Pet guardians are no strangers to stepping around the corner and being faced with strange sights — a dog eating a sock, a cat climbing the curtains, and so on. Catching a dog or cat sipping from the toilet is another common find in many homes, but should you let them do it?
For some people, a pet drinking toilet water is no big deal, and their pets may engage in the habit their entire lives with no repercussions, and often, the practice is safe. Things can get dangerous in some cases, though, particularly if harsh cleaning agents are used in the bathroom.
Why do pets drink toilet water?
Each cat or dog will have her own reasons for drinking from the toilet, but for the most part it seems that pets enjoy drinking from the can because it's fresh, it's cold, and it's available. The American Kennel Club suggests that the constant flushing of toilets makes for more freshwater than anything a dog or cat would find in a bowl, which just lies stagnant until it's refilled. Moving water is also safer than still water for wild animals to consume, which is why many domesticated pets still seek it out. The porcelain material a toilet bowl is made from keeps the water at a cool temperature, and the fact that it's just sitting there, all day and all night, makes for a rather inviting sip for any thirsty pet. Pets who don't have regular access to fresh water in their dishes may be more inclined to dip into the bowl, and cats, who often love moving water, may find the running water more exciting than a still dish of old tap water.
Is toilet water dangerous to cats and dogs?
The short answer to this question is no, toilet water isn't dangerous in most cases. Sometimes, however, water from the toilet bowl can pose a threat to a pet's health, but that will depend on a few things. First, the cleanliness of the bowl can determine how safe the water in it is, and ironically, the very things you use to keep your toilet sparkling may be toxic to your pets. Harsh chemicals in cleaning products can linger in toilet bowls and may lead to side effects when ingested, like upset stomach, drooling, diarrhea, an irritated digestive tract, or even chemical burns if it comes into contact with skin, says the American Veterinary Medical Association. Medication that has recently been tossed into the toilet and flushed may also render water harmful, and should not be consumed by pets.
Additionally, some bacteria can be found in toilet water, like E. coli and giardia, both of which can affect dogs and cats. These bacteria are typically only found in stagnant water, however, so if your toilet is used and flushed on a regular basis, a sip will likely not harm a pet. Even when faced with some bacteria, pets are blessed with immune systems different from ours, which will often fight off diseases they may be exposed to in the toilet, according to I Heart Cats.
Keeping pets safe around toilet water
If you don't mind your pet drinking from the toilet bowl, there are a few things you can do to ensure his safety while indulging in a sip from that big ceramic bowl in the bathroom. First, the ASPCA recommends choosing your cleaning products carefully to avoid a potentially sick pet. One way to tell if an item may make your toilet bowl unsafe to drink from is by noticing the color it produces while it's working — most often, toilet bowl cleaners, cleansing gels, powders, or disks that turn toilet water blue should be considered unsafe as they are often filled with harsh chemicals and surfactants. Additionally, bleach is highly toxic to pets when it's ingested, and is found in many bathroom cleaning products. For a pet-safe alternative, you can try scrubbing your bowl with a sprinkling of baking soda, then rinsing things clean with white vinegar and water.
Of course, prevention is the most effective way to keep your pet safe, so if you're at all worried, keep the lid down and don't give your dog or cat the opportunity to sneak a sip. Doing so can also prevent accidental slipping off of the toilet seat and into the bowl, which is obviously more common among cats and very small dogs than large canines who simply drop their heads in. Baby-proof toilet locks may keep determined pets out from under closed lids, as will shutting and locking the bathroom door, if necessary.
To ensure that your pet is properly hydrated, keep plenty of fresh water around the home, especially during hot summer months, after long play sessions, or if your dog is aging or sick. Cats who prefer moving or frequently refreshed water bowls may enjoy a pet water fountain, which is available at most pet stores and online.
A sip from the toilet bowl will likely not pose much of a threat to a healthy pet, assuming that the bowl isn't regularly treated with harsh chemicals and toxic ingredients, like bleach. If you wish to keep your pet from drinking from the toilet, keep the lid down and the door to your bathroom closed, and provide plenty of fresh water for them to enjoy.