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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Toilet Training Cats … Really?

My husband is out of town on business right now. He claims the only reason I even notice he’s gone is because I have to take back the litter box scooping duties while he’s gone. That’s not true; I am also irked by having to mow the lawn and take out the garbage. (I’m kidding, honey!)

All my recent scooping has got me thinking about toilet training cats. I’m not about to try it with my geezers, one of whom is only moderately attached to his box at the best of times, but I wonder if anyone out there has experience (either positive or negative) with getting their cats to use the toilet.

For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it generally goes something like this:

  • Slowly move your cat’s litter box from its current location until it is sitting right next to the toilet you want him to use.  (What are you supposed to do when you have more than one litter box [as we all should]?)
  • Gradually raise the litter box (using blocks, books, etc.) until it is at the level of the toilet seat. The box should not have a cover, so your cat can get used to easily jumping rather than stepping in and out. I guess kitty stairs could be an option for cats that can’t or won’t jump.
  • Move the box over onto the toilet.
  • Switch from the old litter box to either a homemade or purchased contraption that holds litter underneath the level of the toilet seat.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of litter until the cat gets used to balancing on the seat and eliminating into the bowl directly.

Notice the liberal use of words like "gradually" and "slowly." Cats are creatures of habit and moving through these steps too quickly must greatly increase the risk of failure.

But I assume the biggest pitfall (pun intended) with the process would be if the cat had an unpleasant experience along the way – the litter box sliding off the blocks with him inside or the toilet turning into a feline dunk tank. I really can’t think of a better way to convince a cat to poop in the closet than to have him fall into a bowl of water when trying to use his "litter box."

Tell me, do cats that use the toilet have good aim? The sides of our giant, homemade litter box (actually a plastic storage container with a hole cut in one end) are "splattered" on an almost daily basis. I think I’d rather scoop the box than deal with that mess all over our bathroom.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Pic of the day: Daily Photo #175 — April 8th 2011 — Seriously? In There? by William Doran

toilet training cats, cat using toilet, cat in bathroom

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