scented litter or strong-smelling cleaners, as these strong odors may repel the kitten. If you switch from one litter type to another, do so gradually. Some cats become accustomed to one type and refuse to use another type. If using conventional clay-based litter, it should be fairly deep, about 2 to 3 inches. If you switch to clumping litter when your kitten is over 6 months of age, it should be even deeper: 3 to 4 inches. Crystals can be comparatively shallow, about 1.5 inches. Scoop out any solid wastes at least once a day, and change the litter entirely at least once a week (crystal-type litters can go longer). Never throw litter down your drain pipes, as it can cause costly plumbing problems.
If your previously litter box trained cat begins to eliminate elsewhere, it may be because you've changed litter type, haven't changed the litter enough, have another cat that is keeping him out, have used a strong smelling cleanser on the box, or have made some other change relating to the litter box. But it could also be because your cat has a medical problem. If nothing has changed concerning the box or litter, consult your veterinarian.