Human-toilet training my cat

Guest post by Kathryn

Atticus sez: “You want me to do what where!?”
Recently we moved to the country and for a variety of country reasons, I didn’t want our cat Atticus venturing outside (ticks, snakes, disease, wild dogs, backyard chickens, environmental damage). But as Atticus is a poos-outside cat and I like it that way, I wasn’t too keen about cleaning up kitty litter for the rest of my life (sigh). Happily, one of my Facebook friends shared that their cat had done their first poo into the toilet and intrigued, I internet searched how to achieve this.

Enter the Cat Toilet Training System By Litter Kwitter. Here’s how it works. This big white frame sits in your toilet. There are three training disks that sit in the frame with no hole (Red), little hole (Orange) and big hole (Green). The first stage is the frame and Red next to the toilet, on the floor, with litter. The cat transitions from using a tray to using this contraption. When the cat is comfortable, you fit the contraption to the toilet. When the cat is comfortable jumping up to use the litter you switch out Red for Orange. All of a sudden there’s a hole in the middle of the litter tray! You will still need to clean up cat litter, but not as frequently. When cat is comfortable, you switch out Orange for Green with a little bit of litter just around the side. Then you take green away, then you take the white frame away. That’s the theory.

Here’s my experience…

Every time a human needed to use the toilet, they had to remove the complete contraption in order to put the seat down, then replace it when done. Atticus didn’t like jumping up. He didn’t like the fact that he could see a big drop and water through the hole — OMG!

Whenever we changed training disk, he would very reliably, just do a poo/wee next to the drainage hole on the floor next to the toilet. I have never mopped any floor in any house as often as I mopped the loo.

The first few days of any training disk change would involve me sitting in the loo with Atticus encouraging him to go by patting him, putting his front paws up, physically placing him up and just staying there till he did his business. I got very attuned to his poo/wee meows and preferred timing (conveniently when we’d get home from work). Even now if he’s being particularly meow-y, I figure it’s because he needs some emotional support, so I walk him to the loo and click my fingers above the toilet bowl until he either walks away or jumps up and gets into poo/wee positioning.

It took us five months to get him to independently jump up on the toilet seat and not freak out about the water. But it’s SOOO worth it.

Totally not looking at the water. Just doing my business.
Totally not looking at the water. Just doing my business.

I hate cleaning litter. But I hate the smell and gross-ness even more. It was always an immediate job for me because eww! Using the Litter Kwitter has meant no litter cleaning ever since we got to the Green training disk. Poo and wee are dealt with just by flushing the toilet.

The biggest advantage that we’ve found has been when we go away for short times. A couple of months ago when Atticus was on the Green training disk, we went away for three nights. We had arranged a friend to keep an eye on him, but for various reasons, she wasn’t able to. When we got home, there were still biscuits and water in the big containers we’d left out for him (he self feeds) and more importantly, all his wees and poos had gone into the toilet. We just flushed three day’s worth of ablutions down the drain, gave the toilet a bit of a clean (because poo stains are gross) and it was all good. The loo didn’t smell particularly bad because most of the mess was in water. It even smelled better than smell-busting crystals.

I really recommend giving the Litter Kwitter a try. It took some time, it took lots of mopping and it took lots of bonding with my kitty (darn!). But I don’t have to clean litter anymore and we can leave him alone in the house for a couple of days without requiring someone to keep an eye on him (our chickens are a different matter though). And that’s just wonderful!

Comments on Human-toilet training my cat

  1. Yeah, my little brother used this system on his cats, and had very good results with one of them. His female cat is very overweight and she never managed to master jumping up on the toilet, but his boy cat peed and poo-ed in the toilet for most of his life and it was pretty amazing. Two of ours jump up and pee in the bathroom sink (not cool) and I’ve thought about trying this method just to see…might have to seriously consider it.

    • 2 big tips, 1, my kitty has a small kids school chair in one bathroom and a stool in the other, this way he never had to make the whole jump, just a very small step! 2, the best thing for confidence it to “practice” walking around the plain seat following a cookie a few times a day, especially at first. Also, I never bought “the system” I just bought a set of 4 plastic bowls with lids that cost about $4, that makes sharing easier, so does switching to a pellet litter – my night accident of forgetting to move the bowl made me incredibly happy I didn’t have a clay mess! I use to bring my cat to sit on his seat and watch, then we would practice walking, sitting, and never jumping since I wanted him to see because I started young – another reason I used a bowl, no falling in as people have commented on the “slippery” seats, but cats climb trees, and walk and climb on tons of stuff…I am sure mine isn’t the only one that jumps 4 feet to the window sill or over the baby gate, and lots of nutty stuff…but some worry about the need/instinct to dig and cover..and my cat does go around the seat “pushing” in covering and he paws before he goes sometimes too, so I also recommend a nice cardboard scratcher in the bathroom because it does allow him to scratch before and after… I also recommend that day 1 a paw goes in, then is washed off, then if they get a paw or tail in later, there is no freaking out… Also if you worry about knowing if the cat is still going potty enough, we have a “dishwasher” clean/used sign…and since they don’t cover the seat – we hear him from even a different floor of the house when he pee’s, if no flush, its no person…due to him watching the flush being his FAVORITE show, I didn’t continue to flush training – but I do encourage tracking poops in the beginning at least, because if its not there, its somewhere – likely hidden, it isn’t effective to give a different option during training…well his only option was witch room the one with the antique child school chair or step stool – but I found it incredibly helpful in training for him to see the “situation” before he got on….we travel fine, he has been to the vet and I requested he come home asap or sleep in then bathroom with his “apartment” aka kennel with bed and toys. We have had 0 real “trouble” but when we road trip he goes with me to the gas station and he usually won’t make a poop night one…but since he was about 8 months old, and now he is almost 5, and he still will use a box if I foster for the rescue when they need help, I put the litter in a kennel and only let the door open a little so he cant get in, although I don’t believe I would need to retrain – I know for sure I don’t want to.

      To fix your sink trouble, I would close the stopper and put some water in the sink.

