Because cats are instinctively fastidious about where they eliminate, housetraining (housebreaking) the average cat is usually very easy. Often a kitten will already be using a litter pan when you first bring him or her into your home. If not, you will probably be able to train your cat to use one very quickly.
Get a smooth-surfaced pan (plastic or enamel-surfaced ones are best) that can be easily cleaned and disinfected or use disposable litter boxes. Newspapers or chemically untreated sawdust or wood shavings are sanitary materials to use for litter, but commercial clay, silica, or cellulose litters are best.
They are clean, absorbent, tend to reduce odors, and most cats seem to like them (especially litters with a sandlike texture). Line the pan with the litter material, then put it in a place easily accessible to your cat but not directly adjacent to food or water bowls. If you have a kitten be sure he or she doesn’t have to go too far to find the litter pan at first and be sure the sides of the pan aren’t too high to climb over easily, or you may have trouble with housebreaking. If your cat doesn’t use the litter pan correctly from the start as most cats do, you can help teach the proper behavior by placing the kitten into the pan after eating, when he or she awakens, and after play.
Give praise when you see the desired result and administer correction if elimination begins in the wrong place by saying “No!” sharply and firmly and placing the cat back in the litter pan to finish. If you choose to allow your cat free access to the outdoors, you can use the litter pan to teach your cat to eliminate outdoors.
Once your cat has become accustomed to going in and out, move the litter pan gradually from its original site toward the cat’s usual exit. If at any time during this procedure your cat does not use the pan, move it back to the last place where it was used for a day or two before continuing. In a few days your cat should be using the pan right next to the exit.
Then move the pan to a place just outside the exit and then to the selected outdoors spot for elimination. After your cat has been using the pan outside for a few days, remove it entirely. Most cats will continue to choose to eliminate outside. Cat feces in the garden can be a human health hazard, however. If your cat uses your garden as a toilet, wear gloves while gardening or at least wash your hands and fingernails thoroughly afterward. Children, whose habits tend to be less sanitary than adults’, should not play in areas where your cat may bury stools. Remove stools from the litter pan daily.
This is best accomplished with a spoonlike litter strainer that can be purchased at a pet store or supermarket. If you use disposable litter pan liners or completely disposable litter pans, discard them at least every fourth day.
Otherwise, wash the litter pan thoroughly at least every fourth day. (Do this outdoors or in a sink not used for washing dishes or bathing.) Use hot water, detergent, and chlorine bleach, then rinse the pan well and allow it to dry before replacing the litter.
Do not use disinfectants containing phenol (carbolic acid), cresols, resorcinol, or hexylresorcinol; they can be toxic to cats. Also avoid products containing ammonia; these may smell like urine to your cat and discourage him or her from using a pan because it doesn’t smell clean. If this cleaning schedule is not sufficient to keep odors at an acceptable level, baking soda is a safe product to try. Place a layer of it equal to about one third the weight of the litter in the bottom of the litter pan each time you change it.