Part of the job of caring for your cat is providing it with its own toilet facilities — in the form of a litter tray. This is particularly important for kittens that are not old enough to go outside, and (of course) for indoor cats that cannot get out to the garden to relieve themselves. It is also useful to get your cat used to the idea of using a litter tray from time to time, in case it has to be kept indoors for short periods due to illness, for example.
If you are a two-cat household, will you be able to make do with one tray? Most cats are prepared to share a tray if it is large enough, but fussy cats may prefer to have their own toilet facilities.
Kittens will soon get used to the idea of using a litter tray, particularly if you show them the tray soon after they have had a meal. Then, if you gradually move the tray closer to their exit to the garden they will find their way outside when they are old enough, and you can do away with the litter tray altogether.
A litter tray is essential to teach a kitten to be clean. Toilet training should begin when kittens eat solids, from three or four weeks. Once a cat is housetrained, the tray may no longer be necessary if the cat is free to go outside, though you may have to get the tray out again if anything prevents your cat from going out —say, if it’s ill, or if it’s elderly and has become lazy. But if your cat is not allowed out, you will need to have a litter tray permanently. The best type of litter tray is a purpose-made tray in strongplastic, which is more hygienic than wood or metal. A high-sided tray stops litter spilling. If you have more than one cat, ensure that the tray is big enough for all of them. Wash the tray regularly, using disinfectant before rinsing thoroughly.
POSITIONING THE TRAY
Cats are fastidious and do not like to eat near their ‘toilet’, so keep the tray away from their feeding and sleeping areas. Place it on a washable mat or on newspaper to prevent litter spilling on the floor — and to catch any near-misses when you are training kittens.
Some litter trays have a domed lid with a side entrance, which gives the cat privacy — something that many cats appreciate, especially nervous ones.
Cats are clean animals by nature and usually return to the same spot to urinate. They are not likely to urinate or defecate near the area where they feed, play or sleep.
Most common disinfectants are toxic to cats, so use one of the quaternary ammonium disinfectants — consult your chemist — and rinse the area thoroughly after use.
A pregnant woman should not have any contact with a cat’s litter tray, in case of any chance of infection from toxoplasmosis, which carries a small risk of miscarriage or deformity in an unborn child.