I love cats (dogs too - but that's a subject for a different article...;o)). There are few things more enjoyable than welcoming an adorable little kitten into one's house; watching them inspect their mysterious new surroundings - timidly at first - and then quickly make it their empire.
Of course, it's not ALL laughs & balls of yarn:
Fluffy's got to be house trained - and fast, if you don't want the place to start smelling like.....well, you know. If your kitty was raised indoors by its litter box-trained mother, it'll likely know what to do already. If, on the other hand, the kitten was raised outdoors, or in a shelter, it might never have even seen a litter box, let alone know what they're for.
Choosing a Litter Box
Naturally, there are many different kinds of litter boxes to choose from, with varying prices: simple open trays, covered boxes, even toiled-connected mechanical ones that clean themselves. Whatever other features the box you select might have, it must meet 2 specifications: Its sides should be low enough for the kitten to climb over easily, and there should be plenty of room for him to move around. If cash is tight, there's no need to purchase a box: You can use a shallow pan or a cardboard box lined with plastic will do the trick just as well.
The Right Kitty Litter
As for the right litter to choose, definitely don't used the clumping kind at first: inexperienced, curious kittens might eat some of it, and it can block their intestines - resulting in a big vet bill for you, and worse for your little buddy. As for the scented varieties, you might like them, but your cat probably won't, so it's best to just stick with plain, unscented litter until the kitten is older. There are free substitutes you may want to consider: shredded paper, even dirt or sand.
To get things started right, the kitty needs to be confined to the room in which you plan to spend the most time with him. Close the doors to the other rooms to your house; if there are no doors in a particular case, you can construct a makeshift barrier of cardboard or whatever might be at hand.
We all know cats are clean, with their daily grooming, etc. They're equally "conscientious" about doing their "business". It's part of their make-up to want to bury their pee & poop. Watch kitty closely, and when you see that it's about to go, calmly & gently pick it up and put it in the box. One of the main signs a kitten is about to go is scratching the carpet or upholstery. They might also abruptly break from playing to go to a corner, or behind a sofa.
It's very important that you don't scare the little fellow, since you don't want him to associate the litter box with fear. To help his instincts take over, gently take his paw and scratch in the litter with it (this may seem laughable, but it does work). If he goes in the box, give him lots of quiet praise & pats. If he doesn't, just be patient and continue your training; he'll soon get the hang of it.
Begin to establish routines in the kitty's mind. Naturally enough, one of the main times a kitten needs to "go potty" is right after meals. Place him in the box. If he goes, fine; if not, no big deal. Cats often like to go after a nap as well, so do the procedure then, too.
Litter Box Placement
Like us, cats prefer privacy when doing their business, so place the litter box in a quiet corner. Keep it well away from the kitty's food & water bowls. If you have more than one cat, or if your dwelling has several floors, you might consider getting more than one box.
Keep the litter box/boxes nice & clean. Scoop out the dreaded "Number Twos", and change the litter once a week. Wash the box periodically as well.
Dealing With Accidents
Of course they're going to happen - after all, your kitty is a mere baby. As ever, be kind & gentle with him. Definitely don't become frustrated & rub his nose in the mess: It will only make the poor little thing fear you instead of love you. Pick up the mess & put it in the box: The scent will draw him to it next time. When you catch him in the act, just pick him up and say "no no" in a displeased but controlled tone of voice and put him int the box as usual.
That's all there is to it, really. Practice these training steps consistently, and you'll soon have a happy kitty well adjusted to a clean home life.