A question I am frequently asked is “Litter Training a Feral Kitten” This is a common problem for you because the kitten is feral. However, just like all litter training, it can be accomplished by using the same methods for all training problems by employing the method that will actually work.
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How Can I Litter Train a Feral Kitten
Getting a new kitten is an experience that many people look forward to, as kittens can be absolute bundles of joy. However, everyone knows that kittens can also be bundles of trouble as well. Kittens tend to be stubborn at times, which can make it relatively difficult to litter train them.
With that being said, this problem is often made many times worse when it comes to feral kittens. While you shouldn’t get too mad about how much trouble it is to litter train a feral kitten, you should also prepare yourself for a lot of accidents.
People who work with strays will tell you that they often need a lot of care and attention, despite how often they reject it. This is especially true for kittens.
There is a lot more to think about when you need to litter train a feral cat. From finding a way to keep the cat from running from you every time you take a step to find a way to teach your cat without it clawing and biting you, there is so much to consider. When all is said and done at the end of the day, litter training a feral kitten is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and the kitten.
What Should You Know About Feral Kittens?
Feral is a term that people typically use to describe cats who live outdoors and don’t have any specific owner. More often than not, feral cats were originally domesticated cats that were abandoned or lost, either purposefully or by mistake. however, heavy storms and hurricanes can leave pets stranded from their owners.
Sometimes, people just cannot care for a cat. No matter the original cause, when a cat is thrown out of a house and abandoned, it will usually develop distrust and fear of any and all humans. This is key information when discerning feral cats from stray cats. Stray cats are accustomed to people and accept them. Feral cats are not, which makes readjusting to living with people difficult and even problematic.
Kittens will learn from their parent cats. If a parent cat runs and hides from all passerby and attacks anyone who comes too close, the kitten will learn to do the same. However, one thing that might bring hope to your endeavor to litter train a feral kitten, is that kittens usually learn this from their parent cats.
Was the kitten abandoned?
Unless the kitten itself was actually abandoned as well, the kitten will not usually have the same absolute terror and distrust of humans as adult feral cats do. This means that it will generally be easier to litter train a feral kitten, rather than an adult cat.
Knowing that a kitten is feral is also important information when you are litter training a feral kitten. Once you know that your kitten is a feral one, you will be able to understand why your kitten might not want to be seen, looked at, or touched at all.
This also means that you can more or less rule out picking the cat up and physically showing the cat the litter box, as it will usually end with you covered in scratches and bite marks. Armed with the information that your kitten is feral, you will be able to make better plans on how to properly litter train it.
The Supplies You Will Need
To get started litter training your feral kitten, you will need some supplies. Most of it is pretty straightforward: a litterbox, a litter scooper, cat litter, and so on. Of course, you should get the supplies that you would typically get for a cat that needs to use the litterbox. However, there are some other things that you will need to get when you are litter training a feral kitten. The two other things you will need are dirt and a shoebox.
Dirt will be the first type of “litter” that you use to teach your feral kitten where the litter box will eventually be. This is because feral cats are used to using dirt as their natural litterbox.
Calm the kitten
Having something that brings a sense of familiarity with their new homes can be calming, which is definitely something you and your cat will appreciate. In addition to it being something your cat is familiar with, having dirt as the litter will actually attract your cat to the litterbox. This makes it even easier to start the litter training process.
The shoebox, as you might be able to imagine, is going to be a starter litter box for your kitten. Shoe boxes are typically smaller and easier for a kitten to climb over. They also will not be as large as typical litter boxes, which will be important for a feral cat.
Feral kittens are usually skittish and will avoid things that they fear, such as a full-size litterbox. If your kitten is very small or young, between five to six weeks of age, you might need to use a shoebox lid so that your cat can climb it more easily.
Beginning to Litter Train
First, you will want to keep your feral kitten in a small room for the first few days of litter training. This ensures that not only will the kitten be able to find the litter box without too much exploration (exploration might be something feral kitten fear doing), but it will also not get lost in the maze of a new house.
More often than not, a bathroom is a perfect place to keep your kitten. If the bathroom is tiled, that is even better, as it is easier to clean up accidents on a tiled floor. Of course, make sure that the bathroom has food, water, toys, and a comfortable place for the kitten to sleep if it wants to.
Never give up
Next, fill the shoebox (or shoebox lid) with dirt. When you are , you will usually want to place the litter box in one corner of the room, with food and water in the other corner of the room. Kittens, in general, want to eliminate their waste in the corner of a room that isn’t where food and water are.
