How do we stop our cat from drinking out of the toilet?
October 11, 2010 7:00 PM   Subscribe

After successfully toilet training our four-month-old kitten, she now drinks out of the toilet. It's kind of gross, and my boyfriend and I want to stop this habit as soon as possible.

We change the water in her dish every day, but she keeps sticking her paws in the toilet and licking them and then crawling all over us. We've tried putting non-toxic things in the bowl to deter her from drinking the water, like lotion and small amounts of white vinegar, but we're looking for a more permanent solution. Has anyone ever dealt with this before? All tips and suggestions welcome and appreciated.
posted by easy_being_green to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We just put the lid down. Other than keeping the cat out of the bathroom, it's probably easier to remove the opportunity than to train her to do something different.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 PM on October 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

I put the lid down.
posted by Houstonian at 7:01 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blue tank tablets keep my cat out, but he's 3 years, not a kitten. I'd put the lid down.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:03 PM on October 11, 2010

When you say "toilet training" do you mean, training to use the litter box, or actual toilet training?
posted by kate blank at 7:06 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

After successfully toilet training our four-month-old kitten

Like, to pee in the toilet? So... You can't put the lid down in that case, right?
posted by amro at 7:06 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, put the lid down. Problem solved. With the added bonus of being more sanitary for your bathroom in general, no more toilet aerosols floating around after you flush.

Shutting the bathroom door also works. Training the kitten? Not so much.
posted by shelleycat at 7:06 PM on October 11, 2010

Oh if you did mean you trained her to use the toilet to do her business then I think you're stuck with it. Scratching around the area after going is a strong instinct (mine even scratch the floor). Training a cat to do something that it kind of wants to do anyway is totally doable, like training it to defecate in the toilet bowl, but training a cat not to do something it wants to do is really difficult. In that case you just need to watch and be on to it, shoo her away immediately afterwards then shut the lid.
posted by shelleycat at 7:10 PM on October 11, 2010

I keep the lid down and shut the bathroom door - my cat also wants to play with my cosmetics, and will swim in the toilet if she can - and then go rub herself dry on my bed. ( I also keep my bedroom door closed)
put a note on the wall to remind yourself and any guests to put the lid down.
then, give her lots of bowls of water - three, or ten - so she can play in the water elsewhere.
or, get a kitty water fountain. she might like the movement of the water and the freshness.
posted by saragoodman3 at 7:16 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

angostura bitters in the water.
posted by smoke at 7:23 PM on October 11, 2010

My boycat was an avid toilet drinker until we got him a water fountain. You can leave the lid up all day long and he doesn't even bother with it now.
posted by teleri025 at 7:26 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We can't keep the lid down or the door closed because she uses the toilet now instead of a litter box.

Any suggestions about a good water fountain?
posted by easy_being_green at 7:43 PM on October 11, 2010

Add something that tastes terrible to your toilet water. (Something nontoxic.)
posted by musofire at 7:59 PM on October 11, 2010

In combination with the fountain I would try regularly adding a few drops of something that will give the toilet water a flavor she doesn't like: peppermint, lemon, tea tree oil, and lavender are a few scents that are aversive to most cats. Of course, check carefully to be sure it's non-toxic. Hopefully this won't put her off using the toilet for its intended purpose, cause that's cool. Does she flush?
posted by Corvid at 8:01 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's probably not what you want to hear, but you could retrain her to use a litter box and not the toilet and then keep the toilet lid closed for a few months (and probably get a cat water fountain so that over time she will forget the water in the toilet was ever interesting or there). Retraining the kitty to use a litter box would take a really short time, for training cats to use a litter box is not even training, you just have to show them where it is and stick their paw in it to scratch.
posted by mrdmsy at 8:38 PM on October 11, 2010

I successfully got a cat to stop drinking out of the toilet (and otherwise only wanting water straight from the tap) by introducing a cat fountain. It wasn't as big a deal because he was not toilet trained, and so the water was clean, but I was concerned that he wasn't really drinking enough when I wasn't around to turn on the tap. This may work best for a cat who prefers running water. I got a drinkwell platinum, mainly because that is what they had in the pet store I went to, but I know people with the regular one and that is fine too. Just be sure you clean it regularly.
posted by advil at 8:45 PM on October 11, 2010

I read once that cats like "finding" water to drink. You could freshen their water bowl every hour on the hour, but the little bastards will still be all, "Yes, nice, but I found this water over here." I had a cat who would do this (may he rest in peace). What I would do is "accidentally" "forget" a nice glass of cool water some place he could reach it, far away from where I didn't want him drinking. Man, his paws were in there faster than you could say little bastard. So you might want to give that a try.
posted by contessa at 8:56 PM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Add something that tastes terrible to your toilet water. (Something nontoxic.)

