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How to Introduce Your Cat to a New Cat Litter or Litter Box

introducing cat to new litter box

A common theme among nearly every type of cat is that they don’t like sudden changes.  Even the slightest alteration in the environment such as a new piece of furniture, a unique smell from a different type of candle, or even adjusting the direction a lamp or light points can put them in a “funk” for a few days if not longer.

So it is no wonder that many people dread trying to introduce their cat to a new type of cat litter or a new cat litter box.  A cat litter box is a safe haven for your cat and an area that it is important that they feel very comfortable around.  If not, you risk the chance of them doing their business outside of the box which nobody wants to deal with.  Your cat is also very sensitive to the cat litter that is used inside the cat litter box.  It becomes accustomed to the unique smell, texture, and weight of a litter and suddenly changing it can really make them feel uncomfortable and potentially avoid using the cat litter box altogether.

However, sometimes it is necessary to change a cat litter box or a cat litter.  We go over a few of the more common reasons below.

Reasons You May Need to Change to a Different Cat Litter

  • Your cat has grown from a kitten to an adult or is getting older and needs to transition from a kitten cat litter to an adult cat litter, an adult cat litter to an elderly cat litter, etc.  These litters are made specifically for cats of a certain age and it is important to make sure that they are using the correct type of litter for their age group.
  • Your cat has developed an allergy to the dust/smell/chemicals that were in a previous type of cat litter that it was using.  If you feel that your cat might be suffering from an allergic reaction to your current cat litter then we recommend taking it to the vet to discuss this matter with them.  They will be able to test your cat for allergies or an allergic reaction.
  • Your cat keeps eating the cat litter.  If you happen to have a cat that is known to eat its cat litter then you might have to transition to something that has a harsher taste or smell so as to help persuade your cat to avoid eating it.  We have seen the “all-natural” types of litter that are made of wood, wheat, corn, etc. being eaten by cats much more common than the traditional clay and silica gel cat litters.  Eating cat litter can cause serious health issues for your cat and if you suspect that your cat is consuming litter granules you need to try to correct this issue as soon as possible.
  • You are having too many issues with dust or tracking with a current litter.  If you browse our extensive list of reviews on this site for very long you will quickly notice that there is a huge variance in how easily one type of litter tracks from another.  Some cats naturally kick and dig into litter more than others and if you happen to be using a cat litter that has smaller and more lightweight granules you might have to constantly deal with litter being tracked out of the box.  Going to a litter with heavier and larger granules might help to avoid this problem.
  • You have difficulty acquiring your old cat litter at stores.  We constantly hear readers complain about how their favorite cat litter is no longer available in their area.  Many of the popular cat litter companies are constantly changing what products they sell or redesigning them into totally new products.  Because of this, you and your cat’s favorite cat litter might suddenly disappear from stores one day and you will be forced to try something new.

kitten using cat litter box

  • You grow your family by adding additional cats.  For those who prefer to have a single cat litter box for multiple cats, sometimes you will be forced to go with a more robust type of cat litter when you introduce additional cats to your home.  Unfortunately, a lot of the more powerful cat litters also come with harsher chemical smells which might take longer to agree with your cat, particularly if it had already been used to a previous cat litter.
  • You are on a budget.  Let’s face it: cat litter can be expensive!  Particularly if you prefer the premium-priced products such as crystals and silica gel.  Sometimes life happens and you have to cut back some on the pet budget and this requires switching to a more affordable cat litter.
  • You move to a new house/apartment.  This is actually a very common one.  People that move to a smaller apartment quickly realize that their old cat litter wasn’t doing a very good job of masking cat waste smells and they are forced to go with something more powerful in the odor control department.
cat litter allergies

If you notice your cat having an allergic reaction to its litter, to it to a vet right away.

  • Your cat has sensitive paws/had surgery.  Cat’s paws are one of the most sensitive areas of their body and certain cat litter granules can be very uncomfortable on them, particularly if they had recently had surgery or been declawed.  You may be forced to go with a softer and gentler litter that is designed for sensitive paws to help avoid your cat from suffering.

Reasons You May Need to Change to a Different Cat Litter Box

  • The obvious one is if your old cat litter box has broken.  We are well aware that many of the current cat litter boxes on the market aren’t exactly high quality.  Many are made of cheap, flimsy plastic and over time they are prone to cracking and breaking.
  • You are trying to combat cat litter tracking.  Cats that are notorious for aggressively digging into their litter are more likely to knock some out.  Purchasing a cat litter box with taller side walls can help alleviate that problem.
  • You add cats to the family.  Some people prefer to buy multiple litter boxes for each cat while others don’t have space or desire for more than one.  This may require a larger cat litter box that can accommodate your new family members.
multiple cats litter box

Adding another cat to the family? You might have to go with a larger litter box.

  • You moved or remodeled the layout of your home and your old cat litter box either will no longer fit in its desired place or doesn’t look as nice.  We see this a lot with people who go from conventional square litter boxes to the triangle-shaped ones that you can stick in a corner.  By the way, if you are after a corner litter box be sure to check out our top choices here.
  • Sometimes you have to get a new box as your cat ages.  This can be going from a kitten or trainer litter box to a full-sized adult litter box.  It can also include going with a litter box that has a less aggressive step up for cats who are older or have physical challenges that make it difficult for them to lift their legs up very high to get inside.

These were just a few examples.  We are sure you could name of dozens more that you have personally experienced.  The important takeaway from all of this is to realize that there are a ton of potential reasons why a cat may need to change its litter or litter box!

How to Introduce Your Cat to a New Cat Litter or Cat Litter Box

Ok, so for whatever reason you are being forced to swap out your favorite cat litter or go with a new cat litter box.  Don’t stress!  There are several steps you can take to make the transition as easy as possible for both you and your cat.

If you are making a change, only make one change at a time.

The easiest way to transition your cat into a new litter or litter box is to keep things as close to the original way as possible when starting out.  For example, if you are trying out a new litter then stick with the old litter box and the original litter box location until they become used to the new litter.  If you have decided to go with a new litter box, be sure to use the same cat litter that he or she is already used to.

New litter box?  Keep the old one around

If you are trying to introduce your cat to a new litter box, don’t just toss the old one.  Instead, keep it near the new litter box but make the new one much more appealing to your cat.  For instance, put your cat’s favorite toy or a cat treat near the near litter box to make it more attractive.  It is important that your cat is the one that decides when he or she is ready to call the new litter box home rather than being forced to.

Mix your new litter with your old litter starting out

If you are trying to acclimate your cat to a new litter, initially try mixing the new and old together.  Start out with something like 90% old/10% new then 80% old/20% new, etc.  This slowly transitions your cat to the new litter and minimizes the likelihood of them being shocked and turned off by a sudden change.

Reinforce and Reward

When you see your cat using its new litter or litter box for the first few times make sure to reward and reinforce your approval of this.  At first, it can feel very foreign to them and they may need your guidance and approval for them “getting out of their comfort zone”.

Still having issues?  Take it slower.

If you are having issues it is important to slow the transition down if necessary.  Whatever you do, don’t berate and punish your cat for not wanting to use its new box or even if it goes outside of the box starting out.  This will only make matters worse and potentially make your cat associate this new litter box or litter with negative things such as being yelled at.  Take it slow and stay positive!

We love to hear from our readers so if you have any additional tips or tricks that have worked for you and your cat family please contact us and let us know so we can add it to the list! tests and analyzes every major cat litter brand and various cat litter accessories to determine what the best product is that meets your needs.  When readers choose to buy our independently reviewed choices, we may earn affiliate commissions that help to support our writers and site maintenenance.