How to train your cat to use an automatic litter box?

Training you cat to use self cleaning litter box does not have to be a chore!

Investing in an automatic cat litter box is one thing. How to train your cat to use an automatic litter box unassisted sure feels like something else. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive new cat litter box for your cat to make their nine lives easier; only to have the decision scolded by them and cast aside into the loft next to that peloton your significant other has splurged on and forgotten about. But that can wait until the next national lockdown, they said. 

Judgment aside, training your cat to use a self-cleaning litter box needn’t be a chore. At least if you know your cat’s likes and dislikes well; alongside their litter box habits. Are they sensitive to loud noises? Explore the selection of automatic litter boxes that are discreet and rapid cleaners. Is your cat easily overwhelmed by confined spaces? Seek out the open-plan litter boxes which are a good size for your cat to wriggle around in. Once you’ve eliminated the easy faults and found the best automatic litter box, you’re now ready to train your cat. 

You may still be undecided and have been staring at various self-cleaning litter box models; amazed at the range of prices and possibilities. Do you feel like you need some help deciding how to approach this new cleaning gadget? We have put together a handy guide on to choose an automatic cat litter box.

Training your cat to use an automatic litter box: the ideal setup

The ideal location

Cats like familiar conditions; keep this in mind when changing to a different litter tray

Consider positioning your new litter box in the same spot where the old litter box used to be. Chances are your cat has ingrained in their minds that this is the place where they do their duty. They’re not going to take the time to memorise the new location. If a family member decided to move the toilet one day and never told you its new location, you can only imagine your frustration.

For now, don’t worry if your new cat litter box is far away from a power supply. For the first part of the training, it can remain switched off. This is temporary until your cat gets used to the new litter box. Then you can relocate it to a convenient place with a suitable power source. 

Familiar litter box conditions

Since we’re on the subject of keeping the conditions almost the same, you should consider using the same cat litter as the old litter box. This can be their usual crystal litter, clumping litter, or scented litter – as long as it is their familiar clean litter.

On the rare occasion that your automatic litter box specifically tells you to use a certain type of litter, you can ignore it for now as long as the machine remains switched off.

Prepare for a hands-on start

It’s important to note that for the first week of training your cat, you may have to do some manual cleaning in the automatic litter box. Only until your cat becomes more comfortable using it. 

Once your cat has completed their litter training, you will only need to reach for the waste receptacle to complete the cleaning process.

For added measure keep the old cat’s litter box at hand but placed it somewhere else in the room. 

Automatic litter box training tip: monitor your cat

We’ve always said that the best automatic litter box is the one your cat actually uses. Every cat owner dream of their cat taking to the automatic litter box immediately, while they whisk themselves away to that long weekend they’ve been so desperate for. Miracles can happen, and if your cat happens to grant your wish, then great – you’re one lucky cat owner.

Self-cleaning litter boxes can really be one life-changing piece of kit in your household. Even if it takes a bit of persistent training, the results are well worth it. Here is one of many examples of cats happily using an automatic cat litter box – Petkit Pura Max. This is also a great option for multi-cat families.

How to encourage my cat to use the new automatic litter box?

We will, however, explore the more common cat owner scenario though. The “my cat is staring at this new piece of kit in bewilderment and doesn’t know what to do” type of scenario. The next few weeks will consist of a lot of monitoring of your cat. Try to identify whether they have noticed it, crawled into it, sniffed around, and how often in a day they show curiosity towards the litter box.

The idea is to encourage those behaviors; reward them when they show even a little bit of interest in the box. At the same time, if you have the regular litter box still available, you will need to make that a less enticing option. You could consider changing the type of cat litter to a scent your cat does not recognize.

Resist the temptation to clean the old litter tray

Encourage cat to use self cleaning litter tray

Or, if you can resist the temptation, hold off cleaning the dirty litter box for a few days. It will discourage your cat from opting for that. This method, although a little unhygienic, will probably be the most effective. Cats like to remain clean so if they notice that there is a sanitary option available to them. Enter your brand new self-cleaning litter box. Equipped with familiar and clean litter! There’s no chance they will pass that opportunity up! 

