Whoever said that you can’t train cats obviously didn’t have a year of free time and at least eight hours for their cats. I have a officially toilet trained my cats Darla and Ezri (yes, we are that nerdy). Since they are one-year-olds, I am hoping for at least 19 years of kitty litter-free living. For those cat owners whose heart just skipped a beat, yes it is possible. But don’t run for your credit card just yet.
It was about this time last year when my wife’s sister told her about this cat toilet training system called CitiKitty. My wife and I had just adopted kittens so we figured that it would be an excellent time to toilet train. With a little research, the product not only was cheap, it also seemed easy:
Unfortunately my cats didn’t watch the video. The next year of our life would be officially known by historians as “The Year of the Poop.” That’s of course assuming historians were paying attention to me and more specifically my cats. But with all the cats on treadmills and cats batting at faucet stream videos on YouTube, historians probably really will look at cats from our time.
History Teacher: The cat was revered by ancient societies. Their historical archive called YouTube had more cat videos than anything else.
Student: Didn’t they also have videos about people getting kicked in the balls?
History Teacher: Historians believed ball kicks were sacrifices to the gods. They had a day of worship called Monday Night Football. Foot… ball.
Another Student: But what about awful music videos? Those were also pretty popular.
History Teacher: But the most popular video of all time was the Gundam Style Friday Cat getting kicked in the balls.
“The Year of the Poop” started simply enough. We bought the CitiKitty training system and flushable cat litter. You’d expect flushable litter would be in every store but for some reason only Target carried it. We put the litter on the toilet for about a month before we started to get them used it and went to Germany. We decided to start the training coming home from Europe.
So the next few months were rather smelly and messy but not the most difficult part. If you watched the video, it seems simple. Keep punching out rings in the cat litter until there’s none. It seemed easy but what they didn’t tell you is that a thin litter pan gets dirty very quickly so I had to scrub, every night. Of course the cats would force me to scrub every night because they would except no less than a clean pan.
Ezri: He’s not cleaning the pan.
Darla: Time to pee in his bed again.
Ezri: Wait till he’s sleeping in it.
We learned pretty quickly that training cats is like teaching your grandparents to use Facebook from a smart phone.
Grandma: It’s not working.
Me: It’s working, you have to enter the unlock code.
Grandma: The unlo-what?
Me: The code we setup when you got the phone.
Grandma: I didn’t set up a code. It’s making that noise again.
Me: It’s because your grandchildren have tagged you in a picture.
Grandma: Can they do that? Is it legal?
Me: Hi folks, I’m from the Elderly Against Smartphone Commission. You’ve probably had this same conversation with your grandparents week and after tedious week.
Grandma: I heard that.
Me: Please do yourself a favor and if you want to stay connected to your grandparents. Go visit them and don’t get them a Smartphone for fuck’s sake.
Grandma: I heard that too.
So needless to say, cats don’t change very easily. My wife’s sister and her girlfriend had to abandon their quest after the cats developed an affinity for peeing on the bathroom rug. Thankfully, my cats learned proper pee technique pretty early. The cats will eventually learn what you want them to learn, you just have to have more patience than Jesus. And Jesus has a lot of patience.
Jesus: Could I get a Big Mac meal?
Street Vendor: That won’t be invented for about 2,000 years.
Jesus: I’ll wait.
The secret to training your cats is positive reinforcement rather than negative. When the cats would poop in a location that wasn’t the toilet (such as the bathtub), we’d spray them or scold them. The scolding would only end up making them scared to poop. So we bought treats to give to them for pooping. And covered the wrong places for them to poop with the electric fence for kitties. We filled the bathtub full of water. The first and last time she jumped in the bathtub was followed by a splash and a hilarious yowl. I really wish I was faster on the smart phone draw for that one.
Our more social cat, Darla, seemed to pick up the training very quickly. Her accidents were few and training seemed to stick. Ezri, the cat whose idea of a good time is hiding in the back room until someone sits at computer desk then venturing for a few moments of lap time, was a different story. She decided the toilet water is the litter. So she scraps the water before and after she uses it. For example:
When something jars her small world, like fireworks in July, or a friend staying in our guest room, she becomes convinced that the toilet is an abomination and will hold it until she has the hallway to herself at night. So we were determined to not have come so far on a dream. Martin Luther King’s first draft of the “I have a dream” speech was about his cats:
MLK: I have a dream that one day, cats will use toilets.
Buddy: Um… you may want to rewrite that.
MLK: But I bought this CitiKitty…
So in order to prevent night poopings, we locked the kitties in the bathroom at during the wee hours (Ha! I made a funny!). They surprisingly like being in the bathroom at night. When I pulled the cat tree into the bathroom, they sit on it and wait for me to tuck them in. I am assuming they like it for the same reasons dogs can be cage trained. But they probably really like being in the bathroom at night for other reasons.
Darla: The humans are asleep. Pull out your iPad.
Ezri: Got it.
Darla: Open your Cats Will Rule the World app and connect to the Southwest meeting.
So after about a year of picking up the cat and putting her on the toilet when I see her scrapping invisible litter in the hallway, and using kitty mind control (dehydrated shrimp snacks), Ezri “Two Shrimps” Karas-Frale finally uses the toilet. So perseverance does pay. Now, if I can only teach my cats to flush…
My wife: Hey Aaron, why do we have a $3,142 water bill?
Flush… flush… flush… in the background. I shrug. Laugh track and freeze frame.