Years ago, when the comedy film Meet The Parents was released, many viewers were agog at the scene where Robert Deniro’s pet cat, Mr. Jinx, uses the toilet. While that may have seemed like a clever Hollywood trick to some, it is an actual skill cats can learn that pet owners are at least curious about, even if they haven’t yet trained their cat to use the toilet.
The absolute, most critical step is determining whether or not your cat, as an individual, can be trained to use the toilet. If it resists learning, you must accept this. Forcing a cat to perform behaviors it is staunchly averse to will result in severe psychological distress, and will greatly diminish the cat’s quality of life. Cat owners know that their felines truly only do what they want to, and you have to put the needs of the cat ahead of your desire to be rid of a litter box. Much of the feline brain is mysterious to us, but you have to understand that your cat’s motivations are not strictly out of a desire to misbehave, but are routines and boundaries that make the cat feel secure and therefore, happy to live with you. A cat thrown out of balance feels endangered and will become volatile.
If you have multiple cats in a common living area, who share a litter box, reconsider toilet training. Interfering with the dynamics between the two animals can lead to discord and failure in training much easier than just focusing on one cat.
Each step must be introduced to the cat slowly, over the course of a few weeks. When training a cat to use the toilet, assess the location of the litter box. It may be in the kitchen, or a laundry area, but it will need to be moved to the bathroom, near the toilet you want your pet to eventually use. It might take a little bit, as cats are very territorial, but be patient. If your pet becomes comfortable with the new position of the litter box, you can congratulate yourself, but you still need to wait at least a week before making your next move.
Next, you will elevate the litter box. This is essential, to get the cat used to going to the bathroom from a greater height, so that they are not thrown into shock by the height of the toilet. You can use another litter box- clean, empty, and turned bottom facing up, to elevate the litter box that is in use. A lot of cats may stall at this step, and it’s important to pay attention to the behavior exhibited at this stage. If your cat begins to avoid the bathroom, eliminates in other areas of the house (such as on furniture and on carpets), or seems especially anxious, revert back to simply keeping the original litter box flat on the floor.
After that has gone well, elevate the litter box again, using some heavy books or blocks. The structure must be very steady and able to hold up to the cat when he jumps in, so experiment and make sure you’ve constructed something stable enough. If the cat agrees to this, leave it in this position for at least another few days.
Assuming your cat has complied with the changes you’ve made with the litter box over the preceding few weeks, you can now see if the cat will react favorably to using the toilet. There are devices on the market designed to fit over the toilet, so your cat will be more secure up there, but to start out, you really only need some disposable aluminum pie pans (or roasting pans, depending on the size of the toilet) and flushable litter. Note that the toilet, at this stage, can only be used by the cat. You are going to sturdily tape the aluminum pan (which should cover most of, if not the entire hole) onto the sides of the bowl, with the seat placed on top, and add some flushable litter. Over the next few days, you are going to very gradually reduce the amount of litter. At the same time during these steps, you are going to slowly cut a hole in the aluminum pan over the toilet seat. Watch the progress- if something is done quickly and sloppily, and the cat falls in the toilet, you are likely done for good. Each day that your cat successfully and comfortably uses this setup, increase the size of the hole just a little bit. You can use several different pre-cut pans for this purpose, but make sure they each fit well over the toilet seat, and are stable and very similar to the last.
Litter is really important throughout this process, and your cat may falter and cease toilet training once you get to the stage where you remove it. Cats are primally wired to scratch at and bury their waste. If your cat exhibits disturbing signs at this time, you may have to cut your losses and accept that your cat is not comfortable living without litter.
If you have proven thus far to have a cat that can be toilet trained, you are ready for the final steps. The amount of pan beneath the cat as it has learned to use the toilet has diminished, so they can get used to emptying into the water below. Remember to be patient, and wait a few days before removing the sides of the pan.
Keep in mind that if you have a cat with medical conditions, or who is on medications, it may not be a good idea to train them to use the toilet at all. Keeping an eye on your cat’s health includes monitoring the color, size, amount, and frequency of their waste, and this becomes considerably more difficult if they’re using the toilet (and impossible if they know how to flush!). If you have a healthy cat who is comfortable in their home, follow the steps above with as much patience as you can find, and you may have a fully toilet-trained cat, and a litter-free life.