Monday, November 24, 2008
Cats are very fussy about their toilet habits and kittens will usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their mother. You may just need to show your new kitten where the litter tray is and place it on the tray on waking up from a sleep and after meals, or when the kitten is sniffing, scratching or beginning to crouch and looks as if it is about to go!
You will need a plastic litter tray which can be filled with sand, peat or cat litter available from pet shops. Earth from the garden should never be used for unvaccinated kittens as it may harbour diseases from other cats which have used it as a toilet. The tray should be placed on newspaper to catch any litter pushed over the side during digging - a large tray will prevent such problems. If you intend to let your kitten out to use the garden in the future then a simple open tray will suffice for the few weeks involved. If you intend the cat to continue to use the tray then you may want to purchase one of the covered types with a lid which gives the cat more privacy, stops smells from escaping and prevents mess with the litter.
Place the tray in a quiet accessible corner where your kitten will not be disturbed. Make sure that the litter tray is not next to food and water bowls. The kitten may be reluctant to use the litter tray if it is too close to its food.
The litter tray must be kept clean and emptied regularly. Some disinfectants (like Dettol) which go cloudy in water are toxic to cats, so use only hot water and detergent when cleaning out the tray or ensure you use a cat-friendly disinfectant such as bleach which has been diluted as the manufacturer recommends and the tray rinsed thoroughly before use.
If your kitten is inclined to mess elsewhere in the house, confine it to one room with a litter tray until the kitten learns to use it regularly. Place the kitten on the litter tray a short time after it has eaten or when it is sniffing, scratching, beginning to crouch and generally showing signs of looking for a suitable corner to use as a toilet.
If the kitten is reluctant to use the tray it could be because:
• It is not clean enough - empty it more often
• It is not big enough - it should be big enough for an adult cat to turn around in and to use more than once without getting dirty
• You have cleaned it out with a chemical that is too strong smelling
• It is too near the bed or food bowls
• The kitten does not like the texture of the litter you have chosen - revert to the type it has used before.
When your kitten starts to go outside more often, gradually move the litter tray towards the door. A few handfuls of cat litter from the tray spread onto well dug soil in the garden will encourage the kitten to dig there. Do not remove the litter tray from indoors until your kitten has started using the garden.
Your kitten should not be allowed outside until at least a week after it has finished its first course of vaccinations at about 13 - 14 weeks old (depending on the vaccine). Once it is fully vaccinated and has become used to life in your house, you can start to let your kitten go outside. Choose a dry day (if possible) and a quiet time and accompany your kitten outside, allowing it to explore the new environment. Continue to accompany the kitten until it is used to your garden and can find its way back to the house without difficulty. It is best not to leave your kitten outside alone until it is 6 months old.
Cats like to come and go as they please. A cat flap allows them to do this. If you fit a cat flap you won't need a litter tray indoors when the kitten grows up. You can teach your kitten to use a cat flap by propping it open initially and enticing it through with food. Gradually close it down so the kitten learns to push the flap. If you already own a cat be aware that the kitten may watch and learn and let itself outside before you are ready - kittens learn quickly by watching other cats.
To prevent neighbourhood cats from coming into your house, you can buy a cat flap which will only open for your cat. The flap is operated by magnetic or electronic keys on your cat's collar.