  2. Yay for another toilet-trained kitty! I trained our cat a few years ago, and I must say, it is SOOO convenient. I feel like he’s much cleaner now and I don’t mind him even trying to cuddle into bed with my husband and me, because I know his paws aren’t going to have any yucky litter dust on them. You’re right about going on short trips, too. Not having to worry about coming home to a horrifically-stinky box is wonderful!

    It will be interesting transitioning him to a new place when we move in the next couple of weeks, though. He tends to have more of a location-association situation [no rhyming intended] going on, so we might have to go backwards a bit to retrain him, but I figure it still won’t take as long as the initial process did.

  3. I’m glad this has worked out. I’ve never trained a cat to use the toilet, but I did have a cat who just decided to use it of his own accord. There’s not much that’s funnier than the look on your cat’s face when you walk in on him on the toilet, and it’s a huge relief when you realize that the person not flushing their dumps is in fact the cat, and not your romantic partner. Added bonus: When they pee in the water it makes it a lot easier to see if your cat has blood in his urine, like mine did, so you can deal with things like bladder crystals before they become painful blockages.

  4. I STRONGLY caution anyone who tries to toilet train a cat.

    When the cat eliminates in the toilet you can’t accurately see whether there is a change in urine or feces volume. You also can’t detect a change in elimination habits. A change in volume is a big red flag to a potential medical problem.

    The process of eliminating waste shouldn’t be a stressful event for your cat. A litter box filled with an appealing litter most closely resembles what a cat would choose outdoors. Cats dig, eliminate, and cover by instinct. Toilet training robs them of this instinct.

    Toilet seats are slippery. There is always a chance of the cat losing its grip and falling into the bowl, possibly injuring itself in the process. The incident may be frightening enough to prevent the cat from using the toilet ever again. For a kitten or a small cat, it can actually be life threatening.

    Elderly, sick, injured or arthritic cats may find it difficult or painful to jump up to the toilet seat.

    If you ever have to board your cat or if he needs to be hospitalized, it can be very confusing for him to be in a cage with a litter-box instead of a toilet. Stress weakens a cat’s immune system, and this kind of stress can only serve to delay recovery in an already sick cat.

    • I was just about to post the same thing. If your cat falls in the toilet once, they’re unlikely to continue using the toilet again and then you’re back to square one.

    • Well, yes and no about the observation…I pay attention to these things…Might be harder to gauge urine volume, I suppose. My cat doesn’t seem to act in any way stressed about using the toilet–and I still actually use the white outer part and the green ring for our cat just so he has better footing support. I can absolutely guarantee that my cat (and probably just about any other cat) tries to engage in far more dangerous behavior without supervision.

      If he ever starts to have difficulty getting up on to the potty, then I’m planning to put something next to it, like a step stool or other type of step to help him get up, but for now, he’s extremely spry (I’ve seen him jump distances two to three times as high without trouble).

      The company that makes this toilet training kit specifically warns against toilet training kittens–that they need to be bigger and litter-trained before starting the toilet training process. Also, there’s a reason they have the gradual ring system for training–it helps to teach the cat where to stand and how to safely jump up to avoid falling in. It’s a long, gradual process, not an “okay, this week we start, next week, it’s just the toilet seat” situation.

      • I completely agree with you, wanted to let you know the vets I have worked with have put my stormy in the bathroom with his “apartment” aka kennel with bed that I leave the door off at home and put it on for travel, that way I don’t have any people potty trouble… My cat still goes through the motions of digging and covering too, its funny to see him “dust” the seat, but atever he likes…I also have him a nice 2 piece x shapped scratcher, and a small hanging one, he will use one and then go sometimes, or other times he does it last, but since he use to use the “clear litter” and thats why I added the scratchers. If you ever have trouble getting him to go again if you travel, move or anything, just like with dogs, I find a cookie he loves or since he gets lots of “cookies” but doesn’t eat much dry food – he has one dry food thats in his bowl and a different good quality food he thinks are treats…but when we leave home, I bring him and his chair in, and he gets set on the potty and given a couple cookies, and he leaves from there, that way his smell leads him back and he has seen it…works great for us. Much kitty potty love!
        Oh if you did not keep the system, or whatever and he has re-training needed, I just used a bowl…

    • Hi! I thought I’d reply to your points. 🙂
      While I agree about urine volume, I admit that it’s not something I had ever thought to take note of. But when it comes to elimination habits, I respectfully disagree; I’ve never been more aware of Atticus’ habits! My husband and I daily touch base about who’s flushed Atticus’ poos when. He was only going only every 2 days when we first took the contraption away, but he’s since settled into an every day pooing routine, which makes me waaay more comfortable about HIS comfort using the toilet. Also, Carrie above mentioned how she started seeing blood in her cat’s urine, which helped catch a problem earlier than usual.

      Cats do lots of things by instinct, but that doesn’t mean they *have* to do those things.
      In Australia, feral cats are a massive problem to our environment. And even city domestic cats hunt and kill native wildlife. This instinct is really bad for their environment. When it comes to litter training, cats need to use 1 place only to mark their scent in the house. Unlike in the wild where they spread it around their territory. I don’t see how stopping a cat from digging and covering in their elimination process is necessarily damaging for the cat. Maybe there should be scientific studies into the emotional wellbeing of cats who can dig and cover vs those who can’t 😉

      Like Elizabeth said, the Litter Kwitter is designed to gently guide a cat through the process of gripping the toilet seat. There is still a chance of a cat falling in! For a kitten or eldery cat, I wouldn’t use this system. But Atticus is in good health, likes perching on my very narrow window sills and has good jumping skills.

      Atticus still does prefer using dirt. He hasn’t forgotten how to use litter. When he manages to escape the house, he first rolls in the dirt, then starts digging himself a hole to do his business in. If we had to board him or keep him at a vet, I would be far more nervous of him regressing on using the toilet than using litter.

      I hope I’ve addressed all those issues satisfactorily. In the end, I think it comes down to being aware of what your cat can handle and what you can handle. I could handle spending hours in the loo giving my cat the emotional support of jumping up on the toilet seat until he could do it independently. I also knew he was healthy and fit enough to be able to physically jump and perch. It’s made me aware of his meows and elimination habits. So I consider it an all-round win of a skill learning experience 🙂

      • Couldn’t you also replace the toilet seat with one of those padded kinds of seats? It would give them some purchase for their paws?

