Potty Training Pets
Posted May 04, 2017
Getting a new puppy, kitten, or older cat or dog is
an exciting experience, but having pets comes with certain
responsibilities, including potty training. It may be a
time-consuming process to potty train your pet, but Dr. Mark
Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said it is
necessary to develop a long-lasting, positive relationship with
“Inappropriate eliminations are one of the biggest reasons pets
are surrendered,” Stickney said. “Developing good bathroom habits
early is key to having a pet you will enjoy for a long time.”
Potty training should begin as soon as you bring your pet home.
If you’re training an adult dog or a puppy, be sure to give them
plenty of time to use the bathroom and stay with them until they
go. Then, reward the animal with a treat or positive praise so they
understand that eliminating outside is good behavior.
If you’re training a kitten or cat, Stickney said finding a
litter box that your pet is comfortable getting in and out of is
key. Additionally, if your kitten was using a litter box before it
came to live with you, it could be helpful to start potty training
your pet with that specific litter.
“Cats can be texture-and odor-specific with their litter,”
Stickney said. “So if you start with that litter you can gradually
transition them to another litter later, if you prefer.”
Because using a litter box is instinctive for cats, the
potty-training process could be quicker than with dogs. However, if
your pup is having a hard time learning where it is appropriate to
eliminate, don’t give up. There are other strategies pet owners can
use to potty train their canine, such as crate training.
“Crate training takes advantage of a dog’s natural inclination
to rest in a den,” Stickney explained. “Dogs will not urinate and
defecate in their den (crate) because they prefer to eliminate
If you’re going to crate train your dog or puppy, Stickney said
the crate should be large enough for the animal to stand up,
stretch out, and turn around, but not any larger.
Additionally, maintain a consistent schedule for allowing your
pet to go outside.
“A good rule of thumb is the puppy needs to go outside every
hour per month of age,” Stickney said. “So a three-month-old puppy
needs to go outside to eliminate every three hours. A puppy
that begins to whine and become anxious should be taken outside
Though crate training can be effective, Stickney said it’s
important to remember that puppies and even adult dogs still will
have accidents occasionally. In this case, Stickney said instead of
punishing your pup, ignore that the accident even happened.
“Once an accident happens in the house, the puppy has already
forgotten what it did,” Stickney said. “Clean up the mess and
remove the smell so the puppy does not revisit that spot.”
In addition, Stickney said if your adult dog or cat is already
potty trained and suddenly starts having reoccurring accidents,
this could be a sign of health problem. In this case, your pet
should see a veterinarian for a check-up.
No one should pass up an opportunity for pet companionship to
keep their home clean and fresh-smelling. If you’re consistent in
your potty training plan, both you and your new pet will be
But remember, if you’re planning on getting a furry friend,
patience and positive reinforcement are key throughout the process
of potty training.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for
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