Litterbox Training Orphan Kittens

Orphaned kittens require extra help in many ways. Find out how to help your young charge learn to use the litterbox.

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KittenKittens learn the appropriate place for urination and defecation by observing and imitating their mothers. True copycats, they will follow their mothers to the litterbox and play and explore in it. Partially by instinct and partially by trial and error, they will start eliminating in the litter box.

Orphaned kittens, therefore, are at a disadvantage. Depending upon their age, you may need to take over elimination-stimulating duties that the queen would have performed. The average kitten begins litter box training between 4 and 6 weeks of age. Litter training may proceed smoothly if there is another cat in the household that has accepted the kitten. The older cat may serve the role of instructor by allowing the kitten to follow it to the litterbox, much like the mother cat would have done.

But if your new kitten has no other feline companions, you will have to show the kitten the location of the litterbox and help it understand what it is there for. It is easier than it sounds. When the kitten starts to explore its environment on its own, you can take it to the litterbox several times a day. Twenty to 30 minutes after a meal is a good time because that's when most animals experience a gastrocolic reflex--increased activity of the intestinal tract that leads to evacuation.

When the kitten is inside the box, stimulate its interest in the litter by stirring it gently with your finger. Let the kitten jump in and out of the litterbox at will rather than trying to restrain the kitten inside. You can also place some stool in the litterbox, which will make it easier for your kitten to associate the litterbox with elimination.

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Reader Comments

Katiah    Lexington, KY

7/9/2014 11:10:18 AM

It's a good article and I know I need more patience... I've had (5) orphaned kittens now for 1 1/2 weeks; mama died when they were 1 week old. Not only exhausted, but getting frustrated cleaning poop off their faces, bottoms, and bodies around the clock. THEY are doing fine, it's me that needs help! I've put a litter box accessible to them - they mostly just stretch out and take a nap in it. Tried putting their poop in it and trying to get them to smell it, cover it up - even took their paws and scratched to cover. They are not interested. Any suggestions?

Patricia    Ridgecrest, CA

4/22/2014 8:02:44 AM

Thank you so much for the catchannel.com. I was brought a kitten who didn't even have it's eyes open. I'm exhausted but very thankful for this channel. Keep up great advice!

Stephanie    Baltimore, MD

7/30/2013 2:17:51 PM

Good article. Not quite ready as my kitten is only 3 weeks old. Still bottle feeding and stimulating for elimination. However, wanted to be proactive and find out when I should start.

janet    bethlehem, PA

3/8/2012 4:18:29 AM

good article, thanks

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