  5. I wish we could do this with our cats.
    But one of them likes to swim in the toilet if he gets the opportunity – we have to keep the kid down at all times!

      • Two of our kitties like to drink out of the toilet.

        I also know of one family that had a kitty who learned to flush the toilet due to fascination with the water. He upped their water bill a huge amount.

        One of my husband’s friends has a kitty who started to poop in the toilet on his own. He does, unfortunately, get confused and use the bath tub sometimes too. >.<

    • The liking water “swimming” may actually help you…once you get the potty associate with waste, it may stop. My stormy use to move every bit of litter to one side then go and move it back, so when we started potty training, he had litter in a bowl, in the potty above the water he would still move it back and forth, but I didn’t add more newspaper pellet litter (easier if you forget to move the bowl, way easier than clay), so when he still had the bowl he ran out of litter well it was low, so I tossed it and put about a cup of water and he still dug to the point of getting mad it wouldn’t stay where he put it! Then he started sitting on the seat we had practiced walking around several times and sitting on, so he put it all together – himself, then I got him scratchers for the restroom too, so then he stopped putting hands in the potty so that let me stop sitting on wet kitty prints too! But you would obviously not ever have an issue if he fell in! Although in years with stormy and auditioning friends (as I didn’t spend weeks teaching stormy to get him a friend that needs litter or scooping!) no one has fallen in…not even the little guy’s…but everyone had a curious hand or an oops tail!

  6. Never mind the poohing-in-loo thing,I am kind of shocked that many people in the US (im in the UK) keep their cats inside all the time, is that right?

    Here in UK, cats are thought of as semi wild-ish and live mostly outside, they come and go as they please (via a catflap or window) I can’t imagine keeping a puss inside all the time, surely she would be crazy and unhappy? Don’t they need to run free and catch their little critters and stuff? Sure there are risks but thats being a cat for you…isn’t it? not being critical, I’m just interested in the different ideas and cultural differences in cat keeping across the pond 🙂

    • Depends on the owner, the cat, and the neighborhood. My Midwestern family find the idea of an indoor cat as anomaly since they’re farmers and NO animal comes into the house unless it’s food. In the D.C. Metro area you’ll see some cats outside and no one cares, but most cat owners I know prefer to keep it indoors. The amount of traffic and potential neighborly disagreements isn’t worth it. Also, the larger the cities the more you have apartments and not houses, so it’s harder to get the cat to the outside.

      Finally, a minority of us, myself included, give their cats limited outdoors time. I keep him on a leash or he sits contentedly in my arms as we walk around. My cat is energetic, but hunts inside bugs and toys. As long as we play he’ll eventually wind down into his happy-cat sleep phase.

    • Some people have indoor cats (due to reasons in the post, or things like traffic/heavily populated cities), some have outdoors. Both my cats live like yours, but they were also street kitties when we found them

    • My cat currently is technically indoor only. We live on a very busy street and I don’t want to come home to a cat squish on the road. I also live in a college town and he’s so friendly I’m afraid some random college chick will be like “Oh look at the poor stray kitty” and make him her own.

      Our back yard is fenced so occasionally I will let him out when we are all out. He tends to get freaked out by it being wet or noisy and wants back in after a bit. We have two dogs who he wrestles with and he has mice in the basement and attic to hunt (our house is old and they get in through the foundation semi regularly) and has plenty of toys that he hunts as well.

      Now my parents who don’t live anywhere near a busy road used to let the cat out all the time and she would come in at night and for dinner. They still use a cat litter box though because you don’t want to have to worry about letting the cat out to poop in the middle of the night. Their cat is indoors all the time now, because she’s super old and has zero interest in leaving her cushy bed.

      I don’t know anyone with a catflap/dog door. I’ve always had the impression they were terrible as far as keeping your heat in and the security of the house. Nothing like a gaping hole in my house to say “Sure come on in and steal my stuff!”. As for leaving a window open, at least in my part of the US (West Virginia), the bugs would take over your house in minutes in the summer if you opened a screen enough for a cat to go in and out. I know the UK (or at least the parts I’ve been to, London & Belfast and surrounding counties) has way less insects, or at least less aggressive insects (no mosquitoes or ticks that I noticed.)

      • At cat door is too small for a person to get in through and steal your stuff. However, other animals can get in through them. There are some pretty hilarious videos of this on YouTube.

      • You can now get ones that seal well and your pet wears a “key” on their collar that unlocks the door, they are MUCH more expensive, but if I were to do an indoor/outdoor cat I would do it for the utilities savings and the bugs, they even would allow me to let my dog use the door and not my cat.

    • To me, a cat has to be an outdoor cat or and indoor cat. I don’t really like the idea of coming and going, personally. The thought of them bringing in fleas or other pests, or recent kills, is just too gross. When I lived in the country, all pets were outside most of the time. an exception would be if it were like 10 below zero, or something. In the city, in a condo, there isn’t really a way for cats to be outside anyway. In neighborhoods with yards and houses, people get upset when random animals wander and poop in their garden or kids’ sandboxes, so there is an expectation that you keep them under control somehow.

    • My cat is an indoor-only cat. Cats who live indoors-only live longer for a lot of reasons. They’re obviously less likely to be hit by a car or truck, and they are less likely to get into a fight with another cat (which can spread disease in addition to their injuries). There is no vaccine for feline AIDS, which is spread through cat scratching and biting. Outdoor cats also have to defend themselves from wildlife, and without proper care from a human companion can become infested with parasites and fleas. Cats can get poisoning from things like antifreeze, if they lick them off the ground (antifreeze tastes sweet). And, on top of all of this, they’re at risk of enduring cruelty from humans. People can be really mean to cats. Jerk kids think harassing them and hurting them is fun and funny, people will hurt them or injure them for coming into their garden and/or pooping on their lawn… and when Halloween comes around? People are superstitious and will target black cats for all sorts of terrible things. AND – there are people who will go around and collect these strays for experiments in labs. (One reason why you should never rehome a cat on Craigslist!)

