Kitty litter box problem

(Papillion, NE)

We found a stray kitten about 5 weeks old. She uses the litter box but also uses the floor in other rooms. Can you help?

My Thoughts:

A 5 week old kitten is very young. At 3 to 5 weeks, most kittens would just be transitioning to solid food, and still be taking milk from their mother (up to about 8 weeks or some cases). This is about the time when you'd just start getting them used to using their own litter box.

So, in addition to the usual issues one might face with respect to litter box problems, you have the added issue of extreme youth, and a cat that has been taken from its mother too soon. Kittens should have low boxes, and be encouraged to use them.

From Care and feeding of queens and kittens:

"Around four weeks of age, they will begin sand-scratching behavior. Initially, they follow the queen to the litter box and play in it. Gradually, by about six weeks of age, they learn to eliminate in the litter box. A cake pan with short sides that the kittens can climb over works well at this stage for a litter box. Kittens learn to bury their feces by watching the queen burying hers."

Most kittens will learn to use the litter box by immitating their mother. Sometimes this doesn't happen, and most experts recommend that you place your kitten in the box after every meal to encourage them to use the box.

I don't have any personal experience with kittens that young, but it's always possible that the problem is due to some sort of medical problem. I
don't know this kitten's history, but has she been checked out by a vet?

Being a stray, it's very likely that she has a number of medical conditions that need to be addressed, including worms or other parasites, and possibly urinary tract and/or digestive problems.

If the vet gives her a clean bill of health, then it's possibly just too early, or this cat's a bit slow to pick things up. If you have more than one cat in the house, this can accelerate learning for the slower kitten.

As always, never punish, and always praise your kitten for successful litter box usage. And, as always, thoroughly clean any soiled areas so that your cat is not tempted to return to them.

If your cat seems to have a spot that is used repeatedly, clean it, and then place an additional litter box right on top of it. Once your cat is using that box, it can be moved, an inch or so at a time, to the location you want.

Instead of full out isolation retraining, you can start by blocking access to areas of the house that she's soiling. I'm reluctant to suggest isolation retraining because the cat might just be too young for it to be effective. Ask your vet for a recommendation on this.

By the way, it's extremely important during this time to socialize your cat as well. Your vet should be able to give you some guidance on this as well, but kittens should be handled, talked to, and played with a lot as part of the process.

I hope that helps and please update us on how she does.


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