Trying to train your cat to use a human toilet is a bit like trying to teach your child to use a potty; it’s time consuming, requires infinite patience, and can be very frustrating… but in the end it is so rewarding!
This is why I persevered…
Around seven years ago I found myself living in a small apartment in London with no outside space. To make matters worse, it was situated on very busy main road which was not at all ideal for a wandering cat… despite him having nine lives!
‘Tippy’, named after the tip of white paint his breeder put on his tail to distinguish him from the rest of his litter, had previously enjoyed the freedom of being an outdoor cat, roaming the streets as he pleased when we lived in a much quieter area previously. Being suddenly forced to become an indoor cat, albeit only for a year, was a real shock for him and went against his instinctive cat behaviour.
I did my best to get Tippy out of the house by taking him for walks in the park on a flexi-lead. I know… and don’t laugh, I actually did this on a daily basis and I even made my 14 year old daughter to help out too, which mortifies her to this day.
The idea of trying to train Tippy to use the toilet was actually said as a bit of a joke at first. But can you train a cat? One Christmas whilst sitting around the dinner table with my family we were discussing the downsides of having to live with a litter tray and how unhygienic I thought they were.
I remember telling my family that I had heard about a cat toilet training system called Litter Kwitter and told them, as a joke, that I thought it would be a good idea for me to try and train Tippy to use a human toilet. Cat training? Toilet training seat? As I am sure you can appreciate, this was followed by roars of laughter and, fuelled by the best part of a bottle of wine that I’d consumed over lunch, gave an indignant response that “of course I can train my cat to use a toilet!” More laughter followed.
A month or two later at another family gathering, my mother hands me a gift. She was beaming from cheek to cheek as she watched me unwrap my present… the ‘Litter Kwitter’ cat toilet training system that I had mentioned to everyone over our Christmas lunch. She had totally called my bluff and urged me to have a go. A cat toilet training seat? After more roars of laughter I told them I was up for the challenge!
The first thing to say before I go any further is that toilet training a cat is tough, and although the system definitely works, it really helps if you are at home with your cat to help them to the hang of it. Obviously due to the fact that most of us have jobs this is not always going to be possible, so just do the best you can.
The system I used is called Litter Kwitter:
Tippy was already six years old when I started his toilet training, and I wasn’t sure if his age might be an issue, or perhaps mean that he would never pick it up at all… but I needn’t have worried. Tippy’s a smart cat!
The first thing I did was replace the litter in his existing litter tray with an alternative flushable cat litter made of wood pulp. I did this because I wanted Tippy to get used to the new litter first before I started the training. I also did not want to block the system in my rental as that would be a disaster!
After a few days, I moved his litter tray from the hallway into the toilet, where he quickly became used to the new location and seemed to go about his business without any issues. As an additional motivator I gave him treats when he used his litter tray to positively reinforce good behaviour.
The next step was to replace his litter tray with the Litter Kwitter toilet training click together system, initially keeping it on the floor in exactly the same position as his previous litter tray. It was a little disconcerting that there was so little room in this new shallow Litter Kwitter tray to put the cat litter in, and although Tippy started using the tray without any issues (supported by the liberal application of kitty treats of course), I had to make sure that I cleaned it out nearly every time he used it to ensure that he was not put off from using it because it was dirty. Now this is a real pain and the shallow tray meant that I was constantly cleaning as the litter would go everywhere. Another disgusting thought was that if I did not stay on top of the cleaning, Tippy would walk his business all around the house… just gross!
Once I was satisfied that Tippy was using the new tray I placed it on to the toilet rim. The Litter Kwitter fits all standard toilets so it attached securely without any issues. Once attached you simply pour the litter into the shallow tray, and hope your cat will get it.
There are four stages to the process…
During the 1st stage I used the red disc, I spent a considerable amount of time randomly picking Tippy up and putting him on the toilet even if I was not sure if he wanted to go. Again, I would give him treats to encourage a positive association with him being on the toilet. After a couple of days Tippy was jumping up and using stage one red disc himself which I thought was amazing. Even though Tippy got the hang of stage 1 really quickly I did not move onto the next stage for at least a week. I wanted to give him time for it to become second nature and not push him too hard, too fast.
The 2nd stage meant using the amber training disc which has a small hole in the centre surrounded by litter. At first Tippy was a little unsure of the hole and the needed to learn how to balance by standing on the litter. All I can say at this point is TREATS, TREATS, TREATS! Bless him, this stage did take more encouragement, (bribery) from me as this was the first time he experienced doing his number ones and two’s in the water. It took at least two weeks for him to get completely comfortable with this stage so I did not rush him. It is so important not to move forward in the training until your cat is ready otherwise you will destroy their confidence and ruin all your hard work.
During the 3rd stage I used the green disc with the large hole, and again with some encouragement, Tippy got comfortable quite quickly. That said, I could see that it took some time for him to get used to balancing his four paws on the seat whilst positioning his bottom over the hole. I actually took a couple of days off work during this phase as I did not want to leave him unsupervised. If he had lost his balance and fallen into the hole he might have hurt himself, or knocked his confidence, so it was important to me that I did everything possible to avoid this happening.
The 3rd stage was also probably the most onerous stage as this meant me listening out for Tippy’s very distinct ‘business-meow‘ at all hours of the day and night so I could go and supervise him. At times I felt like a mother to a newborn baby and seemed to be up and down like a yo-yo! After a week Tippy started to get the hang of it and my days of having to get up and supervise him could stop. A further week meant I could to remove the green disk which just left the white base and there was no more litter!
At the 4th stage I decided to keep the white disk on the toilet for another two weeks. It gave him a more sturdy platform to balance on than my actual toilet seat, but eventually I removed the white disk and he started to use the toilet seat itself. It took a couple of attempts to get right because the surface was a little more slippy than the white disc but after refining his technique he became a human toilet master!
I just couldn’t believe we had done it… no more cat litter!
When I started this process I wasn’t sure if the Litter Kwitter system would work for Tippy. The most surprising thing of all is that for the last six years he has been back to being an outdoor cat again with no real need to use the toilet; the great outdoors had become his litter tray! Yet, every now and then I still find Tippy using our human toilet. Its just amazing that he still remembers after all these years and uses it on his own accord. I can only assume that when he decides to use the toilet, he has either been caught short, or does not want to go outside during our often inclement weather! In our house we ALL have to remember NOT to put the toilet seats down, and my family and guests always find this highly amusing!
Just remember, if you are planning on training your cat to use the toilet, you must make it a pleasant experience. Every cat is different, and just because Tippy picked it up quickly it does not mean that your cat will. You need to have patience, but with the necessary support and perseverance I am convinced that any cat can be taught to use a human toilet as they are such bright animals. Its just a shame I never got round to teaching Tippy how to flush!
If you have any questions please do get in touch via the comments section and I will do my best to answer them…
I would love to hear about any experiences you have had trying to train your cats?
Love Katie xxx
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