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Cats instinctively prefer to leave their waste in loose areas that can be easily dug. Since they are born with this instinct, all you have to do is provide the area. Welcome, the litter box.

Training a cat or kitten to use a litter box is an easy task that requires little time. Some kittens are already litter trained by their mothers, but for the owner just adopting one, the responsibility is left up to you. Kittens can normally be trained to use a litter box at 4 weeks of age. The concept is basically the same for adult and small cats, but some basic guidelines can help you along.

1. Use an appropriately sized litter box. Larger cats will require a bigger box just as a kitten will need a smaller box. For kittens, be sure that the sides are low enough for them to enter. A cat cannot use a litter box they can’t get into to.

2. Be sure to fill the box with at least 2 inches of litter. There are many different kinds of litter available, scoop-able, non scoop-able, wheat based, paper based, etc. If a cat refuses to use the litter box, it may be the litter. You may have to experiment to find which litter your cat prefers.

3. Position the litter box in a quiet yet convenient area. Some cats will be discouraged to use the litter box if it is placed in an inconvenient place like a basement. Cats do not like to eat where they leave waste, so be sure the box is away from the feeding area.

4. Introduce the cat to the litter box by gently placing them in it. You may find that the cat picks up the idea right away by playing and digging in it. Also be sure to take the cat to the litter box immediately after feeding it. You can also help the cat along by taking their paw and scratching it into the litter.

5. If the cat is behaving like it is looking for a place to use the potty, immediately place them into the litter box. It is important to not scold the cat and to be gentle. If they associate the litter box with punishment you will really be in for a battle.

6. Praise the cat when it does use the litter box. Let them know that this is wanted behavior.

7. Keep the litter box clean. Cats are picky animals and may start leaving waste in other areas if the litter box is not kept clean.

If all steps have failed and you find the cat not responding, a trip to the veterinarian may be needed. When cats won’t use a litter box or suddenly stop using one, it could be a sign of illness.