Imagine a world where indoor cats no longer need litter boxes and cat litter tracking through the house was a thing of the past. Instead, they squat over the toilet bowl meaning a quick flush is all it takes for you to get rid of their offering.
Unfortunately this golden age may not be all that it’s cracked up to be, especially from the cat’s point of view. Whilst there are undoubted benefits from a human perspective, using the toilet instead of a tray can cause problems for the cat.
So before you ditch the litter box and dash out to buy a training seat, let’s look at toileting from a cat’s eye view so you can decide if this has potential for your cat or will be more of a nightmare than a dream.
Flushed with Success?
OK, the upside of toilet training a cat to use . . . ahem . . . the toilet does have advantages. These include no pooper scooping, no smelly trays, and no cat litter treading through the house.
You might think the main reason that more people don’t have toileted trained cats is the actual process of training them, but this isn’t the case. Whilst it does take a special sort of cat to use the toilet, the bigger issue is the resultant stress of a cat eliminating in what to them is an unnatural manner.
In an ultimate irony, if the cat feels stressed about going to the toilet, this can trigger episodes of urinary straining that make up FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) as we’ll learn below.
Cats are sensitive to the messages sent out by their bodily functions. At one end of the scale they may want to advertise their presence and establish territorial ownership, and to do this they spray urine and midden faeces.
But in the great scheme of things, the majority of the time cats want to avoid advertising their presence, which means hiding their toilet. Indeed, cats instinctively want to bury what they produce, and won’t feel that the job is done properly unless they can scrape litter over their offering.
Not only that, but the location of their toilet matters a lot. Cats feel particularly vulnerable whilst relieving themselves, and so prefer a location that is partially concealed and feels safe. When this facility is a toilet, if the cat finds the location too busy or too exposed, this adds to their stress.
And if you’re still wavering as to whether toilet training is for your fur-friends or not, know that each cat likes to have their own toilet. This means in a multi-cat household your fur friends are going to be less enamoured of sharing facilities than you might suspect. And guess what. Anxiety over facilities equals yet more stress for the cat and an increased risk of FLUTD.
Why Litter Trays are Good
Actually, there are several positives to litter trays. For a start, they help you monitor what your cat is passing. Regular wet patches and solid offerings is a reassuring sign that all is well with the cat.
When a cat uses the toilet you aren’t going to know as quickly if they’re passing blood or have become constipated. Indeed, when they use a litter tray you become tuned into what’s normal for your cat and are therefore alerted sooner to when things aren’t right.
Another advantage of litter boxes is that it doesn’t cost the earth to have several trays to satisfy the needs of a multi-cat household. Plus you can locate them in nice, quiet, out of the way places where the cat feels safe.
Of course, one of the reasons people hate litter trays is the smell . . . but really, there’s an argument that’s down to the human part of the team. Twice daily scooping and regular litter top ups means there’s no need for a bad odour to develop. And in fairness, better hygiene is healthier for the cat because they’ll be less inhibited about going (just as no one likes using a dirty toilet.)
Then there’s the whole digging and scratching thing. Your cat obviously enjoys kicking up the litter, which is because of the natural drive to cover their tracks. Providing a tray with a suitable litter allows kitty to do just that. Imagine then their frustration of using the toilet and only half-completing the job!
Another consideration in favour of litter trays is that it leaves the toilet for the humans. Remember, cats can’t flush which means at some point you have to flush for them.
In addition, you need to leave the toilet lid open, which means you’ll probably get into the habit of flushing with the lid up. This is considerably less hygienic as all that whizzing water creates a considerable aerosol of water droplets contaminated with bacteria that are much better kept under wraps (or the lid at least).
The Bottom Line on Toilet Training
Whilst it’s possible to toilet train some cats, the more important question is whether it’s right to do so.
Changing your cat’s habit could cause them considerable stress, which could result in the discomfort of FLUTD or the inconvenience of spraying in the house. All in all, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, especially when you can meet everyone’s needs by pooper scooping more regularly.
Have you ever attempted to train your cat to use the human toilet? Please share your experiences below.
Top image: Eric Allix Rogers via Flickr