How to Toilet Train a Cat

Clever Abyssinian Cat uses toilet bowl
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If you ask cat lovers what the least attractive aspects of cat ownership are, most would say cleaning the litter box, litter box odor in their home, or cats' defecating and urinating outside the litter box. Consequently, a host of cat owners have already thought outside the box (pun intended) and trained their cats to use the toilet — yes, the same one your human family uses.

As it turns out, sharing the toilet with your cat is entirely doable and preferable to the tired, old litter box routine for many cat owners.

Can you train your cat to use the toilet?

Contrary to a popular myth that cats are untrainable, you can train a cat to do many things, including to use the toilet. The question is whether you want your cat to use the toilet rather than a conventional litter box. After researching the toilet-training options — the pros and cons — you can make an informed decision about whether training your cat to use the toilet is a good fit for your household and lifestyle, and more importantly, is it a good fit for your cat.

charming young white cat lying on the white lid of toilet inside bathroom
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Are there cat toilet-training kits?

Innovation is the name of the game in the pet industry where billions of dollars flow out of pet owners' hands straight into the coffers of enterprising companies. And it seems that cats and toilets are a match made in heaven. After all, the ultimate goal is to have a cat but banish the litter box. You can indeed have one without the other. And the industry is doing it's best to move away from the smelly, albeit practical, traditional format.

From pricey, litterless units shaped like toilets featuring permanent cartridges you never have to change to stylish cocktail tables with hideaway doors for cats to slip in and discreetly go potty in crushed corn cobs, designers are well-aware of cat owners' disdain for the litter box. Enter cat toilet-training kits.

With names like Litter Kwitter and Vo-Toy Kitty Whiz Transfer System, you know these cat toilet-training aids mean business. And there are several others, too, all of which come with step-by-step, instructional DVDs; from the patented, "as seen on Shark Tank" CitiKitty Cat Toilet Training Kit and Zehui Cat Toilet Training Kit to the Rio Center Cat Toilet Training System. Some are suitable for medium-to-large cats, and others are designed for both adult cats and kittens. And Litter Kwitter makes one for extra-stubborn cats and multi-cat households.

Cat playing with toilet paper
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What's the best way to train your cat to use the toilet?

Jo Lapridge, the Litter Kwitter's inventor, says it's easier to toilet train a cat than a child. But training your cat to use the toilet takes time and patience, with or without a toilet-training system. And while you can train a cat to use the toilet by investing in a system, you could also give it a try on your own and save a few bucks.

A combination of DIY and a toilet-training kit may be the best way for you to train your cat to use the toilet. Here are the five simple steps to this method:

  1. Place your cat's litter box next to the toilet. Decide on which toilet your cat will have the best access to at all times, preferably in close proximity to his existing litter box. Consider a small, out-of-the-way toilet and sink combo that is used infrequently by people. To toilet train a cat, it is recommended to have more than one bathroom in your home.
  2. Gradually raise the level of the litter box. Place newspapers or cardboard under the litter box as you slowly raise it to the same height as the toilet seat over a week or so. Take your time with this step making sure your cat is comfortable with the height of the box at each incremental stage. Otherwise, your cat may decide not to bother and "go" elsewhere.
  3. Place the litter box on the toilet. Secure the litter box with duct tape if necessary; you don't want it to fall off after all the hard work to get it there. Hopefully, you will need to leave the box on the toilet for only about three-to-four days.
  4. Replace the litter box with a cat toilet-training kit. Kits like Litter Kwitter and CitiKitty have multiple rings or trays that fit on the toilet seat, each with incrementally larger holes in the center. You fill the outer edge or trough of the ring with flushable litter which is used as a starter giving your cat the option. The last ring of the set has the largest hole and no litter.
  5. Remove the last cat toilet-training tray. Your cat has finally made it and should be comfortable eliminating in the toilet if training was successful.
Cat Sitting On Toilet Bowl In Bathroom
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Of course, you can use the cat toilet-training system on its own. But rather than introducing something new, starting with your cat's litter box keeps the whole process more familiar to your cat. If at any time in the toilet-training process, your cat backtracks or refuses to use either his ascending litter box or the toilet-training trays, go back to the previous step(s) and work on it only if your cat still seems enthusiastic.

