Do cats have to be trained to use the litter box, or is it natural for them? In general terms it is natural for them but they may need encouragement and guidance.
The answer, it seems to me, depends upon many factors including (a) whether the cat is an indoor/outdoor cat and has historically gone to the toilet outside at his will and (b) whether there are enough litter boxes with a suitable substrate in the house and whether they are well sited or not. Everything written here is based upon the cat being healthy and of average mentality in terms of fearfulness or confidence.
I am sure that every thoughtful cat owner will have their own experiences on this subject. And the outcome also depends somewhat on the attitude and mentality of the domestic cat concerned. They are individuals. It also depends on whether this is a single cat household or multiple cat household because in the latter you can get stresses building up between the cats which can affect how they use the litter tray or trays.
Firstly I will report my personal experience. When I fostered a seven-week old tabby kitten, I kept him inside, of course, and it was the first time he was in a relationship with a human being because he was raised as feral. The only thing in the flat, where I then lived, which was suitable as a place for him to go to the toilet was the litter tray. The material (substrate) used replicates soil or sand. It’s a good material to dig into and to bury faeces if the cat so desires. Because it’s naturally suited to a cat for use as a place to go to the toilet, he used it naturally and instinctively without training. He just had to find it so I pointed him in the right direction. Thereafter I did not need to lead him to it because he could smell his toilet. He knew where it was because, as Jackson Galaxy says, it was a “scent soaker”. For me, there was minimal training.
If your cat is an outdoor cat and you have to get him acclimatised to going to the toilet inside the home and in a relatively small area such as a litter tray, you may have to help him to understand how to use it. Instinctively he should use it because as mentioned it is a suitable material on which to defecate and urinate.
This is where Jackson Galaxy’s mantra comes in. He is an expert on litter trays because a lot of feline behavioural problems stem from them. He has lots of rules, the first of which is to try and put aside your desires to lock away the litter tray into a cupboard or a semi-inaccessible place (to avoid smells) but rather put your cat’s toilet in a prominent position which may be the living room. The living room smells of you, the cat’s owner and your cat will like it. He is therefore more likely to migrate towards a litter tray in that location.
Jackson has some litter box commandments which are as follows, (a) there should be one box per cat plus one more box – N+1 (b) there should be multiple well placed “stations” (b) you should not camouflage the smell of poop and pee by using scented litter (artificial fragrances can drive your cat away. Your cat needs to smell the toilet) (e) the litter material (substrate) should as near as possible approximate to soil and therefore he recommends avoiding fancy substrate such as pellet litters (f) don’t overfill the litter box (I have covered that in a previous post) (g) the litter box should be about one and a half times the body length of your cat (h) it should be easy to get into and (i) he doesn’t recommend, covered litter boxes (j) you shouldn’t use a liner in the box and (k) it should be kept clean, and (l) you should give your cat a litter box choice in terms of size, location, style and litter type. Phew 🙂
I recommend cat owners buy Jackson Galaxy’s book Total Cat Mojo for more details on this. For me, the bottom line is that provided the litter boxes are well sited (and perhaps as Jackson says you provide at least two in a one cat family, to allow choice) and the substrate is acceptable to your cat, he/she won’t need much training. It should come naturally to your cat to use it because being indoors it is the only suitable substance upon which she or he can defecate or urinate satisfactorily. He’ll be drawn to it and more so after one use.
Please click on this link for much more on this topic.
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