      • I agree with everything you mention above except one thing. Where are you hearing about these labs? I work in a lab and the animals we are permitted to use must come from certain tightly regulated sources not to mention the numerous and frequent inspections our animal facilities go through would catch any violations immediately. Plus metabolically cats are not a reliable model for most things. Not to mention getting a cat off Craigslist would a) be the height of non-scientific sample gathering and b) would never be able to be published in any kind of peer reviewed journal…. Not critiquing, just curious.

        • What Jess said. I don’t work with animals (emotionally CAN’T), but I’ve had to do the training since my lab is certified. It is more likely that they would end up in a college comparative anatomy class rather than a lab.

          Emily is right about not re-homing cats on Craigslist, though. They could end up in the wrong hands like dog fighters who use cats to entertain their dogs. If you are in the position to give up a cat, it is much better to submit it to a rescue group with volunteers/workers who are experienced in finding good homes for cats. (Shout out to all the awesome people who do animal rescue work! Thank you!)

          • Wow, I never thought about how people would do that to cats re-homed through Craigslist…How sad. We adopted our cat through Craigslist, actually. He went from a good home with an allergic toddler, to our good home (currently childless). It breaks my heart to think what kind of horrible people may have adopted our little one.

          • Our local no-kill shelter where we volunteer gets heads up warnings sometimes about people looking to get cats and take them to a lab supply place up near Raleigh, where they pay somewhere close to 5 dollars per cat. I don’t know what they do with them, quite possibly they are for anatomy classes, but there are people who collect cats for this purpose. And they do supposedly scan craigslist. Our county kill shelter used to sell the euthanized cats to the same place, until enough people raised hell about it and they (allegedly) stopped.

        • Check out:

          I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of this, most people haven’t. I never knew about it until I started working at a shelter and happened to read an article in a magazine in the breakroom. I’m guessing they can’t be used in any type of experiment that involves highly controlled samples; they probably go more to uni labs and vet schools for dissection or for experiments where the animals are being used to test something animal related rather than being used as a model organism as in your lab (like maybe trials for a vet drug or something that would be specifically used on cats? similar to human medical trials, as I’m sure human trials don’t use specially bred and sourced humans). While stealing pets for these purposes is illegal, buying them, getting them through “free to a good home” ads on craigslist and in many states getting them from shelters (5 states actually require it of publicly funded shelters) are all perfectly legal and would make it hard to catch someone who was selling a stolen animal while claiming they obtained it legally.

          • (Now that we’re very very off-topic for a post on kitty potty habits…)

            As someone who does science, it’s hard for me to read through those examples because they place accidents, cosmetics companies, and actual research that might help humans and animals all on the same level. Not all animal research is equal! The idiots who let animals get hurt most likely got fired and will never work with animals again. I find testing on animals for cosmetic purposes unethical, but as most people have, I have bought cosmetics in the past that didn’t expressly say no animal testing. And there are a lot of poorly designed redundant experiments done on research animals that can be considered unethical. And I’ve had people call me unethical for working in a lab that does research on mice, yet they eat cows and pigs. I’m sorry, but no scientific breakthroughs or cures for cancer will be made by eating bacon, but that’s another story…
            So the problem I have with all these animal rights groups is that if they really wanted to make a difference, they should focus on more concrete and individual objectives. Focus on sources of animals and promote laws that prohibit those Class B dealers. And come up with examples of exactly how the animals from the streets are used in labs, not just stories about accidents or other animals from legit sources. Most scientists don’t like shitty research, so focusing on this specific type of animal experimentation could expose shitty research, and then you’ll also be backed by the scientific community.

          • In addition to everything justanothersciencenerd said, let me address drug and food companies for pets. Purina and Bayer are the ones I’m most familiar with as I have colleagues at both (And have spoken to them prior to composing this reply). Most large companies have their own breeding stock, so not only do they know the animal’s entire history they also know their family history for multiple generations. USDA, FDA and other federal agencies tightly control these populations as well. Trust me these dogs and cats are better taken care of than your average animal on a chain in some redneck’s yard. Hell, sometimes they are better taken care of than my own dogs who have to sit in the house by themselves all day if I can’t get a break to take them for a walk.

            As for Class B dealers, your own source states that there are only 7 in the US as of this year. That is not due to harsher legislation, that is due to a more competitive scientific environment. If I can procure an animal from a class A dealer that can tell me their entire breeding line, certify the health of the entire stock and give me an entire history including every meal the animal has ever eaten, vs some one who cannot, guess which one I’m going to buy from? Class B dealers are going out of business because we are not buying from them. The only people who really buy from them any more are anatomy teaching labs, and why buy an animal when you can get one free that was already going to be put down in a kill shelter? That is the exact same as some one donating their body to science. (Kill shelters are a totally different issue, which I personally do not agree with.)

            Now, to address your point about veterinary clinics and students. (My sister is in vet school at the moment.) Yes they do request shelters for animals IN NEED OF SURGERY for students and interns to practice on. Trust me these vets and their students care about the animals as much as you do. Most of the procedures practiced are spays and neuters (which I think we can all agree help solve a lot of the homeless pet problems) but if say, your shelter had a cat that needed a growth removed or some other surgery they would do that for free or at cost so that a student could get the experience. Most pet owners will not let a student work on their beloved fluffy, but these people need the practice and experience to become a fully fledged competent vet, so they turn to the shelters.

            Now, if you think a vet is taking animals that don’t need surgery and needlessly doing it, report them to the AVMA. They will lose their license.
            If you find out of a research lab OF ANY KIND that is taking street animals off the street for research, get proof, their name and facility out, they will be professionally ruined. BUT YOU WON’T. Research is cut throat, funding is tight, and we aren’t monsters. We do the best with our animals we possibly can mostly because we are humane people who care for them, but also because we want to be better than the other guy.

            On a totally unrelated note, this post convinced me to finally go with what my husband says, and try and toilet train our smelly cat! Thanks for the story, sorry we hijacked the comments!

