Bringing home a new kitten is a very exciting event. It is so cute and fluffy and cuddly that you just can’t help fall in love with it immediately. Most people will have already gotten food and water bowls, some specialised kitten food and even some toys to make sure their kitten is well taken care of. When it comes to the litter box and kitten litter, however, less thought is often put into this. It’s just a tray with some litter in it, right?
Well actually, no. If done wrong, the litter box will soon become the focal point of your attention. You'll spend a lot of time and energy trying to make it work. Not using the litter tray is the top reason that cats are given away to shelters. Often there are small tweaks that the owner can make to solve this problem, they just don’t think of it. Choosing the right litter box and the right cat litter to go in it can make all the difference in the world.
Litter Training Your Kitten
Cats will naturally want to bury their waste. It’s an instinctual survival instinct that keeps their scent hidden from predators. They will also learn from a very young age how to use the litter box from their mothers. This means that you don’t have to litter train your kitten in the same way that you need to house-train a puppy, but you do need to make sure your kitten knows where its litter tray is and how to find it from around the house.
The location of the litter box is also important. Your kitten needs to feel safe when using the litter tray. It shouldn’t be in a confined, noisy or hard to reach place. The size of the litter box is also worth considering. You want one that is low enough for a tiny kitten to get in and out of, but you also want to consider that changing litter boxes can cause regressions in litter training for some cats. Ideally, find one that your kitten can use straight away and that will also last for a while. At least until you are confident in the litter box skills of your cat.
Using Clumping Litter For Kittens
Most clumping litter is made from sodium bentonite clay. This is great as a cat litter as it’s incredibly absorbent and can swell up to 18 times its original size to retain moisture. It will trap a lot of pee before you have to deal with it. A lot of them also contain silica quartz as a dehydrating agent. Both of these chemicals are completely safe… Unless you eat them.
Just like with children, kittens have a tendency to put things in their mouths to find out what it is. Even litter. A lot of the time, we may not notice this like we would with a baby. Kittens are usually running around and not under our constant supervision. If your kitten were to eat the clay clumping litter, it could swell up inside its digestive tract, absorbing the moisture there and causing blockages that can be fatal for your kitten if not found in time. Until your kitten is old enough to understand that litter is not a toy and is not to be eaten, it’s best to avoid fine, clay-based litters. Usually this is until your kitten is 4-6 months old.
Which Kitten Litter Is Safe?
Many cat litters will have a “Safe for Kittens” label on them to let you know that they’re not a hazard for your kitten. However, there are some guidelines you can follow too if you can’t find one that has the sticker on it.
Choose Big Pieces
Generally, litter that is in larger pieces or pellets are going to be ok, even clay pellets. This is because the kittens are less likely to eat them by accident. Larger pellets are not going to stick to your kitten’s fur and paws in the way that fine grains and sandy litter will. This means that your kitten won’t actually ingest them while cleaning itself. It also means that they won’t track around your house so much either.
Use Non-Clumping Litter
By using a material that breaks down when wet rather than clumping together, you’re reducing the chance that your kitten will play with the litter. A clump looks like a ball and is big enough to be pawed at and batted around. Materials such as pine are great for avoiding this. They come as larger pellets so don't stick in your kitten’s fur and your kitten can't lick them off later. Since they break down when wet, they’re also not as dangerous if your kitten does happen to eat some, as the material will dissolve rather than swell in the digestive tract. Just keep in mind that non-clumping litter will need to be cleaned more frequently that clumping litter.
Some Examples To Help You Out
These kitten litter examples are non-clay-based litters that are safe for your tiny kitten to use while learning about how the litter box works.
The BLUE Naturally Fresh Kitten Litter is made from U.S. sourced walnuts, making it environmentally friendly. This means that there are no clay particles that your kitten might ingest and it doesn’t give off any dust when you pour it. The pellets are big enough to stay in the litter box and won’t stick to your kitten’s paws and track through the house. It also contains a herbal mix that attracts your kitten by the smell, encouraging it to use the litter tray. The walnut litter is extremely absorbent and the brand claims that one bag of this litter will last 3 times as long as any other kind.
This litter is 100% natural, made from pine. It controls odour without the use of chemical scents or additives. While not specifically designed for kittens, this seems to be a favourite litter for many cat owners and is perfectly safe for the little ones to use while they learn about their litter box. It’s low dust and low tracking and is biodegradable, so you can do your bit for the environment too.
Ecopine is a natural, sustainable and biodegradable litter. It contains a mixture of pine granules and crystals that claims to neutralise odours for a whole month. Without scooping. Though this does only apply to the urine, you still have to scoop the poop out daily. The pine granules remove the smell and the crystals absorb moisture and remove it from the litter tray. It’s a non-clumping litter so is safe for use with kittens. The litter is a soft texture rather than pellets so it encourages digging and burying and is gentle on the soft little kitten paws.
It’s worth noting that some people think the whole “clay is dangerous for kittens” thing has been exaggerated as very few kittens have actually reported problems with swallowing clay litter. However, it is a legitimate risk and in my opinion, why take the chance? It’s better to be safe and use a kitten approved litter for the first few months. Once your kitten is big enough that eating a small amount of litter won’t do too much damage and experienced enough to not eat the litter, you can move on to a regular one.