How to Toilet Train Your Cat

Proof that felines can do better tricks than dogs

Ever dream of flushing that fur ball's rancid waste down the toilet - without ever touching a pooper-scooper? How about never having to scoop up clumps of mushy cat-mess from the litter box again? Cats get a reputation for being un-trainable, but these highly intelligent creatures can adopt any behavior a patient human can teach them. The trick is to get 'em while they're young. That's what I did with my feline as soon as I swooped him up from the pound. While still a kitten, I taught my little cat, Willy, some bathroom etiquette, and kissed my litter-box goodbye.

Cats instinctively know how to bury their smelly secretions - it's just a matter of getting them to go where you want. You may catch him urinating in his favorite spot behind the television, or wonder why he's decided that your dirty laundry is the purrfect potty spot (pardon the pun). These creatures like their waste to be hidden, and seem to know, as evidenced by their great effort to bury their odors, how offensive their smells are. The payback for showing your cat the human trick to hide bodily waste will go both ways: You will learn earn your cat's lifetime adoration when he realizes your knack for dumping without digging, and he will provide you with bragging rights to having the coolest pet on the block.

The first step is to get him litter box trained - the conventional way. Set him up a clean little box near, or better, in, the bathroom. The best bet for getting a pre-trained kitty is to get one from the pound. Animals (especially young ones) are often trained in these facilities, and get you brownie points for rescuing a cuddly orphan.

Once he's accustomed to his secretive sanitary spot in your bathroom, gradually move the box closer and closer to the toilet. The next step is tricky, but don't lose hope (even if he might dart directly to your lingerie pile, and proceed to drench them with an especially squinty-eyed glare - this too, shall pass). You will need a mixing bowl that fits snugly into the toilet bowl (without falling in, mind you) and can stay there with the "lady-lid" on (the part we humans sit on). Your best bet will be to get one of those cheap metal mixing bowls that you won't mind trashing.

My Willy took to the leap right away, but some cats may resent you for making them jump to get to their litter. Just have patience, they might try to duck into the bathtub or sneak under the sink, but watch that fluffy sucker until he sees you approve of his leap of faith. Give him gooey compliments like, "You're such a good little toilet-dumping kitty," and coo and gurgle at him until your spouse wonders what kind of fun you're having in there.

Once you're tiger has successfully made the jump, you will have to reduce the amount of litter - GRADUALLY. I cannot emphasize this enough. If your feline senses an emergency level of litter, he may seek alternative sources. (See the laundry pile comment above). Ease kitty into reduced rations, reducing the quota little by little until it is eventually gone. This is so he doesn't freak out by any sudden changes to his digging/burying routine.

Eventually, your kitty will be relieving himself directly into the mixing bowl. At this point I'm sure you're aware that the bowl is no longer fit for mixing cookies. If you're not, well, be sure to write an article about your findings, and think about purchasing a good health insurance policy. If you're like me, however, you're disgusted at the prospect of picking up un-clumped poo, and are seriously thinking about destroying that bowl right about now. But trust me, all that urine you splashed on yourself while swooshing it down the toilet will pay off. Tip: Buy rubber gloves.

Next comes the water. Begin by adding just a couple of ounces to the bowl. If you have to, make sure kitty stays in the bathroom when you see that it's that time. Seriously, lock yourself in with him if your sure he's gotta go. He might make you wait for a few minutes, but nature will call. My cat did not care for the water - at all, and I admit it was tough waiting there for him to get comfortable with his wet situation. But Willy went through with it, and when he turned around to do his sniff check, he seemed quite happy with the odor-diffusing results. The water in the bowl helps to eliminate odor, which is why your kitty has his natural burying reflex.

Now comes the moment of truth. By now you have spent a good part of a month, or even two, getting kitty comfortable with the water-bowl. Like my cat, you will see that he has developed quite a knack for balancing on the edge of the toilet seat, relieving himself, and jumping right off - without even the slightest urge to sniff. This is how you know it's the perfect moment to take away the potty training-wheels. So put on some rubber gloves, hold your breath, and heave that nasty mixing bowl into the trash. Keep holding your breath until kitty accomplishes his first "grown-up" potty session. Remember too coo. Take a picture and show it off to your envious friends.

It took me about two months to complete this process with my Willy, but now he is a bona-fide toilet tyrant - leaving little surprises for my morning lavatory visit. With a little hard work and LOTS of patience, you too can brag about your toilet-trained feline. Reward him with a burial of his box in the back yard, and kiss that pooper scooper goodbye (not recommended - skip the kiss). Good luck.