        • I don’t know of any specific labs, per say, but I work for an animal shelter, and we get requests from veterinary offices and other places looking for animals to “practice” on. People for some reason think that because our animals are “homeless” that no one cares about them, which is beyond untrue. We love our animals and protect them. But that’s not going to stop someone from picking your cat up off the street and cutting them open to practice their skills on. 🙁

          • It’s a sad necessity. And it’s a sad fact that there are just too many cats to all find loving homes. But…veterinarians do care about animal welfare. They’ve dedicated their lives to fixing animals. And – honestly – wouldn’t you rather they practice a surgery or a procedure BEFORE they do it on your own pet? If the animal was going to be euthanized for overcrowding, at least this way it’s death was less senseless. And it’s waaaay better than being used by a cosmetics company or something.

            I used to walk dogs for an animal shelter as a volunteer, and I noticed a pretty high turnover of new staff (every 6 months or so). This was a well-funded, reputable, and the nicest shelter I’ve ever seen. I think the turnover was so high because the job is so HARD. It’s your nature to care for ALL the animals. As a volunteer I never saw “behind the scenes.” I also learned that they will tell you if a dog was adopted and NOT TO ASK if a dog disappeared, but you didn’t see an adoption notice… When you are faced with individual animals, it is hard to keep the bigger picture in mind.

            So for everyone: get your pets microchipped and remember to look at all shelters in a wide area if you lose your pet. (At least where I live they have to hold strays for 5 business days.)

          • I completely disagree. Surgeries can be performed on cadavers or legally-obtained animals specifically meant for this purpose. They are also developing software to help aid in practice of surgical procedures. Just because an animal is in a shelter doesn’t mean it should be subjected to experimental and/or practice surgery. It’s a living creature and deserves respect. It’s no different to me than saying that it’s a “sad necessity” that people practice major medical procedures on orphans just because they don’t have a home or permanent family.

          • I will say that our no kill shelter has sent animals who were in need of surgery to the vet school at our state college more than a few times. Yes, they are “practicing” but they are also trained/training to be vets. If a homeless animal needs expensive surgery to be adoptable, it is a much better option than paying a local vet sometimes. You might spend thousands of dollars (that could have been spent helping adoptable animals) trying to save one animal that might die anyway, which then puts a big financial burden on a shelter that runs 100% off donations. That would then limit the shelter’s ability to help more animals until they can pay off the treatment. I’ve never heard any horror stories to imply that the animals are treated poorly, after all someone training to be a vet is pretty likely to try to do everything they can to help the animal and do a good job. I even know of one instance where a dog that everyone thought was a goner was saved by surgery, and ended up finding a home, which probably wouldn’t have been possible had she not gone to the vet school.

            As for the lab supply place (yes, I know the name, but I don’t feel good about calling them out in public) they apparently do buy live cats, but they do/did buy euthanized ones from the county shelter here too, so I’m guessing that they are for schools/anatomy specimens/ possibly even used for bone mounts etc. It also might be possible that buying from individuals is something they’ve done in the past, but no longer do, but the icky cautionary tale about pet scalpers stalking craigslist remains. I’ve never called them up and asked them “Wanna buy some cats?” so I can’t say 100%. Having adopted my dog through craigslist, I have mixed feelings about it, and having seen what some people are capable of doing to animals, I personally would still be very cautious about rehoming a pet that way. Though given the area I live in, I’d be more worried about people looking for bait animals for dog fighting than for people selling to a lab supply.

          • To start on topic: I love toilet trained cats! They still remember their original instinct to use dirt, in all my hospital patient experiences. In terms of noting urine amounts etc, you could fit a container inside the toilet such as a bowl or glad wrap to capture it if needed. You could revert back to the beginner trays also.

            But always think about your cats health, tenperament etc before you make these decisions. Talk to your vet. Be patient!

            As a veterinary nurse and conservation science student and animal welfare worker – all practice on donated animals e.g. Ex racer greyhounds, horses with heart conditions etc – is soooo strictly regulated, just like animals in labs. They are well taken care of, loved by their students, and anaesthetised for any procedure as a normal patient would be. Of course there are dodgy practices in all industries but these are very rare.

            I would be incredibly wary of stories of animals being “stolen” for experimentation, fighting, ransom. These are usually rumours, they’ve actually been tracked by sociologists and they resurface frequently.

            Of course avoid any kind of animal rehoming or purchase where all the communication is online. See the parents, the house the animal is from, the whole litter, ask a lot of questions and walk away if you have a bad feeling. You are not “rescuing” the animal from a puppy mill. You are feeding the demand for a disgusting illegal industry. Report creeps to the SPCA or local gov – these people often get caught for tax fraud, because that is police heavier than animal welfare.

            That said, be careful with your pets. Think about your neighbourhood, wildlife, what you can afford re vet care, and the laws.

            I’m from Australia and there cats are always safest indoors due to cars, dogs, people who hunt them for sport, poison, and the sun. They do not need to hunt critters – this is what makes them banned in many areas because of the damage to the wildlife. The feral cat population is an ENORMOUS problem back home. All the cats with their noses and ears rotted off from cance, shot with arrows, flattened by cars and sick with FIV are keeping all my cats indoors forever. With the right environmental stimulation they can be totally happy. Cat runs for enclosed outside time are also great.

            To someone who said it earlier – there is an FIV vaccine, available in Aus at least. The difficulty is stray cats can be tested for FIV in shelters and give a positive result if they have been vaccinated. So it’s usually only given as a vax if they are an outdoor cat and they should wear a tag to state that.

            Working in animal care is incredibly emotionally exhausting. Nurses kennel hands shelter workers etc are always dealing with huge amounts of distress because these animals are innocent and we always want to help them all. The problem is there are too many of them! Education of the public about responsible guardianship is integral, and mandatory sterilization and registration. IMHO.

            Sorry for the long rant. This area is my life passion. But it is all just my opinion and of course up for further discussion.

