If you’re wondering how to toilet train your cat, there are a few things you should do so that your cat can successfully learn how to use the toilet. I wish I’d done these things when I decided to potty train my cat Furball. I had a new baby (the human kind) and figured if Furball learned how to use a toilet, then I wouldn’t have to worry about my baby thinking the cat box was a sandbox.
Right on cue, as if the universe were reading my thoughts, I received an email from Rebecca Rescate, the creator of the CitiKitty toilet training kit. She offered me a CitiKitty kit to review on my blog about eco-friendly ideas for cats. I was game. I loved that the CitiKitty was made from recycled plastic and that it also let you step back in the process if your cat needed to take things slowly.
The CitiKitty toilet training kit includes a round plastic tray that fits inside almost any toilet seat. You start out with a bit of litter in the tray and then as your cat gets used to it, you pop out a small hole in the middle. When your cat gets comfortable with the hole, you remove another ring so that the hole gets bigger. Eventually, the hole is the size of the toilet opening, and presto! That’s when your cat is using the toilet.
Unfortunately, I abandoned the training before my cat learned how to use the toilet. As a new mom, I just didn’t have the right frame of mind to follow through. Since then, I’ve always felt like I had some unfinished business when it came to kitty toilet training, so I contacted the folks at CittiKitty for their best advice on how to toilet train a cat.
Here are five tips from the experts, combined with insights I learned while toilet training my cat.
1. Pick a good time to teach your cat how to use the toilet
Looking back, I now realize my fallacy. My No. 1 problem was that I chose the wrong period in my life to toilet train the cat. We had a new baby in the house and my mother-in-law was also staying with us. Obviously, Furball was freaked out about these disruptions in his home. To set your cat up for success, make sure that there are no significant changes going on in your life when you begin the potty-training process.
2. Figure out if your cat is supersensitive to litter box changes
Even before you begin toilet training your cat, you can get a preview of how your cat will react by moving the litter box toward the bathroom (if it’s not already there), and then next to the toilet. If your kitty isn’t bothered by these changes, there’s a good chance that she will do well with cat toilet training. On the other hand, if you have a skittish cat, plan on taking extra time and giving lots of positive reinforcement. Every cat is unique and will train at a different speed. This is especially true if you’re toilet training multiple cats at the same time.
3. Go slowly and take small steps
The CitiKitty cat toilet training kit is designed so that you remove thin concentric rings as your cat progresses. While it’s tempting to want to rush through things when toilet training a cat, patience is your best ally for success. Only remove a ring when your cat has mastered the current step with no accidents for at least a week. If your cat needs to move at an even slower pace, you can remove a quarter to a half ring instead of the full ring. If your cat has an accident, you can also go back a step in the process.
4. Lavish attention, praise, and rewards on your cat
Here’s where I really took a wrong turn with kitty toilet training. As a new mom, I barely had time to brush my teeth, let alone pet the cat. Furball received very little praise and not a single yummy snack to celebrate his success. In hindsight, I now see that this is probably the most important factor for successfully toilet training a cat. Having recently potty trained my son, I’ve got to say that over-the-top praise and tasty treats work wonders.
5. Set up an environment that supports your cat
Since most litter boxes are much larger than the toilet seat insert, it’s important to clean the tray often. While this might sound like a lot of work, it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. Because you’re using so little litter in the tray, it’s a breeze to dump it out.
You’ll also want to tape the toilet lid to the bowl so that no one accidentally closes the lid, making it impossible for your cat to do their business. Also, leave the bathroom door barely open so that your cat can feel a sense of privacy when he’s on the toilet.
A special note about toxoplasmosis
If you live in a coastal area such as California, you’ll want to know a few facts about toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that cats can pick up and pass through their feces. If you flush infected feces down the toilet, the parasite enters the water system, goes into the ocean, and harms sea otters. In order to make an informed decision about whether to toilet train your cat, here are a few things you should know.
- Cats contract the parasite by coming in contact with infected rodents, birds, etc., or contaminated feces or outdoor soil.
- Cats kept indoors that don’t hunt prey and aren’t given raw meat or unpasteurized milk are not likely to be infected with T. gondii.
- If a cat becomes infected, they shed infectious oocysts (egg stage of the parasite) for 10 to 20 days in their entire lifetime.
To read more about toxoplasmosis, check out the fact sheet published by Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
If you’re sure that your cat is T. gondii-free and that no sea otters will be harmed if you toilet train your cat, I say go fur it! Just make sure you follow these five tips so that you can save money on kitty litter, say goodbye to cleaning the cat box, and also make a cool video of your cat using the toilet, which you can share with your friends and fellow meowsters on Catster!