When I first bought my Modko Modkat Top-Entry Litter Box, I was terrified my cat wouldn’t be able to use it. Considering it was our first top-entry litter box, the fear made sense: Avery had never used anything of the sort before and the concept can be a little strange for even humans to grasp, let alone (or so I thought) for cats to grasp.
I actually had very little issue getting Avery to use the top-entry litter box, once the old litter box was out of the picture. Definitely a cat will prefer to use what he or she is used to if it’s at all available (which makes perfect sense, the same usually goes for we humans), but with no other options, I now believe that the vast majority of cats will be able to figure a top-entry litter box out in little to no time at all.
That being said, there are a lot of little, easy tings you can do a lot to help a cat recognize the new litter box as their new “place of business.” So if you really want to jump on the top entry litter box bandwagon because the benefits of having a top-entry-box appeal to you, but you aren’t sure your cat is clever enough to put the pieces together him or her self – take a look at the following suggestions and implement what you’re happy to do. Wait a full day or two with the new litter box; while some cats never take to top-entry boxes, from what I’ve heard it’s rare, and most take to them pretty easily.
If you have any issues – or for that matter recommendations on what to try to get a cat to take to a top entry litter box as quickly as possible – please leave them in the comments down below as your comment could really help out another pet owner!
Now let’s get into the ways you can help train a cat to use a top entry litter box.
How You Can Encourage a Cat to Use a Top Entry Litter Box
1. Do not switch litter at the same time as switching to a new box.
If your cat is used to a specific litter, he or she will associate the smell of that litter with his/her place to go to the bathroom. It would be very difficult indeed to get a cat to accept both a new litter box and a new litter at the exact same time. Especially if that new litter box is a little tricky, like a first transition to a top-entry litter box would likely be for a cat. Try to keep as much as possible the same besides the new litter box. It should really help kitty make a quick and easy transition.
2. Take a bit of the old litter and mix it in with the new litter in the new litter box.
Easy as pie to try out and something I saw suggested quite regularly when I was searching for tips on getting your cat to recognize pretty much any new litter box as their own new space to “go.”
Why does this help? Apparently, if the cat smells his or her scent, he or she will know that that’s essentially an approved place to do their business, and so hesitation of “this is not a place I’ve used before” is reduced. Really easy to implement anyway, so worth a shot right off the bat in my opinion.
3. Put the new litter box in exactly the same spot the old litter box used to be.
This, again, is to help a cat associate the new litter box with “the spot I’m supposed to go in.” It’s once again easy to implement, though chances are if you’ve got a new litter box, you were going to place it in the same spot the old litter box was anyway, so I probably didn’t need to tell you to try this. Self-evident, but in case you were going to move the litter box at the same time as you switched to a new product, hold off until your kitty’s gotten used to the new box and then move it after a few days of successful litter usage.
4. Hide the old litter box. Move it somewhere completely out of reach from your cat.
Have a garage your cat doesn’t have access to? Try putting the old litter box in there. If you want to keep it somewhat close/on hand in case your cat nearly has an accident, try keeping the old litter box in the bathroom but keeping the door shut at all times so your cat can’t get in there to use it.
Your cat will almost certainly try to use the old litter box to go to the washroom in. Even if you think he or she doesn’t know where it is, you’d probably be surprised at how clever your cat is and the lengths he or she will go to in order to get to their old box.
When I switched to my new top-entry litter box, I hid my cat’s old litter box in our washroom and had it closed for pretty much the whole day – until I went to take a bath for around 30 minutes and boom, that’s when kitty rushed in, used the old litter, and scampered off. Not good for progress. Do better than I did – keep kitty away from his/her old litter – properly.
5. Show your cat the new litter box. Place him/her next to it, place him/her on top of the lid. Hold him/her near/over the box for a little bit. Show that it’s safe.
