Cats are naturally neat and intelligent, so it's generally not hard to teach them how to use a litter box. Some kittens will have learned this skill from their mother, but if yours hasn't, don't worry -- all it takes is a little practice on your pet's part and a little patience on yours.
If you are housebreaking an adult cat, the guidelines are the same, though it may be more challenging and take longer to change her ways.
Start by picking a location for the litter box that your cat will approve of. Here are some tips for finding the best place:
Litter boxes come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. When selecting one for your kitten, look for one that is:
Cat litter comes in various textures and scents. For a kitten's first litter, it's best to choose a basic, unscented kind; some kittens dislike scented litters and may refuse to use them. The litter can be either a traditional clay type or one of the newer clumping types, made to be scooped out as it's used instead of changed completely on a periodic basis.
Fill the box with about three inches of regular clay litter, or one to two inches of clumping litter. Keep the box filled to this level so your cat always has enough litter to dig and paw.
Most cats who are provided with a clean, well-filled litter box will gravitate to it rather than use other surfaces in the home (with the possible exception of the soil in plant pots). You can help your kitten get the hang of using the box by doing the following:
Accidents are an almost inevitable part of the learning process. If your kitten makes a mess outside of the litter box, never scold or punish your pet for it. Instead, try to clear up your cat's confusion this way:
Pick up the mess with a paper towel, and place the paper towel in the litter box to indicate where it belongs. Holding your kitten, gently "scratch" her front paws in the litter. This will convey the idea of pawing the litter to bury droppings.
Once your kitten learns her litter-box lessons, she is unlikely to soil other parts of the house. If a housetrained cat starts avoiding her box, one of the following is usually to blame:
All of these conditions are easy to address. But if none of them seem to apply, consult your vet. Avoidance of the litter box can sometimes signal a physical problem, such as a bladder infection or something more serious, such as FUS (feline urological syndrome). Your vet will examine your pet and rule out any possible medical concerns.