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I Tried to Toilet-Train My Cat ... and I Failed Miserably

"We decided to throw in the towel -- especially the nasty one we'd had to leave near the toilet for weeks to catch all the 'misses' and litter."

 |  Oct 15th 2013  |   7 Contributions


I never thought I'd spend my summer potty-training -- when I don't have any kids. But when my roommate brought home a toilet training system for cats, I was presented with a challenge even greater than tanning my Irish skin.

I was skeptical when she told me about it. Sure, I'd seen the infomercials promising perfectly potty-trained cats after just eight weeks. Not to mention, the famous scene from the movie "Meet the Parents" also flashed through my mind. You remember, when Ben Stiller's character opens the bathroom door to see that his future father-in-law, played by Robert DeNiro, has trained the family cat, Mr. Jinx, to use the toilet! I recalled the horrified look on Jinx's face that read, "How dare you walk in on me?" I could picture the same look on the face of my cat, Tulip, when I'd walk in for my morning shower and find her prissy little self poised daintily over the toilet.

If Robert De Niro's cat can use the toilet, why can't Tulip?

Don't get me wrong. My roommate's intentions were excellent: less litter tracking, no filthy dust, and tons of time saved cleaning litter boxes. Who can argue with that? Her sister told her she'd "lose friends" over her slightly quirky endeavor, but I don't knock anything till I try it! However, as I stared curiously at all the pieces of this contraption she'd purchased, my stomach did a little flip. We only had one bathroom, and there was no way the cats would go against their natural instincts without a fight. "I really think it's gonna work," she admonished. I envisioned guests being forced to remove the litter box to use our toilet and no longer being able to go barefoot in my own bathroom, and I cringed a little. I'll try anything once, I repeated to myself.

Tulip wondered what we were up to in the bathroom.

The first step in the process involved a shallow, plastic container shaped like the toilet lid to fill with litter and place next to the toilet. Both Tulip and my roommate's cat, Jack, only took a day or so to start using this. They definitely thought it was weird, but I think in a twisted way, they enjoyed going to the bathroom right next to us. Let's face it, most cats have a sick obsession with the bathroom anyway. We'd also made it very difficult for them to get into their regular litter boxes, and these spoiled felines like convenience. 

We didn't even talk about wiping afterwards. Cat plays with toilet paper by Shutterstock

A few days later, the container was placed on top of the toilet, still with the litter inside. Tulip didn't take long to hop right up and start using it. A girls' gotta go when a girl's gotta go. Don't they always say girls are easier to potty train? But Jack wasn't so agreeable. He would wait until I had to take down the container to use the toilet myself and then race into the bathroom! The second it hit the floor, he was inside, peeing to his heart's content. As I went to the bathroom or washed my hands, litter would pelt my feet and fly all over the bathroom, as he attempted to bury and cover. By the way, male cats appear to have the same problem as potty-training little boys and some adult guys: lack of aim!  

We did try toilet training for a while.

Every couple of days, my roommate would decrease the amount of litter in joyful advancement toward the day when the contraption became just a lid on the regular toilet seat, with a hole going to the toilet. When that day arrived, ideally, we'd just be able to flush everything right down! Yes, I did think about how cat poop would be sitting in our toilet all day until we got home from work to flush it. For the record, yes, I did think it was gross. 

Jack was curious, but he never quite took to the new toilet arrangement.

Meanwhile, Jack was starting to seem a little grumpy. I also thought it strange that two cats who had previously enslaved us to cleaning their litter box daily were now leaving just the tiniest droppings. I was elated to take a break from the scooping, but each day I checked closets and behind couches waiting for an inevitable "surprise." After a late night cleaning up what looked like a litter hurricane with yellow rain in my bathroom, something dawned on me. I'd never once seen Jack up on the toilet since we moved the litter box up there. 

"I think Jack is holding it," I told my roommate. "Really? Uh oh," she replied. His stomach wasn't protruding yet, but I was pretty sure it'd been a good two weeks since he'd fully gone to the bathroom. Yikes.

I think Tulip has forgiven me for our little experiment.

It was around that time we decided to throw in the towel -- especially the nasty one we'd had to leave near the toilet for weeks to catch all the "misses" and litter. Tulip sniffed and searched curiously around the toilet for a couple of days but eventually went back to her original litter box. Although I'm glad we gave kitty potty training a shot, I don't regret the return to traditional litter boxes. Most of all, I definitely don't mind trading a little scooping for stepping out of the shower onto a clean, pebble-free floor. 

Have you tried toilet training your cat? What method did you use? Did it work? Let us know in the comments!

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