          • So much apologies for going so far off the topic…

            Here in the Southern USA, dogfighting is not an urban legend, it is a sad, sad reality. Pets being stolen for bait for dogfighting is not an urban legend, it is also a sad, sad reality. And pets being innocently rehomed on craigslist being used as bait for dogfighting, also not an urban legend, totally a sad, sad reality. As I said before, I can’t say for sure with any accuracy the CURRENT status of the biological supply place in this state, which absolutely at least used to purchase cats. But I can say as a shelter volunteer with 100% certainty that dogfighting where I live is no myth. It happens every day. Dogs and sometimes cats are used for bait and training and the results of this are heartbreaking. I have friends who have provided forever homes for maimed former bait dogs. I know people in town who have had their pets stolen for this purpose. It is heartbreaking, and it is hard to fathom how any human being could possibly participate in it, but at least in this part of the USA it is a reality so please, if you live here, keep it in mind. Don’t rehome your pet on craigslist, and don’t leave your dog in your back fence when you are gone for the day. Better safe than sorry.

          • It isn’t to late to try potty training, the key is cookies, cookies, more cookies, and triple the amount of cookies is equal to the patience you need…but you don’t need the system, a bowl works fine…but something you may want to try as far as litter goes is to get several foil roasting pans or something deep enough if kitty pees the same way and try several different kinds of litter….sometimes cats that hae had a problem like kidney stones, infection, or really anything that hurt their bottom might associate what was in the box with what caused the issue – now we know that pain with pee is an issue, but that the toilet didn’t do it, but sometimes animals that go to the box, then start to go pee, then the pain comes…then whatever is around them is blamed…so trying several others lets kitty check out and “see they don’t hurt” and then pick what they prefer….

      • I guess I am “one of these people who go around collecting strays” but its no where near for your reason…most animal testing isn’t done on strays because there are too many variables genetically – however a great many counties have a program referred to as tnr – trap neuter return (or release) because the feral cat population is very very high….my cat stormy is one of a litter of four that my dogs found, the mom was squished, or abandoned them at about a day old for some other reason, so I bottle raised them even though I believed I was allergic to all cats, turns out it is long hair and litter, so the all gray one no one wanted took to the potty, I got my first cat. But then I was informed that the 2 previous litters where played to death by my dogs, so I began noticing the dozens and dozens of strays on my street and in my area. Now I trap the unfixed cats, take them in, they get check ups, shots, fixed, and returned – this then keeps each female from having a dozen or more babies each kitten season, and it also lowers the risk of many diseases since the cats are vaccinated and helps the overall heath since they won’t get reproductive cancers, and it helps lower the mating fights, lowers the travel to mate, lowering the numbers of squished cats…so its not a conspiracy, its to help the massive population pass naturally rather than killing them, they are free to go about their lives doing everything but breeding that they where doing before….

    • I’m in the UK and we have an indoor cat. We got her from a shelter and were warned that she probably wouldn’t be that bright as her brother is her father and her grandfather. She regularly forgets how to climb stairs or what water is, so we figured that she’d be better off not having to work out roads and dogs as well. Its perfectly legal in the UK as long as the animal is happy and can be common for cats with compromised immune systems or dangerous illnesses that might be spread to other local cats. As far as we can tell she thinks the windows are the same as the TV and she has no interest in going outside if a door or window is accidentally left open. The local outdoor cats (and magpies) find her very confusing though, cos they can see her but not smell her.

    • When we lived in the country, our cats became indoor/outdoor cats, and they were visibly happier for it, but on the other hand within a year they both got eaten by a coyote in broad daylight in the same week, so I don’t judge either side.

    • I grew up in the country, in the USA, in North Carolina, and this was the norm for us. Cats were mostly to keep vermin out of the barn, they lived outside and came in and out of the house through a window when they wanted to. I didn’t have “house” cats until I met my soon to be husband, who loves his kitties and thinks that letting them outside is cruel. Honestly, we live in a city with a fair amount of traffic, lots of disgusting people who do dog fighting, and hazards that would probably make indoor-outdoor life for our kitties pretty unfun, even if we could let them out, which we’re not supposed to. I do think it’s pitiful to see them crouched in the window, desperately wanting to go outside, but what are you gonna do? Having inside only cats is not what I personally prefer; I don’t like dealing with their messy litter and their taking their natural destructive tendencies out on everything I own (And please for the love of god, I don’t need “help” with my cats, cat people, I love you but spare me) but I love my FH and he loves his kitties, and he puts up with my dog too, so it works.

    • Our two cats are indoor-only cats, and they don’t seem to have any issues being sad about it. 🙂 Plus, when coyotes started stalking our apartment complex, some of our neighbors lost their outdoor cats while ours were safe inside.

      In contrast to you, I actually find it curious that people are OK with having outdoor cats. I would never let my dog run loose around the city all day. Or my bird. Or my hamster. Why is a cat any different than those? My family had indoor/outdoor cats while I was growing up, and most of them met horrible, untimely ends… so I’m more than happy to keep my kitties indoors these days. But I suppose it’s just all about what you’re used to and what makes sense to you! 🙂

      My dream is to have a house with a yard, where I could screen in a cat area so they could go outside sometimes while staying safe. Alas, at the moment that’s not a possibility.

      • Our family cats also all met untimely ends growing up. Out of the 16 or so cats that my family went through over the years, only one died of old age. All of the others disappeared (except Sam, who was killed by a neighbor’s dog in front of my ten-year-old-self) at a fairly young age. The two that my parents have now have made it a pretty good time (6-8 years old) but as they get older they’ll probably disappear as well.

        As for a screened in yard…a possibly cheaper alternative is cat fencing…which is flexible fencing/netting that cats can’t climb over. Brands like this: or

      • Just for balance of experiences here: My family has had 4 indoor/outdoor cats (plus two exclusively indoor cats). One of the outdoor cats is still alive, one died at 16 of age related kidney failure, one died at 18 of an infection that spread from an abscessed tooth and one died at an unknown age (Not old but not young) of a congenital lung condition. None of these things were related to being outside.

        That said, however, the outside cats did require a lot of medical attention of the years, including some very expensive major surgery for one cat who either fell off the roof or was hit by a car and had to have a damaged kidney removed. We would have lost at least that one cat young if we had not that the money and been willing to spend it on the surgery (It was totally worth it. The cat lived about another 16 years and died at the venerable age of 18).

