Thursday, July 10, 2008

Potty Training

I'm in the process of potty training right now. No, I don't have any kids. I do, however, have a cat. For the record, I'm not one of those people who thinks of my pets as a substitute for children, and I don't dress him up in little outfits. Although he is pretty cute.

But yes, we are potty training the cat. Why, you ask? Well, many reasons, but basically, in the long run, if this works out, it will save me time and money, reduce waste, and is healthier for the cat. How? Well, let's take a look at cat litter. It requires that I clean a litter box every day or two. That takes time that I'd rather spend, anything else, really. Cat litter also costs money. It's not crazy expensive, but money is money, and I like to save it where I can. Of course, when I clean out the box, the used litter has to be disposed of (read: sent to the landfill), so cutting out the litter box will cut out this waste, and the waste of the packaging for the litter. Not to mention that cat litter is really heavy, so I'm cutting out all the energy of transporting it from wherever it is made to my home. Plus, another big consideration is that the method for extracting the clay used to make cat litter is strip mining. Not cool. Finally, there are reasons to think that the fine dust particles in cat litter is harmful to your cat, and possibly even you.

So yep, I'm potty training the cat. Well, I'm trying anyway. I'll save you the long drawn out details of how it all works, but somebody got me this wonderful little system as a's actually a pretty simple solution, wouldn't you agree?

If nothing else, I figure this is good practice for if we ever have kids.

Edit: One reader was right to point out that there is some concern that cat feces (specifically, the germ named Toxoplasma gondii, the same thing they warn pregnant women about when dealing with cat litter boxes) may be responsible for killing sea otters here in California. She is absolutely right, this is a concern, although at least one source mentions that things like a colony of 40 - 50 feral cats in Monterey and storm drain runoff contaminated by cats who do their business outdoors, are at least of equal concern at this point as household sewage. That's not really a good answer though - as long as we don't really know where the problem is stemming from, we can't just cross our fingers and hope it's not something we're doing. I checked the American Veterinary Medical Association website, and I'm no scientist, but I think this system will be safe for my cat, since he never goes outside, and he eats only packaged food. Here is what the AVMA has to say:

The most common way that cats become infected with T. gondii is from eating infected mice, birds, and other small animals.
For indoor cats, the most likely source is uncooked meat scraps. When a cat eats meat or other tissues from infected animals, it becomes infected with T. gondii and can excrete millions of oocysts in its feces each day. This release of oocysts can continue for more than two weeks. After the initial infection and shedding period, most cats will not pass oocysts in their feces again, even if re-infected.
Basically, I can't be 100% positive that my cat is not still excreting these cysts (this really sounds so gross; there's a good reason I'm not a doctor), but I can be fairly certain that he's "clean". If I had an outdoor cat, or lived in an old house where my cat was constantly killing mice, I would not find the risk acceptable. I think in this case, however, the small risk is outweighed by the benefits of another 8 - 15 years worth of environmental impact that would be caused by keeping him on the litter. What are your thoughts on this issue?


Debbie said...

If you don't post a picture of your beautiful cat using this I will be disappointed. I start giggling just thinking about him sitting on the toilet. I am not a cat owner in part because I refuse to do the whole cat litter grossness. You might want to start using Kibbles as part of your training program.

Jen said...

You are one brave woman! I can't wait to hear how it goes--I think I'd be beside myself ecstatic if I could get mine to use the toilet.

Heather @ SGF said...

Oh, that is awesome! I can't wait to hear how it works out. Good luck!

ilex said...

Love it. Good on ya.

Sades said...

good luck. A good friend of ours had a cat when he was growing up that started using the toilet on it's own. They were walking by the bathroom one day and realized the cat was sitting on the toilet! I guess it just realized the people were doing it, so why shouldn't it! I hope your cat is that easy.

jennconspiracy said...

Yeah, but... I thought that we weren't supposed to flush cat poop on the West Coast because the toxoplasms are killing sea otters. Isn't training a cat to use the toilet the same problem for sea otters?

Green Bean said...

Good for you! I thought about it once or twice with my cat but he's now 15 and will be our last cat for a while (my youngest is asthmatic and allergic to cats). We switched to Swheat which is at least better than clay but, man oh man, are you right. Cat litter is BAD for the environment.

Rapunzel said...

Wow, let me know how it goes. I've always been tempted to try it myself.

Heather @ SGF said...

We had a Cat Genie for awhile. It was cool in that you don't change out the litter. It runs through a cycle and washes the poo into the sewer. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well with long haired cats and it kept clogging. We're back to regular litter for now. We have enough trouble with Tiny peeing IN the litter box. Maybe when we just have the little one (Isabel), we can try the toilet. She's more trainable.

Melissa said...

debbie, I will post some pics! I have a whole stock of treats in the bathroom now.

jen, I'll be sure to post updates - I'd lie if I said I wasn't nervous!

ilex, thanks :)

sades, that is one smart cat! mine, not so bright...but I'm hoping he will learn!

jenn, this is a good point about the sea otters. I did some additional research and I'm going to edit the original post to add it in because you're right, it's a point worth considering. Thanks for bringing this up - check out the edit and let me know if you have additional thoughts.

green bean, they say you can train a cat at any age, although I think 15 would be pushing it! I considered the swheat but my little guy is pretty picky and I was afraid he'd not like it and find another spot - and you know how hard it is to get that smell out!

rapunzel, I'm happy to be the guinea pig!

heather, that's good to know about the genie because mine has quite long hair so I'm betting it wouldn't work for him either.

Lewru said...

I most definitely want to hear how this goes! My cats are neurotic freaks about the litter as it is. They're pretty much neurotic freaks in general.

Hope it goes great and keep us posted!

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

We have to cats and that would be awfully cool to have them use the toilet so I am waiting to hear the results(because I'm too lazy to try it on my own). Re; the toxoplasma thing, your sewer water does not go directly into the ocean, right? It goes to treatment plants, and if those little oocysts are getting back into some water supply, you guys have bigger problems than sea otters to worry about. Methinks the concern is groundless.

Melissa said...

lewru, I think cats in general are neurotic :)

equa yona, it is really gross, but the way our sewage system works out here is that it is treated, unless we get a lot of rain. In that case, the whole system is designed to take excess storm runoff and untreated sewage and dump it into whatever waterway the pipe leads to. There is a good diagram here that shows how this (rather disgusting) system works. So you are right, we do have bigger problems!