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When Do Kittens Start Using the Litter Box?

cat litter box

Obviously, kittens don’t come out of the womb knowing how to use a litter box, but it might come as a surprise to you how instinctual the skill is. You can start litter-box-training a kitten as early as 3 weeks, and by the 4-week mark, you can have a fully litter-box-trained kitty!

But how are cats so quickly litter-box-trained at such a young age, and what do you need to do to litter-box-train a kitten? We’ll break down everything you need to know here!

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Why Do You Need to Wait Until the 3-Week Mark to Litter-Train a Kitten?

Cat pooping in cat litter
Image Credit: Mariesacha, Shutterstock

While you can start litter-box-training a cat as soon as they’re 3 weeks old, there are two main reasons that you can’t litter-box-train them before then.

First, they can’t walk and they can barely see. They can scootch around, but they’re extremely limited on how they can move and can’t find a litter box, let alone get in it and use it!

But while that’s a significant hindrance all on its own, it’s not the primary reason that your kitten can’t use a litter box before they’re 3 weeks old.

A kitten younger than 3 weeks can’t relieve themselves without assistance. If you’re squeamish, just take our word for it and skip to the next section. If you’re not, we’ll break it down for you here.

Kittens need oral stimulation from their mother to relieve themselves. If you have an orphaned cat, you can simulate this stimulation with a wet rag or wipe by rubbing their anus to get them to go and continue stimulating until they’re done relieving themselves.

Kittens need this stimulation before every meal, and they eat quite a few times a day because of their smaller bellies. It’s a tough job to be a momma kitten!

How Do You Litter Train a Kitten?

New Age Pet ecoFLEX Litter Loo & End Table
Image Credit: New Age Pet Chewy

Once your kitten is at least 3 weeks old, it’s time to start litter-training them. You might think that this would require a ton of work, but it’s actually surprisingly easy. No, their momma doesn’t teach them. The truth is that it’s no more difficult than litter-training a full-grown cat!

A kitten, even a 3-week-old kitten, has natural instincts to start digging in a litter box and to relieve themselves there. All you need to do is introduce your kitten to a litter box and keep it within easy access for them!

But keep in mind that they are still a kitten and still learning, so accidents are bound to happen. Just like with an older cat, you need to move them to the litter box quite often to train them. But there’s no reason that you can’t have them litter trained in just a few weeks if you keep at it.

What Kind of Litter Box Do You Need for a Kitten?

cat burying poop in the litter box
Image Credit: Mikhail Olykainen, Shutterstock

While a young kitten can use a litter box and you should introduce them as soon as possible, not any kind of litter box will work. It needs to be a litter box with low sides so they can easily climb in and out, which is something that you usually don’t want with an older cat.

So, a disposable cardboard litter box might be a good choice. Not only does this have low sides, but you can place it near the kittens so they can get in and out without too much work.

Keep in mind that while kittens might be curious, they still are kittens, and they feel safer close to where they’ve spent their entire lives. As they learn to walk, they’re not always the most stable, so if they have to go too far to reach the litter box, they simply might not make it in time.

What Kind of Litter Do You Need for a Kitten?

small grey kitten in plastic litter tray
Image credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

There are plenty of good choices for kitten litter, but they’re not all the same litters that you can use for an older cat. You need litter with larger granules to help prevent them from sticking to their paws. Additionally, kittens have more sensitive paws, so a softer litter is a good choice.

Common litters that work great for kittens include paper litter, coconut litter, non-clumping clay, or crystal litters. These litters are soft on paws and non-clumping, which makes them excellent for kittens.

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Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that a perk of owning a cat compared to a dog is that they can use a litter box. But while they can pick up the skill quickly, when you’re raising kittens, they don’t come litter-box-trained!

This can make cleanup a pain, but the good news is that you should be able to litter-train them in just a few weeks, which means the extra cleanup doesn’t last long! Since you can litter-train them almost as soon as they’re mobile, there’s no problem containing the mess until they’re fully ready to use the litter box.


Featured Image Credit: Nadya Buyanowa, Shutterstock

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