Maybe you remember the famous scene from “Meet The Parents” where Jinxy the cat uses and flushes the toilet all on his own.
Or maybe you’ve seen a viral video of another cat teaching himself to use the toilet.
However the thought came about, you may have asked yourself this question:
Should I train my cat to use the toilet?
While the idea might sound intriguing, that doesn’t necessarily mean training your cat to use the toilet is the best (or easiest) idea.
To find out more, The Dodo spoke to Dr. Andrea Tu, medical director at Behavior Vets NYC; Dr. Rachel Barrack, veterinarian at Animal Acupuncture in New York City; and Danielle Bays, community cats program manager for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — and their insight might make you think twice before getting the training books out.
“Although teaching a cat to use the toilet may sound like a convenient idea, in actuality it’s not best for your cat,” Dr. Barrack said.
And it’s not just Dr. Barrack who feels that way.
“We do not recommend you train your cat to use the toilet,” Dr. Tu said. “Cats have evolved to prefer eliminating in a sand-like substance in which they can dig and cover their eliminations.”
According to Dr. Tu, eliminating in a litter box is ideal for cats because they love to keep wherever they eliminate very clean — and they also have a strong preference for doing their business in an area they feel secure in.
“It is best for your cat’s health if you can recreate her ideal environment in your home to allow her to practice her natural behaviors as close to what she would naturally do,” Dr. Tu said. “To offer or force them to use an elimination option that does not meet these conditions can result in stress and anxiety for your cat.”
Pros of teaching your cat to use the toilet:
- None — for your cat, at least.
- While some people might like the idea of having less litter to scoop, any “pro” of training your cat to use the toilet is all for the human.
On the other hand, there are tons of reasons why cats shouldn’t use the toilet.
Cons of teaching your cat to use the toilet:
- Can interfere with a cat’s natural behavior of digging and covering their waste
- Can be stressful. Straddling a toilet seat may be difficult and cause stress, particularly to elderly or very young cats — or cats who have health problems. And “accidentally falling into the toilet bowl can be traumatic for a cat,” Bays pointed out.
- Can make it more difficult to monitor a cat’s health issues through examining a cat’s urine or poop. “Monitoring your cat’s urine and feces is an important tool,” Dr. Barrack said.
- Age-related mobility limitations and any transient musculoskeletal injuries could result in your cat being unable to jump up on the toilet, which would leave you in a messy situation.
To help drive the point home even more, Dr. Tu gave an explanation that most people can relate to. “I often equate cats who need to use the toilet for eliminations to us using a porta-potty, as both involve perching precariously over water that we do not wish to touch, and after we are finished, we do not have the option to flush/clean away the eliminations,” Dr. Tu said. “Now imagine the amount of stress you would endure if the only toileting option available to you in your home was a porta-potty — this is the same if you train your cat to use the toilet and remove her (preferred) litter box!”
It’s also important to keep in mind that cutting the litter box out of your cat’s life could cause a backlash. “Denying your cat the ability to be a cat can cause other behavioral issues,” Bays said.
And Dr. Barrack pointed out that cats can be territorial about their bathroom areas. “This can be a problem if there is [only] one toilet in the household,” Dr. Barrack added.
So while training your cat to use the toilet might seem like a fun idea — it’s best to keep it just an idea.
Instead, learn how to pick the right litter box to keep your cat — and everyone who shares your home — happy, healthy and stress-free.