Your cat will smell his/her old litter. Your cat will smell his/her own scent if you used tip #2 as well. The association between the old litter box and the new litter box will be there if you placed your cat’s litter box in the same space as the old litter. There shouldn’t be much of a problem with associating the new box with the new “place to go,” but in case you’re worried your cat seems a little afraid of the new box (I felt mine did when I got my first top-entry litter box), try encouraging a little recognition through these techniques. But I assure you, cats aren’t often as bad as we think with adapting and learning. Your cat should make the association. It should be okay.
6. Give your cat a good day or two with the new litter to see if your cat will go by him/herself.
I didn’t do this. I was so scared that my cat was not going to be able to figure out the top entry litter box that I tried to lure my cat to stand on the lid while bribing him with kibble, something Avery wasn’t too happy with – and for good reason, who on earth is content to eat near their bathroom? Not very hygienic.
I should definitely have just given my cat some time to actually use the new litter box. He likely would’ve been 100% fine.
7. Desperate? This is what I tried to make sure my cat would use his new litter box.
I was pathetically desperate to make sure my cat would be okay using the new top-entry litter box by himself, so before bed, I did a number of things that I wouldn’t do were I to repeat the past again. I would leave my cat alone after #4 and just give him some time on his own. But if you’ve tried to get your cat to take to the litter box on his/her own and it’s not working, or if you’re just curious to see what I did when I myself felt desperate to get my kitty to recognize the new top entry litter box as a litter box, here’s what I did (pulled from my review of the Modkat):
So I used the magic of cat kibble to get him to be more comfortable. Now I’m not sure if this was a good idea, and I quite honestly recommend you not do this unless you are desperate and have no other recourse – make sure the cat will for sure have nothing to do with the litter box and try the other tips first before doing this. But basically what I did was take kibble and held it in my hand above the top of the litter box, hoping to get Avery to eat out of my hand while he was standing on the lid. Eventually, he did go on the lid, but he seemed to not feel it was secure enough to hold him, because he’d quickly jump back off after eating the kibble. I did a few more rounds of “eat kibble on the floor” then “eat kibble from my hand while standing on the lid” – took a while, but he got used to the lid as well as I could expect. I then tried to get him to go into the box by putting some kibble in my hand and holding it above the litter within the box. He was not at all a fan of this. Cats definitely are smart enough not to do their business and eat in the same place. I did manage to get him in by physically putting him in the box myself while the lid was off, to which he was horrified I tried (you know that “GET ME OUT OF HERE” cat struggle – yeah I got a load of that); he quickly jumped out of the box when he was placed in, but that was that. We left him and hoped that the next day he’d be happy to go in.
The lesson I learned here: he was fine. He probably would have been just as fine if I didn’t go through all that. That night, he went perfectly contentedly into the new litter since there was no other option. As I wrote in the review of the Modkat: “He needed to pee so he hopped onto the litter box lid, slowly pulled himself down into the box, did his business, buried it, jumped out like a ninja, and moved on with his life.”
So lesson #8:
8. Play it cool and try not to worry that your cat will be too dumb to figure a top-entry box out.
Seriously. Don’t be a worrywart like me if you have any control over being anxious. Your cat will probably do just fine with a top entry litter box. If he or she can smell the old litter, it’s almost certain that he or she will figure out how to get into the box. After all, cats are experts at getting themselves into little spaces, and hiding away in places we don’t expect them to in the first place. It’s probably a lot more tricky for us to visualize how they can go in than it is for them to go in.
Give your cat some slack and have a backup plan in case, but chances are high your cat is definitely clever enough to figure out a top-entry litter box without much help at all from us humans.
Have You Ever Tried Using a Top Entry Cat Litter Box?
Have you ever used a top-entry cat litter box with your cat before? How did he/she take to the new box? How quickly did the transition happen? Did you do anything special to try to train your cat to use the top entry litter box?
As I said in the intro, please leave your tips and advice in the comments down below, as your comment could really help another pet owner!