They're already doing that, musofire.

Honestly, did most of you actually read her post? Putting the lid down is a nonsensical answer, for a toilet-trained cat.

With my cat, I'd train her out of unwanted behavior by being extra-extra vigilant for a few days. You need to be able to notice her going into the bathroom whenever you can, and move so you can watch her. Using the bowl for elimination? Good kitty! Drinking? NO NO NO! and chase her out (if she isn't too fearful). Then, take her to the water bowl, with reassurance. The praise-when-pottying is as important as the discouragement-when-drinking, in order to preserve the toilet training.

Naturally, you can't do this while at work/shopping/asleep, but she'll get the message if you're consistent. NEVER let her get away with it, because you're too busy/tired/distracted. Don't grow angry; she'll test your limits, to make sure of your intent, but expect this, and be prepared to repeat 20-50 times, if necessary.

Cats can be trained, despite what all your other cat-owning friends say. They just don't take to it as quickly as dogs, and aren't as clued in to our mannerisms & body language as dogs (but really, even chimps are second to dogs in that respect!).
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have one Drinkwell fountain for my three cats, and they drink much, much more water now than they used to when we left bowls out. We've had it three years now and never had trouble with it. You'll have to change the filters every few months, and wash it once a week. It's worth the cost for us because the boys drink more water and are less prone to urinary crystals and the like.

Make sure not to let it go dry; that will burn out the motor. If you can, try to put it up off the floor; I suspect that ours gets full of hair & dust because it's down there.

It may also become an inadvertent source of entertainment. My fat kitty likes to sit in front of the fountain, stick his huge paw under the stream and just watch the water dribble everywhere. Weirdo.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:09 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Brainstorming: Is it possible to put some meshed wire in your bowl above the level of water so that your cat can't reach through? Like a grille?
It would probably be temporary and only between your own toilet use.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:25 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I read that cats don't like to drink in the same place that they eat. This matches what we see - our cat ignores a glass of water next to its food but happily drinks water from a glass left for it in the bedroom. So maybe try moving the cat's water bowl to the bathroom next to the toilet?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:41 AM on October 12, 2010

Add something to the water that's very cheap, nontoxic, and tastes awful. I would just get a big drum of noniodized table salt and pour a cup of it into the water after every flush.
posted by foursentences at 12:46 AM on October 12, 2010

I know it seems gross, but is it gross actually? Wouldn't it be fresher and better for the cat than water that's been sitting out?
posted by Salamandrous at 4:57 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Salamandrous: "I know it seems gross, but is it gross actually? Wouldn't it be fresher and better for the cat than water that's been sitting out"

Except she said the problem was the cat getting its paws in toilet water and crawling all over them.

And yes, that's gross.

To the OP: Have you thought about getting one of those high-efficiency toilets that barely has any water in the bowl? It might be too far down for your cat to reach.
posted by sprocket87 at 6:08 AM on October 12, 2010

You'd need to make the toilet bowl quite salty -- all the neighbourhood cats go around quite happily drinking from saltwater swimming pools.

I'd also try a water fountain for her, because although you can train a cat not to do things she wants to do *while you are home*, it is almost certain that she will do them while you are out or asleep.
posted by jeather at 6:17 AM on October 12, 2010

Pictures! (not of the toilet)
posted by freshwater at 9:21 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Charles Mingus, the jazz bassist and composer, was obsesssed with teaching cats to actually use toilets.
posted by zaelic at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with EndsofInvention. Put its water bowl in a different room from the food bowl -- can't hurt, might help. Our cats will only drink from a water bowl that is far from the food.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:32 PM on October 12, 2010

Can you put an automatic flusher on your toilet? Is your kitty freaked out by the toilet flushing?
posted by mokeydraws at 4:54 PM on October 12, 2010

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