By Arnold Plotnick, MS, DVM, ACVIM
Teaching your cat to use a toilet rather than the litter-box is a relatively new phenomenon that became somewhat vogue after the movie “Meet the Parents” with Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. The film featured a cat that was very adept at using the toilet. Pet stores sell kits that are designed to toilet train your cat, and there are countless websites and several books devoted to the topic. At Manhattan Cat Specialists, we take a different view when it comes to toilet training your cat. We’re completely against it.
Cats should not be made or expected to use a toilet designed for people. It is completely unnatural for them. Cats instinctually dig and bury their urine and feces. Toilet training robs them of this instinct.
Toilet seats are slippery. There is always a chance of the cat losing its grip and falling into the bowl, possibly injuring itself in the process. The incident may be frightening enough to prevent the cat from using the toilet ever again. For a kitten or a small cat, it can actually be life threatening.
Cats that use the toilet are required to jump up. For younger cats, this is usually not a problem. Elderly, sick, injured or arthritic cats may find it difficult or painful to do this. Public restrooms provide handgrips, and hospitals and nursing homes provide bedpans for elderly and infirm humans. Why should we expect our elderly and infirm cats to tolerate pain and difficulty when eliminating?
Some medical conditions require monitoring the urine for the presence of blood, or the feces to see if there is blood or diarrhea. Toilet training makes it impossible to see the urine output, and the water in the toilet may change the consistency of the feces, making it difficult to assess diarrhea. Some cats develop medical conditions that result in increased urination. Owners often notice this by noticing more urine in the litter-box. For cats that use the toilet, it is impossible to get an idea as to whether the cat is producing an excessive volume of urine.
If you ever have to board your cat or if he needs to be hospitalized, it can be very confusing for him to be in a cage with a litter-box instead of a toilet. Stress weakens a cat’s immune system, and this kind of stress can only serve to delay recovery in an already sick cat.
Toilet training means that the toilet lid has to always remain up. This seems like a small detail, but if you have guests over, they might not remember to do this, potentially leading to inappropriate elimination and behavior problems.
It’s no wonder that so many cats that have been subjected to toilet training develop behavioral problems. At Manhattan Cat Specialists, we feel that people should just let cats be cats. Tending to a litter-box is part of the bargain we make when we get a cat, and it’s the least we can do for such wonderful companions.