Keep in mind, toilet training is not appropriate for every cat so don't push his limits. For the toilet versus litter box choice, let your cat ultimately be the decision-maker. Never force a cat to do anything he doesn't want to do, and never treat a cat harshly or yell at him.

Can you train older cats to use the toilet, or just kittens?

The best feline candidate for toilet training is bold, confident, and at least three-months-old; some say kittens should be at least six months. Older cats with arthritis, other debilitating physical disorders, or existing litter box issues are not candidates for toilet training. Likewise, skittish or nervous cats or those with an obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD may be too anxious to adapt to toilet training.

Kittens and young cats are game for just about anything, though, and ripe for learning new habits. Conversely, old cats are set in their ways and as creatures of habit would likely be less inclined to change their bathroom habits. Whether your cat is an ideal candidate to learn to use the toilet is a judgment call you would have to make before embarking on a training program or buying a cat toilet-training kit.

Cat On Toilet Bowl Against Wall
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Should you train your cat to use the toilet?

If your cat uses the toilet, will he line up with your party guests waiting for a turn in the powder room, or will he simply duck into a corner to pee? Should your cat have a dedicated toilet and therefore his own bathroom with mouse wallpaper? And just maybe, is training your cat to use the toilet a tad anthropomorphic. When considering whether to train your cat to use the toilet, you may ponder these and other burning questions. Bottom line; should you train your cat to use the toilet?

It all depends on how you look at things and, of course, your cat's temperament, your bathroom facilities, and also whether you're aiming for toilet-exclusive elimination or as an adjunct to the litter box. Above all, before you jump on the toilet-training bandwagon, you need to look at not only the bright side of a toilet-trained cat but the dark side of what sounds like a cool idea but could turn out to be a stress-inducing, confusing experience for your cat. And any cat aficionado knows how even the slightest upset for your feline can lead to serious behavioral problems: What might begin as a plan to do away with a single, little litter box could backfire and turn your whole home into one big litter box!

Cat standing on toilet seat
credit: Image taken by Mayte Torres/Moment/GettyImages

Furthermore, your cat's health and other potential safety concerns should be considered in the decision to toilet train your cat and weighed against any benefits and advantages that your cat using the toilet may offer:

  • Early detection of health problems such as urinary tract infections, cystitis or bladder inflammation, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney dysfunction is possible through monitoring the frequency and volume of urine; usually first observed when scooping the litter box.
  • Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that cats pick up when they eat a rat or mouse. Indoor cats are not immune since rodents often enter dwellings. Not all cats show signs of infection but shed the oocysts in their feces, which when flushed end up in lakes, rivers, and streams where toxo can infect and kill water-dwelling wildlife such as otters, seals, and others. And consider if one of the cat's feces or even a smear lands on the toilet seat, it could infect a human using the toilet afterward.
  • It's all about the lid. Consider that the toilet seat must remain in the up position, otherwise, if it's inadvertently left in the closed position, where will your cat "go"?
  • What if the open lid happens to fall when your cat is perched on the seat? Best case scenario, it will knock your cat off the toilet, never to return. Worst case scenario, it will knock your cat into the toilet to get drenched, and worse, need a bath. And even worse, what if you're not around to rescue him.
  • What happens to the aging, toilet-trained cat? When old bones get creaky, your senior feline may find navigating the throne an unpleasant or impossible task. How about after surgery? In these cases, reintroducing a litter box may become necessary.
  • What happens to the cat's instinct to bury waste? For some cats, especially timid ones, this inability to bury waste could be frustrating.
  • If you like to travel and take your cat, your toilet-trained kitty might be less than welcome at friends' and family's homes. After all, not everyone feels comfortable sharing a toilet seat with other people, let alone cats.

In conclusion, there are benefits to having a beautifully toilet-trained cat, particularly in a small apartment or if the work involved with maintaining a litter box has become too much for you. On the other hand, there are potential drawbacks. With advances in technology come new devices a world apart from the conventional litter box. Also, many new litters on the market require less maintenance and absorb odor more effectively than ever. Exploring all the options empowers you to make the best potty choice for your cat and household.