Can a cat really be trained to use the toilet, and is it a good idea? Check out our expert advice on the pros and cons of cat toilet training.
You may have seen the commercials on television and online: Products claiming to be able to train your cat to use the toilet. But before you jump for joy at the thought of being able to live free of the litter box, there are many factors to consider before deciding whether to try it on your feline friend.
Benefits of toilet training your cat
The most obvious benefit to teaching your cat how to use a toilet is being able to eliminate the litter box, and the smell and expense that comes with it. One bag of cat litter might not seem like a lot, but add the expense up over the course of a year, or an entire cat's life, and the cost can run into the thousands.
You can free up the space you used to store the litter box in, and you can also break free of vacuuming the litter that your cat tracks around the house.
Is toilet training really the right choice for your cat?
There are plenty of negatives, too. Pam Bennett, a cat behaviour specialist in Nashville, believes that cat toilet training is an extremely bad decision.
"Toilet training is not a natural behaviour for a cat," she says. "It goes against the cat's natural instinct to dig, eliminate and cover." In addition, she adds, "Maintaining a traditional litter box will help you to better monitor your cat's urine and fecal output. That's valuable information regarding your cat's health."
The trouble with cat toilet training
Additionally, toilet training your cat could be an issue should you go away on vacation and need to board your cat, or if your cat is hospitalized for any reason. "Upon returning home, it can cause a setback in the training process," Bennett explains. "The confusion can also add to the cat's stress.
Keep in mind: If you have guests in your home, they will need to remember to keep the washroom door open, and the toilet lid up. "That means all family members and guests who use the toilet must comply," says Bennett. "One mistake, and kitty has no toileting option."
How to train your cat to use the toilet
â€¨There are a couple of highly rated toilet-training kits on the market that teach cats to use a toilet instead of a litter box. They can range in price from $25 to $60, but they all generally work the same way: You start by fitting your toilet seat with a series of plastic rings your cat will be able to step on so that it doesn't fall into the toilet. Each plastic ring has a hole in the middle of it, and as your cat gets comfortable with the rings, the hole will get larger over time. The end result is your cat balancing on the toilet seat.
In addition to having to spend the time teaching your cat, you will also need to exert a great amount of patience. You might find that you will have to go back and repeat steps if your cat suffers a setback in training.
"Cats are incredibly smart and are easy to train," says Bennett. "But your cat's health and welfare should come before human convenience."
Research pet toilet training
Each cat owner will have to weigh the pros and cons of toilet training to determine if it's the right thing to do for your cat, and your own personal lifestyle. Make sure to do plenty of research. If you decide to go with a toilet training kit, make sure to follow the instructions carefully. There are also plenty of books, online tutorials and videos to help you -- and entertain you -- if you need them.