        So it is possible to have indoor/outdoor kitties who do fine. But my family lives in a fairly quiet, safe suburban neighborhood. It would be more dangerous for cats to go outside if you lived in the city, lived on a busy street or lived in a rural area where being eaten by coyotes or mountain lions was a risk.

    • I’m from neither the US nor the UK, but Australia! 🙂

      I reckon most cats here are both indoor, outdoor cats. When we lived in the city he was definitely a partly both cat. We left a window open in the laundry that gave him freedom to come and go as he chose. But now we’re in the country and it’s just such a different environment that I don’t want him going outside. But that being said, there are cat owners who live near us that let their cats out. It’s not something *I’m* comfortable with.

      The environmental destruction of cats in Australia is huge. Most of our native fauna have had no major predator until white people came with their animals. Cats kill a horrible number of native animals each year. They are mostly nocturnal, but so are cats! Feral cats are the biggest contributor to this, but if I can prevent Atticus killing 1 animal per week by keeping him inside, all the better!

      The rangers up here leave up poisoned meat for feral dogs and I don’t want Atticus getting sick. There are fleas and ticks on all outside domestic animals up here and ewwwww!!! I really don’t want to deal with ticks! Also, in my tiny tiny town that I live and work in, there’s no vet. If Atticus gets sick, I’ll have to drive 4hrs to our nearest vet, or wait up to 2 months for the travelling vet to stop through on his rounds.

      There are also loads of poisonous snakes up here ad feral dogs. I don’t want Atticus to die.

      Generally I’m in favour of letting cats be free and run and jump and play! But I’m just not comfortable with him outside where we live. We’ve gotten him loads of indoor toys to compensate 😉

    • I live in rural America (Maine) so my cat is indoors only for slightly different reasons that urban kitties. While traffic is a concern, I’m more worried about my Ollie becoming lunch for a coyote or fisher (large weasel). Growing up, our indoor/outdoor cats disappeared regularly, never to be seen again. I think my parents were on cat #16 by the time I left home (I still STILL have dreams that my childhood cats Smokey and Mischief suddenly return home). I also work as an animal control officer, so I see first hand just how many cats go missing, get run over by cars, show up at the shelter as strays, or are “rescued” by neighbors who decide to keep the “stray” cat that showed up at their house.

      No thanks. For my cat’s longevity, he is indoors only.

      Also, the local bird watching society will thank you….outdoor cats kill millions of songbirds a year.

    • In the (non-rural) US, many people think of it as inappropriate to have an outdoor kitty, as inappropriate as having an outdoor dog. Outdoor cats decimate wildlife – we’re talking millions of birds a year. They also have a much lower life span, between predators, cars, diseases, and mean and nasty people. Cats are a domesticated species and often they really, really enjoy indoor comforts. I had a kitty who we *tried* to get to hunt when we had a mouse pest, and he absolutely refused! He was also terrified of the outdoors, and lived to be 18, which would probably not have been possible if he lived outdoors.

      I wouldn’t let my dog live outside – sure he goes out, but only while restrained and supervised – and I would not get an outdoor cat either.

    • Our cat is indoor only, and she’s perfectly content to be so! How well a cat does indoors depends on the cat, some are unhappy and some adjust very easily. The one time my cat did get out, she only went as far as the bushes at the bottom of the stairs. There are numerous health reasons to keep your cat inside, such as is mentioned in other comments. However, another big reason is wildlife protection. Pet cats (along with their feral cousin, who are still technically domestic cats) kill literally billions of birds every year in the US
      Also, I live in an area that still has a full collection of natural predators (cougars, bobcats, foxes) that would love to make a snack of my cat. If you don’t live somewhere with that problem, then it might be safe to let them out, but I don’t risk it with my girl!
      It’s true that as cat owners, we have to be vigilant about making sure that cats get to be cats, but there are many ways to do that in the house that don’t include letting them kill endangered song birds. I feed my cat a raw diet, choose her toys to reflect her natural instincts, and make sure to play with her daily. You do have to work harder to keep a cat happy indoor only, but personally I think the health and environmental benefits are totally worth it.

    • I’m in the US (near Chicago) and I volunteer with a couple of animal/cat rescues in my area. All three rescues I’ve volunteered with will not adopt or place a cat in a home that will allow it to be a partial or full-time outdoor cat. I know there are regional differences like, for instance, in Southern Illinois many farmer keep “mousers” that live in the barn simply to keep the rodent population down–but these cats are viewed as working farm animals, not pets. The main reason rescues that this stance is the life expectancy of indoor vs. outdoor cats.

      The ASPCA says that the life expectancy for an outdoor cat is only 1-5 years, versus indoor cats who have a life expectancy of 13-17 years (and even longer, really, my family has had several cats live to 20+ years). The studies just show that keeping a cat as an indoor cat triples their life expectancy.

    • I’m in Australia (Melbourne). Cats have to be contained to your backyard – especially at night in most local council areas. Our cats have free access to our yard but we have fencing that stops them from leaving our property. We need to protect native wildlife from our (lovely) but hunterish cats!

    • Many people in the US have exclusively indoor kitties, yes. Many people also have outdoor kitties or indoor/outdoor kitties.

      However, increasingly many shelters in my are wont let you adopt a cat if you say you are not planning to keep it indoors. I don’t know how much of that is for the cat’s safety and how much of it is for the safety of the native wild-life that kitties like to snack on. Having had both indoor and indoor/outdoor cats, I can say that indoor cats do save a great deal of money on vet bills.

      As for whether a cat will be happy being exclusively indoors, it depends on the individual cat, the age of the cat (Older cats tend to be more likely to be happy staying inside while young cats are more likely to be restless), whether the cat was born feral or grew up in a house or a shelter, how big your house is and how much there is for the cat to do indoors.

      I have had cats who were miserable being exclusively indoor kitties and would try to escape at every opportunity until we eventually decided to let them go outside and I also have a cat who has always been an inside cat and who doesn’t go outside even if a door is left open. Most cats are somewhere in between.

