Being much easier to train in the ‘house training area’ gives them considerable advantages over the puppy in the eyes of many owners and is a significant factor in their popularity. This reputation is a well-founded one, so it is all the more disappointing for a cat owner to find their cat is not being clean. Avoiding problems related to house training relies on providing your cat with access to suitable toileting facilities. For indoor cats, this usually means a litter tray. Outdoor cats may also use a litter tray from time to time and most kittens will need one in the early weeks of life when access to the outdoors needs to be restricted. Outside cats may also need to use a litter tray at other times throughout their lives either through illness or other circumstances, so it is important to make sure your kitten is familiar with the litter tray.
It is important that your cat can access the litter tray at all times throughout the day and night, since many cats are nocturnal creatures and will often use the litter tray during the night. The location of the tray must be acceptable to the cat, as must the type of litter used. Very minor alterations to the toileting facilities can often lead to problems of house soiling. The first thing to consider if urine or faeces is found in inappropriate places, is why the current toileting facilities are not being accepted. You may need to source a different litter tray (eg., size or depth) and also try different types of litter, or different locations for the litter tray until your cat accepts one.
It is very important for the litter tray to be maintained in a hygienic manner and cleaned or assessed regularly (i.e. every day), however it is also important for your cat to build up an association with the tray. Excessive handling and movement of the tray, especially in the early days, can lead to some disruption and confusion. The location of the tray is also important. It needs to be away from playing children and the dog so the cat feels secure when using the litter tray. It is also essential to have at least one litter tray per cat plus an extra one in a different location so that your kitten is always able to use one when they need to eliminate.
Litter trays should be large enough so that the kitten (and later cat) can move around comfortably and dig properly. Generally, a litter tray needs to be at least 1.5 times the length of the cat (including its tail).
If your cat begins to deposit urine or faeces in unacceptable locations, it is important to differentiate between disease and behavioural causes. Clues might be toileting posture, whether or not they use the litter tray, and preferences for certain locations/surfaces. If you do have any problems then it is important to seek veterinary attention at the earliest opportunity as the earlier these problems are diagnosed the easier they are to treat.