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Can You Toilet Train a Cat? Is It a Good Idea?

Abyssinian Cat on the toilet bowl

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Vet, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dealing with a litter box can be a big, stinky pain to deal with. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a better alternative? Sometimes we’ve all found ourselves wondering how much easier our lives would be if our cats would just use the toilet like a human and preferably flush it when they finish.

You may have seen kits that help you toilet train your cat, essentially by turning your toilet into a litter box and then slowly removing parts of the box until your cat learns to balance on the seat and potty. While they may not flush when they finish, you may have thought about how much easier this would make your life. Is this a good idea, though?

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Can Cats Be Toilet Trained?

Most cats can absolutely be trained to use a toilet. Commercial kits are available to help with this process, although you could DIY a kit if you’re feeling creative and you feel confident in your ability to make something that doesn’t allow litter to get into your toilet as you train your cat.

Using the toilet may be a difficult task for some cats to master, though, so consider your cat before you attempt to train this method. Cats with balance problems are likely to end up in the toilet regularly, while kittens and seniors may have trouble getting on and off the toilet seat without falling in or hurting themselves by jumping down.

mackerel tabby cat playing with roll of toilet paper
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Is Toilet Training Your Cat a Good Idea?

Unfortunately, it’s really not a good idea to toilet-train your cat. While it is convenient and far more hygienic on the front end for your cat to potty in the toilet, there are serious concerns with cat waste in the water system.

Septic systems, sewer systems, and water treatment plants are not made to process pet waste. They are only made with the intention of processing human waste and toilet paper. Cat waste and cat litter that gets into the water system is considered a pollutant, and it’s a big problem. Cat waste in the water system has been shown to negatively impact native ecosystems by fouling the water. This can negatively impact fish, amphibians, wildlife, livestock, plants, and people.

What Are the Risks of Cat Waste in the Water?

On top of the risk of negatively impacting the ecosystem, cat waste also has a serious concern associated with it. Cats can carry the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is expelled in their waste. This parasite is zoonotic, which means it can be passed from cats to humans, and the most common way it’s transmitted from cats to people is via cat waste.

Toxoplasma gondii causes an infection called Toxoplasmosis. This infection is often unpleasant but not serious for healthy people, often causing headaches, body aches, and fevers that can last for months, although the symptoms can often be managed with medications.

However, for people with compromised immune systems, Toxoplasmosis can be deadly. It can lead to serious symptoms, like confusion, brain inflammation, difficulty breathing, respiratory infections, visual disturbances and eye pain, seizures, and coma. In severe cases, it can even lead to death.

Toxoplasmosis is also a serious risk to pregnant women, sometimes leading to miscarriages and stillbirths.

black and white cat sitting on the toilet bowl
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Shouldn’t Water Processing Plants Filter Out Toxoplasma gondii?

Our water processing plants are simply not designed for dealing with parasites of this nature, especially in the quantity that it could occur in if tons of cat owners suddenly started toilet training their cats or flushing their waste.

Toxoplasma gondii is a far more common parasite than many people realize. It is one of the most common parasites in the world, and many people never realize their cats have this infection because cats can often be asymptomatic carriers of it.

The Life Cycle of Toxoplasma
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In Conclusion

Most cats are perfectly capable of being trained to use a toilet. It is a process that can take weeks to perfect, but most cats are intelligent enough to figure it out with your help. Cats with balance problems, along with small and elderly cats are unlikely to succeed at toilet training without frequently falling into the toilet.

The biggest concerns associated with toilet training your cat is that water treatment systems are not set up to manage animal waste and the parasites associated with them. Toxoplasmosis is a serious medical condition that is often spread to people and other warm-blooded animals through cat waste, and flushing cat poop allows this parasite to get into our water bodies. Cat waste can also negatively impact ecosystems because it may not be processed out of the water properly.


Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock

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