    • If they have never been outside it is not hard for them at all. An inside cat will usually be too scared to go out even if the door is open.. the first escape they usually freeze on the door step.. after that they get more adventurous. Once they go out they want it again. They cant miss what they have never known. I was fine without a cellphone before I had one.. now I cant survive 30 min without it.

  7. Wow, I am hyper jealous.
    I can’t even really get my cat to use the litter box properly. She used to, but then she got a bladder infection for awhile and was peeing everywhere. I wasn’t caring for her at the time, someone else was. So I finally stole her away and got her fixed, but she’s never used the litter box properly since. I had to get a full enclosure litter box because she’d pee right over the edge. So now she pees on the wall of the litter box. She doesn’t cover it afterwards either, just leaves it.

    Something like this is just… way beyond us.

    • My elderly cat had similar problems (recurring bladder infections) & refused to use a litter box any more, so I gave up and just started using puppy piddle pads where she decided her bathroom should be. It takes up more room than a litter box, & is less aesthetically pleasing, but I have a happy cat and a clean floor. Added bonus – no litter tracking.

  8. An important cautionary note: Do not toilet train your cat or use flushable litter if you live in an area near an ocean with a sea otter population. Cat waste can contain Toxoplasma gondii, which is dangerous to otters.

  9. I’ve thought about doing this with my cat, but I have some reservations. He’s had bladder crystals in the past, and some combo of that with his former life (I adopted him at 3 years old) has left him with litter avoidance issues. I’ve found that if I don’t use the right litter (Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract) and keep it pristine, he’s likely to pee on anything else: the sofa, my bed, a visiting friend’s suitcase (to be fair, we warned him not to leave it open..) and once, while some friends were over, the lid of a cake carrier that was sitting on the floor (“Oh, look! Aries is sitting in the tupperware. How cute! Wait… is that water running…!?”). Other things thing have triggered litter avoidance: people sleeping over (he pees on the daybed where they sleep, so we think he’s reclaiming territory), too many people in the house, switching food from his prescription, etc.
    Does anyone have any experience/advice for toilet-training such a finicky cat? I think it might be easier once done because he/I wouldn’t have to worry about dirty litter, but I don’t know if it would be possible. Should I even try?

    • I would say try but leave him his original option in case he isn’t comfortable, for a while at least. You don’t want to stress a bladder worries cat!!! I agree that once done he may love it because it reduces smell and “this tray is too dirty” problems.

  10. I have thought about this system, until our new, slightly daft cat, fell into the toilet! It was hilarious, but I’m convinced that she is not smart enough to use the toilet for her business. The other cat is terrified of most things, including the toilet. I keep my cats indoors at all times, and they don’t know any different. When I adopted one from a shelter, I signed a promise to keep them inside at all times. I’m from Australia (like the author!) and I believe that cats are just too destructive, it’s their instinct to kill other animals. There is no natural predator here like a cat and native animals and birds are easy targets for them. Benefits for me for indoor cats are: no dead bodies! no half dead bodies, no fleas, cheaper vet care, less vaccinations, cheaper council registration, no kitty ‘friends’ coming back, no worries about where they are, no mice or flies in the house, no squished cats on the road, no cats being thieved and no sick people trying to kill them.
    If anyone wants to try different litter, you can get recycled paper litter that you use a small amount of it and throw the whole lot out. No scooping!

  11. I trained my cat using the same system! It was much less painful for me than you describe – my cat is kind of a genius 🙂 Also, he’s young (1 yr, little and energetic). Tips from the process:

    1) When kitty used to meow confusedly during a transition, I just picked him up and put him on the toilet and he’d get the picture. Also, locking kitty in the bathroom if he hadn’t gone in a while helped him find the bathroom spot – since the litter smell didn’t guide him anymore. (This is only during training, though – eventually they ‘get it’.)

    2) Like any animal, praise after good behavior works best as a motivator. You can ‘shape’ the behavior you want gradually – give pets and treats for hanging out by the toilet, then jumping up on the toilet, then for trying to go, then for success, etc.

    3) DEFINITELY get some flushable litter during the training process (just dump the whole tray into the toilet – helps kitty get the picture too).

    4) don’t leave piles of clothes or things kitty can dig in (potted plants are particularly pernicious) around the floor while training – they get confused.

    5) as someone suggested above, they don’t have to be ‘re-trained’ to use a litter box if they travel or visit friends, but they do need to be ‘re-trained’ a little to use the toilet again if they’ve been using a box for a while. I went on vacation for a month, and my cat stayed with a friend and used her cat’s box. When we got him back, we had to start him back (on the most advanced ring with a bit of litter in it) to get him back to the toilet. It only takes about a week to re-train, though. So keep the kit, and just re-do the last few steps if you have to.

    Also, I can’t express enough how nice this behavior is when traveling with kitty. He goes back and forth between my house and my fiance’s, and we just have to bring him in his carrier, and some food – no litter or box. He uses both toilets perfectly well. We are planning to fly with him to my parents’ house, and they won’t have to get a smelly litter box during our visit – a gentle introduction to the toilet should, for a fully toilet-trained cat, be enough.

    • My cat is dumb! I admit it freely!! I frequently call him Scatticus because he’s so scatter-brained! I think it took so long because he’s 8 years old and set in his scatty ways. If we did it earlier it would have probably been a lot easier.

      We gave him lots of rewards for his positive behaviour and pretty much ignored the negative. Even now he gets hugs and pats when we notice he’s done his business in the toilet.

    • I have tips!
      If you start this system off immediately with a kitten:
      -Have a stepping stool up for the kitten to get to.
      -Keep the red (no hole) tray in until the Kitten is no longer a kitten, don’t want any accidents!
      -Have lots of positive reinforcement for the kitten and make sure it’s comfortable going to the loo so high up.

      Or, get a young adult cat who’s got jumping and balancing down pat.
      Good luck!! 😀

  12. My cat is one of the toilet water drinkers. I even stopped giving her fresh water by her food bowl because she simply wasn’t drinking it. I had no idea so many people had toilet trained their cats! I definitely think this is an awesome idea, although I think my cat already has too strong of a connection with the toilet as a drinking water well.

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