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How to Train an Outdoor Cat to Use the Litter Box

how to train an outdoor cat to use the litter box

If you’re transitioning an outdoor cat to indoor life, you may be initially concerned with how to train the cat to now start using an indoor litter box. For some cats, the transition to a litter box will be very easy but for others, it may take a little more finesse on your part.

Start With an Appealing Litter Box

Look at the box from your formerly-outdoor cat’s point of view. When he was outdoors he had the wide open spaces when it came to choosing an elimination spot. The box you choose as his new indoor box should be:


easy to find

the right size

All-too-often, when it comes to litter boxes, cat parents choose types that are appealing to us but not the cat. A covered box or a self-cleaning model may be too confining, too noisy, too small, or just too confusing when an outdoor cat is learning Litter Box 101. Box size should be:

large enough for the cat to completely stand inside and move around

good rule of thumb is one-and-a-half times the length of the cat

how to train an outdoor cat to use the litter box

Photo by Sara Morán on Unsplash

Typically, many of the litter boxes on the market really aren’t big enough for most cats. In that case, get a plastic storage container instead. You can choose one with very high sides to control litter scatter. Cut an entrance on one side of the box so it’s easy for your cat to go in and out. Also, don’t use liners in the box. Cats generally hate those and an indoor cat will probably just be frustrated and confused by them.

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Correct Number of Litter Boxes

Ideally, a cat household should contain the same number of boxes as cats. If you’re transitioning a cat to the indoors, make it even easier for him to learn by providing more than one box. In the outdoors he was used to being able to eliminate anywhere so the indoor boxes need to be easy to find. Don’t create so much privacy that the boxes become forgotten.

Type of Cat Litter

An outdoor cat who has never used a litter box is more familiar with soil, sand and unscented substrates. Your best bet is to choose a very soft sand-like, unscented scoopable litter. If your outdoor cat is only comfortable eliminating in sandy soil, you may have to initially make a mix of litter and sandy soil together and then gradually reduce the amount of soil in the box until you’re left with just scoopable litter.

If the cat isn’t using the litter box and you’re unsure just what substrate to use, set out a few boxes and offer several choices.

cat litter and scoop

Photo: Fotolia


Location of Litter Boxes

Put one box by the door so that when your cat goes near the area in an attempt to get outside for elimination, he’ll see the litter box conveniently located. Place the other box in the area where he spends the most time (but not right near the food).

In some cases, it’s best to confine the cat to a small area of the home until you’re sure he has mastered Litter Box 101.

Be Patient With the Cat

The longer the cat has been used to eliminating exclusively outdoors, the longer it may take for him to get the hang of now using a litter box. Don’t punish him for mistakes or else you’ll create a fear and that will set you back in the training and trust-building process. Instead, make any necessary adjustments in the set-up and the environment to help him succeed.

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We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.







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