Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > How to Train Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box in 3 Steps

How to Train Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box in 3 Steps

kitten inside litter box

If you have recently purchased your first kitten, one of the first things you should do is train it to use a litter box. Luckily it is not a difficult task, and if you keep reading, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide to do just that. We’ll also cover the tools you need and alternatives you can use along with the step-by-step tutorial.


Do I Need to Hire a Professional?

In the majority of cases, we wouldn’t say a professional is necessary. Most cats are born with the instinct to cover their poop and actively seek out a spot where it’s possible to do so. Since there are not many places in your home suitable for this task besides the litter box, your cat will likely find it quickly and use it properly without any additional instruction.

The Equipment You Will Need

The only equipment you need to train your cat is a litter box, a scooper, and the cat litter.

1. Litter Box

There are dozens of brands of litter boxes available, and the kind you get is mostly a matter of personal choice, but there are a few things to remember. Soft cheap plastic scratches easily when the cat digs. These scratches hold urine and cause the litter box to smell bad. A harder, higher-quality plastic will resist scratches, and you will use it longer before it starts to have an odor.

A litter box with high sides will make it more difficult for the cat to kick litter onto your floor.

Covered litter boxes retain even more litter, and they can also keep the smell inside, but they can also create an unpleasant bathroom experience for your cat, and it may choose not to use them. It might even choose to go on the floor instead. Covered litter boxes are also bad for cats with respiratory issues because there tends to be a lot more dust.

We recommend the largest litter box you can afford and will fit in your home once your cat is big enough to get into it. Even though your cat is small now, it will grow, and the extra space will make it more comfortable and keep more litter inside. While your kitten is too small for a standard litter box, small cardboard trays that usually hold cans of soda or beer work extremely well and allow the kitten to walk in.

cat litter box on a wooden floor
Image Credit: Grzegorz Petrykowski, Shutterstock

2. Scooper

You can find litter scoopers in almost any grocery store or pet store. It’s essentially a slotted spoon. It allows you to pick up the poop and clumps while letting the finer sand-like litter pass through so you can use it again. We recommend something sturdy and durable that feels comfortable to use.

3. Litter

Litter is where you’ll find the largest assortment of different kinds. You can find wood litter, walnut litter, paper litter, and more, but the most common is clay litter. Most clay litters clump into a ball when urinated on, so it’s easy to scoop out. It’s also highly absorbent and does a fair job masking odors from poop if your cat covers it. We recommend starting with clay and then trying different kinds because they each have their pros and cons. For instance, clay is extremely dusty, and after a few months, you’ll notice a film on objects near the box.

pouring cat litter in the litter box
Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

divider-dog paw

The 3 Steps for Training Your Cat to Use the Litter Box

1. Allow Your New Pet To Explore Its Environment

Most cats are extremely curious and will explore your house in a very short time. They have excellent memories, and even as kittens, they will seek out perches, hiding spots, and of course, the litter box. Allowing your cat to explore is the best way to let your cat’s instincts work, and we’re confident that your cat will quickly find and use the litter box.

2. Place the Cat Inside the Litter Box

For one reason or another, some kittens might have trouble finding the box at first, which can result in them going where they are not supposed to. If this is the case in your home, we recommend gently picking up the cat and setting it down inside the litter box. Your cat will likely take over from there, and it will remember the path back when it needs it again.

cat inside litter box
Image Credit: FamVeld, Shutterstock

3. Use the Scratch Technique

If your newborn kitten suffered some trauma when it was born early, there is a slight chance that it will still be confused when you place it inside the litter box. If it seems like your cat is unsure about what to do next, many people recommend gently grabbing one of the front paws and using it to scratch the litter as it would normally do. In fact, many people recommend picking up and placing the cat in the litter box and making the scratching motion first to minimize the risk of any accidents.

Here is a great video from Petco demonstrating many of the things we talk about here.



Training your kitten to use the litter box is quite easy, and most of them will figure it out without help. The scratch technique is effective, and we’ve never had a cat not learn to use the litter box with this method. Make sure your cat doesn’t have difficulty getting in but get the biggest box you can. Cats will quickly start to kick litter out of the box and onto your floor, which can make quite a mess. Choosing a low-dust clay litter is also a good idea since kittens have tiny nasal passages.

Related Reads: 

Featured Image Credit: Tiplyashina Evgeniya, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets