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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.


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.

One comment

  1. I have an 8 year old cat.spayed. He goes in and out of house. Always in at night. He used to be in all the time and would use litter box. now he never will. I am going away for a week and a neighbor will feed him and let him out once or twice a day. Hard because it is winter. any ideas how I can get him to just use litter box.

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