Understand your cat

Having said all that, you may need to allow time to keep a close eye on your cat’s activity.

Self-cleaning litter boxes can indeed take a while to get used to. Some cats like the new litter box setup at the start but then veer off back to their old ways when you’re not looking.

Your cat may also need to transition to a different type of kitty litter; perhaps from crystal litter to clay litter. Or from non-clumping to a clumping litter variety; as this is how most self-cleaning cat litter boxes distinguish the waste during the cleaning cycle.

In some instances where the self-clean program is finally introduced to the routine, cats can get the wrong idea and start clawing at the mechanism, believing it to be another toy. This is easily resolved by rewarding good behavior and discouraging the bad, at the expense of being extra vigilant just for now.  

The fears of your feline

So many obstacles can come up which can cause your cat to refuse to use the litter box. Or they may have warmed up to it in the first days but then reverted back to their old box. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should panic and swiftly process a product return. You only need some persistence, so don’t despair! Train your cat to use an automatic litter box and your efforts will surely pay off in the long run!

The product is big in size and rather imposing

My cat dislikes our new automatic litter box

Some automatic litter boxes do look quite out of this world – such as the Litter Robot. And yes, your cat may be happy to climb on board this spaceship, but may also be understandably skeptical.

This intimidating-looking machine that has suddenly moved into your home can be enough to alarm your cat. Reminding them to use familiar scents may help with this. Using your regular litter reminds your cat of what they need to do in the litter box. They really shouldn’t mind the size of the product over time.

Taking advantage of dismantling some parts as well, such as removing the top cover, would help it appear less alien to them too.

If you are aware of any smells that your cat takes a liking to, such as pine litter or a bit of catnip, then there’s no harm in trying those options too. Really anything that reminds them of their old box

The product is too loud when cleaning and it scares my cat 

There may be an occasion where your cat has successfully transitioned to the new litter box but as soon as you’ve turned it on, they have developed this fear of being trapped and vacuumed up along with wherever their waste disappears too.

It’s every cat’s nightmare and, somehow, we can relate to that.

Thankfully product designers have thought about this when building the best automatic litter box. They have specific programs which are easily adjusted to suit your preferences. Such as reducing the cleaning cycle or at least delaying the start of the cleaning cycle after your cat has long left the litter box. 

My cat did use the automatic litter box for the first few weeks; now they’re going back to the old litter tray or they’ve taken to soiling my carpet instead

With any kind of adjustment, every cat owner has to make room for fallbacks. A common litter box problem is when your cat does not accept their new litter or litter box.

Be prepared for these mishaps and you will save time and effort in the long run. Not to mention less blame exerted on that blooming cat!

In such cases we’d recommend laying down litter mats, newspaper, or puppy pads and keeping the traditional litter tray close by, particularly if you have multiple cats and there appears to be a queue forming outside the automatic box.

Resist the urge to clean the waste from the traditional cat litter for a day or two. Cats don’t like doing their business in the dirty litter so they may decide to switch over to the sparkly clean litter box immediately. Other cats might need more convincing. Putting a bit of waste litter into the automatic cat litter box should help remind them there is another option.

Some might need more praise and reward with treats every time they use the automatic litter box. These methods do require close monitoring but remember this is only temporary and your cat will thank you for it.

The final takeaway

Your cat may be sceptical about a self cleaning litter box at first; persistent training usually solves the problem

With all being said and done, it will definitely take time and patience at the start until you train your cat to confidently use an automatic litter box on its own. We can take comfort in knowing that cats are very independent animals. That’s why we love them so much! And it just takes a bit of showing at the start.

Of course, every cat has their own personality and traits that only you as the cat owner understand; so it’s up to you to take our advice and tailor it to suit your cat’s needs. 

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