It sounds like a dream come true. Imagine all your pets using the toilet. No more cleaning up poop or pee. No more accidents on the floor. No more cleaning litter boxes or needing to take the dog for a walk. This sounds amazing. And while toilet training is a great idea for humans, toilet training animals, especially cats, is actually a terrible idea.
You’ve probably seen the videos with toilet trained cats. They are entertaining for sure and maybe a little mesmerizing. You’re probably wondering how on earth they did that. You may have even seen Mr. Jingles in Meet the Parents use the toilet and fail to flush because of his lack of opposable thumbs. This makes for great comedy, but what these videos fail to account for is the stress it causes the cats. Toilet training a cat is extremely stressful for the animal. It goes against the cat’s nature and is physiologically harmful as well.
There are numerous reasons why it’s not a good idea to toilet train a cat, and here are the top 8.
It goes against their nature
If you have a cat, you probably know that cats like to dig. Not only that, but they have a natural instinct to bury their waste in the ground. In the wild, it helps protect them from predators because it hides the smell of their poop and pee. It’s a pretty ingenious instinct. When you toilet train your cat, you can easily get them to go on the toilet, but you won’t be able to take away their natural instinct to dig and bury. Someway, somehow, they will dig something and they will bury.
The whole idea of a cat going on a toilet will leave them confused and maybe even frustrated that they can’t dig and bury. They need this action to mark their territory, to communicate with other animals, and even to ward off predators. Toilets were made for people, litterboxes were made for cats to help them express their natural instincts.
It can hurt your cat
The mechanics of leaping onto a toilet every time a cat needs to go is very harsh on their bodies. Think about how many times your cat is at the litter box now. And imagine them needing to get onto a toilet when they need to relieve themselves instead. That’s a lot. The mechanics of hovering over a toilet bowl is also a challenge. If they lose their balance, they can fall in or injure themselves in other ways. A toilet seat might also be slippery if you’ve had a hot shower or bath. Not only could they get hurt, but it can also create a traumatic experience that will make them less likely to use the toilet in the future.
Additionally, as your cat ages, they become more prone to degenerative diseases such as arthritis. This joint disease would make it nearly impossible to go on a toilet, while it would be much easier for them to use a litter box. This physical stress affects cats more than you realize.
It can make a bigger mess
Imagine your cat can’t get up on the toilet for some reason. Maybe the toilet lid was down, maybe the seat was up, or maybe the door was closed. Where would they choose to relieve themselves instead? Perhaps in a potted plant, on the floor, or even on your bed. Stressed animals are known for leaving unwanted gifts on their owner’s bedding and pillows. This mess alone is reason enough to opt for a traditional litter box. Even if they make it to the toilet, they could miss and make a mess on the toilet seat or on the side of the toilet.
While it may seem like a cleaner option than a litter box, the truth is that your cat will be more likely to leave a mess if they can’t get to the toilet bowl for some reason.
The odor isn’t going anywhere
One of the perceived benefits of toilet training a cat is that there won’t be any more smells. While this sounds logical, until you can also train your cat to flush the toilet every time it goes, this is not likely to happen. The truth is, even when humans don’t flush, it smells in the bathroom. It’s the same for cats. Their poop stinks. And if they use the toilet during the day while you’re away, you’ll probably come home to a smelly bathroom and home.
A litter box that you change daily is a much better option in the long-run and should be used instead if you want to reduce odors. We have written a few articles about the best cat litter when it comes to odor control. Read these here:
- Best cat litter for indoor cats in 2020 (USA & Canada)
- The best cat litter for indoor cats in 2020 (UK)
You could miss important health warning signs
The health of any animal—cats, and humans included— can be observed in their urine and poop. The frequency of urination and the smell of it can easily let you know if there is something going on that needs medical attention. If your cat gets diarrhea or is constipated, you won’t notice it as easily if you aren’t cleaning their litterbox daily. A toilet trained cat can’t tell you if something is wrong, but their urine and poop certainly can. The color of the poop is also more noticeable in a litterbox than in a toilet. These changes are indicators that let you know if they are dealing with health issues.
Many of the most common cat illnesses can be identified simply through their poop and pee. Some of these include diabetes, bladder infection, and dehydration. Don’t miss out on these important warning signs. Use a litter box instead of trying to toilet train your cat.
It can make you sick
How on earth can toilet training a cat make you sick? Most pregnant women probably already know. They are warned not to clean kitty litter boxes because cats often carry a parasite that’s harmful to humans. This parasite is called Toxoplasma gondii that causes Toxoplasmosis. Outdoor cats who eat rats and other wildlife are especially prone to getting this infection. Unfortunately, when you flush the parasite down the toilet, you put other humans and animals at risk of infection. The parasite oocytes are not killed by wastewater treatment facilities, which means they can end up in lakes, rivers, and maybe even your drinking water.
The other risk for infection from the Toxoplasma gondii is if the cat misses and the poop lands on the toilet seat, the floor, or anywhere else you have to clean it up. If you don’t do a thorough enough job, you could end up sick and infected as well. For pregnant women, this affects them more severely because the infection can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
It’s more difficult to travel
Try explaining to your family why it’s so important to leave the toilet lid up and the seat down. Try getting them to change their habits when you visit with your cat. The odds are this won’t go over so well, and you’ll be more likely to have a stressed-out cat leaving messes everywhere except the toilet. When you go visit others, they are not likely to have the same habits as your family which can make it more difficult for your toilet trained cat.
While you may not bring your cat on trips with you, what about a house sitter instead? You’ll likely run into similar issues. Unless your housesitter is used to having a toilet trained cat, they may forget to leave the toilet lid up and the seat down. They may close the bathroom door. And let’s face it, when you’re gone, your cat may act up a bit and decide to leave those stinky gifts throughout the house.
Of course, your last option when you travel is to bring your cat to a kennel. And let’s face it, your cat won’t be getting the white-glove treatment with a toilet even at the best kennels. They are equipped to have litter boxes in the cages with the cats and not a toilet the cat can have 24/7 access to.
Travel becomes more difficult because you can’t drive with your cat, you can’t fly with them, and where will they poop and pee when you get to your destination?
Toilet training your cat gets more tricky when you have more than one cat
Cats love to mark their territory. They have a domain that’s theirs and theirs alone. Cat owners with multiple cats have litter boxes and food bowls for each one of them. This is because cats don’t play nice with each other. They need their own territory to poop and pee and also eat. If you expect everyone to use the same toilet, this becomes a huge challenge. It is instinctual for each cat to have their own areas they can feel safe to relieve themselves and then also enjoy their meals.
Moral of the story, don’t toilet train your cat. It’s not natural and can harm or traumatize your cat. Additionally, it goes against their instincts and gets even trickier when you have more than one cat. Forget about traveling with your cat or having an adequate place for them to stay if you leave them behind. For your health and for theirs, just train your cat to use the litterbox. It’s effective and allows cats to use their natural instincts when it comes to waste elimination. If you clean out the poop and pee from the box daily, you won’t deal with smells and it’ll make everyone happier.