Learning to use kitty litter

Does your cat need to learn how to use a litter tray? This is one of the most common reasons cat owners seek advice from the RSPCA. Take the time to put yourself in your cat’s paws, follow these tips and watch your cat learn to use their litter tray in no time!

Select your cat litter

Some cats may develop a preference for certain surfaces. There are several types available based on your cat’s needs:

  • Clumping: clumps together when wet, making spot cleaning easy. Suited to adult cats only.
  • Crystals: crystals absorb moisture.
  • Clay: requires frequent changing. Often most preferred as it is similar to natural substrate.
  • Recycled paper: requires frequent changing.

Ensure you clear the litter tray regularly and scoop frequently. If you find the litter tray offensive, so will your cat! Once you find a litter that your cat likes, do not change the type or brand. Sudden changes may result in your cat rejecting the litter box. Scents such as room deodorizers and air fresheners may also deter some cats.

Three are two types of trays are available – covered trays or uncovered trays.

  • Covered tray: offers privacy and is a good option for timid cats. This style of tray requires more frequent changing than an open tray and may not be suited to a larger cat as there is limited space to scratch, dig and turn around.In addition older cats and kittens may find access to these trays difficult.
  • Uncovered tray: an open design without lid. Uncovered trays are suited to cats of all ages, particularly kittens and older cats for their ease of access. Be warned – cats may scoop litter over the sides!

Spot cleaning your cat’s tray is important to avoid toileting in areas outside of the tray.

The bigger the better when it comes to litter trays. Your cat should be able to walk in, turn around and dig or scratch comfortably. It should be at least as long as your cat.

Location and cleaning of the litter tray

You must have a litter tray for each cat plus one. If you have only 1 cat, you need to supply 2 trays. If you have 2 cats, you need to supply 3 etc.

Position the litter tray in a quiet area, well away from where your cat eats and sleeps. When selecting an area, ensure there are no appliances or machinery that will startle your cat and ensure there is adequate privacy.

Avoid placing the tray in an area where your cat is obstructed, avoid corners or underneath something low.

Cats are often fussy about the cleanliness of their litter tray; it is important to keep the tray as clean and odour free as possible. When cleaning the tray, use a scoop or bags and avoid strong smelling chemicals or cleaning products which may deter the cat.


When arriving home, confine your cat to a small area of the house away from any other pets. Ensure the litter tray is in a quiet area with food and beds well away.

If your cat has been raised in a household before, it may use the litter tray instinctively. If not, you will need to undergo some basic training. Take your cat to the litter tray after each meal, sleeping and play time. Restrict your cat’s freedom around the house to encourage correct use of the litter tray. Only after your cat is relaxed, eating well, and reliably using the litter tray can you slowly start integrating them into the household. Be patient while your cat is settling in. With perseverance, your cat will learn toilet training.

What to do if there is an accident

While your cat is still learning how to use the litter tray, it’s important that we don’t punish our cat/kitten when they do have accidents. Accidents are normal while they are learning. If your cat does have an accident, ensure to clean up the area using an enzyme-based cleaning product to remove any odour.

Do not rub your cat’s nose in urine or feces or scold your cat and drag them to the litter box. This will only teach your cat to be afraid of you and will not actually teach them where to toilet.

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