Your feral kitten will be more likely to use a litter box that is placed in a location where they feel safe and hidden from perceived predators, such as you, making a corner an even better place to put the makeshift litter box.
If it is possible, you should find a way to monitor the kitten, as there are several things you will want to look out for. Whether this means having a camera in the room connected to your phone or putting the cat in a room that has a window you can look into, you will want to keep an eye on the kitten without intruding on it.
Making Sure the Kitten Is Using the Litter Box
During the process of litter training a feral kitten, there are going to be accidents. This is inevitable, and no matter how closely you watch the kitten, they will happen. Typically, your kitten will have to eliminate around half an hour after it eats. Signs of needing to defecate include meowing, scratching the floor, or looking around for no other reason.
Keeping the litter box clean
If you have bonded with the feral kitten enough that it is okay with you picking it up, you should pick it up and show it the litter box when you see these signs. Be wary though, as a feral kitten might not appreciate being picked up suddenly and will not hesitate to show you that it does not want this.
If you are okay with this, or you want to be as efficient with litter training as possible, you can wear some thick gloves when you pick up the kitten.
Just keep in mind whether or not the kitten has been vaccinated for rabies yet and clean any wounds the cat leaves.
When the kitten uses the litter box, praise the kitten as best you can. If it is okay with treats and some attention, give your kitten some treats. If your kitten doesn’t yet trust you, you can leave some treats in the room when your cat uses the litter box.
If the cat is becoming braver, but just hasn’t warmed up to you yet, you can find a cat toy and play with it that way. The important part is making sure you praise the kitten and that it acknowledges that you are giving it praise. In some cases, praising the cat can even help you bond with it.
Continuing the Litter Training Process
Cats, despite their reputation as solitary and stubborn, can learn things relatively quickly. In a best-case scenario, where the kitten is okay with you picking it up briefly, you can get the litter training process over within a few days. Depending on how much the kitten despises being picked up, it can take a week or even a couple of weeks.
Accidents, as mentioned earlier, are a normal and natural process of litter training a feral kitten. You should never, ever, get mad at your kitten for an accident. This will only induce fear in the kitten, hindering its litter training progress. For feral kittens, who already have a distrust of people, scolding them for an accident will only reinforce the idea that humans are threatening creatures.
Do not punish the kitten
This method not only ruin progress on litter training, but it can also destroy any bond you have made with your kitten. Instead of scolding the kitten, you should place the poop in the litter box. This will show the kitten that the litter box is where poop belongs, and it will help to reinforce the idea that the litter box is where the kitten should be eliminating.
Gradually, you should begin adding some scoops of unscented litter to the box of dirt. This will help your cat become accustomed to the smell, texture, and way that typical cat litter works. In about a week, the litter box should be completely filled with litter instead of dirt.
A week is also about the time it will take for your kitten to have at least a grasp of litter training. If you still see that accidents are happening, and it is not due to another reason (such as medical, or out of fear), you might have to keep the cat in the room a bit longer.
Finishing Litter Training for Your Feral Kitten
Usually, it will take a week or less for you to finish litter training your feral kitten. You will probably come out of this process a little bit more frustrated and covered in a few more scratches, but once your kitten has learned how to use the litter box, it can begin feeling as if your home is truly a home and not the enemy’s territory.
Something that you need to note is that your kitten will probably become accustomed to using the litter box in the location you put it, even after you open the doors for your kitten to explore the rest of the house. This means you should place the shoebox of dirt in a place where you are okay with having a litter box.
Some hope for this training process is that feral kittens if they are brought in and domesticated properly, can quickly lose their feral mindsets. This means that once your kitten realizes that you are a safe person who means no harm, your kitten will probably trust you.
This means that you will easily be able to replace the shoebox with a proper litter box. When you do this, you will want to place some of the old litter, along with the waste, inside the new litter box. This will show the kitten, by scent, that this new litter box is more or less the same as the old one, but it just looks different.
Teaching Your Kitten it Can Trust You
During the time when the kitten is in a small room, you can actually combine this with teaching your cat that it can trust you. You can do this by feeding it from your hand, playing with it, and handling it gently. Leaving some worn clothes in the room can also help the kitten get accustomed to your scent.
If there are other people and animals in your house, leave items that smell like them in the room as well. Be warned that your kitten might try to mark them though. Combining litter training your feral kitten and getting the kitten accustomed to the house is a very efficient idea.