How do I keep my cat from dropping his toys into the toilet so he can fish them out?
December 6, 2010 4:11 PM   Subscribe

My cat recently started entertaining himself by putting his toys in the toilet. How do I make him stop?

My girlfriend and I welcomed into our apartment a one-year-old cat from the Humane Society this past summer. He's been really sweet and seems quite happy (especially when it's time for his dinner). He has tolerated our attempts to toilet-train him, and we had progressed to the point where he was comfortable with the idea of aluminum roasting pans with half of the bottom cut out resting in the toilet bowl.

Then, right after Thanksgiving, our little guy conceived of a new game for himself. He began to drop his toys in the toilet and then circle around the toilet seat, trying to fish them out of the water with his paws. He started with his favorite toys, and then when we had washed those and put them away to dry, moved on to the rest of his toy collection. He generally just does one at a time. We replaced the cut-out roasting pan with a new pan with a full bottom so that his toys will no longer drop into the water, but he seems just as enthusiastic about dropping toys into the pan.

I've heard of cats that like to fish stuff out of hard-to-reach places, but this is a bit over the top. It doesn't seem very sanitary and I'd like to put the kibosh on it without making the cat hate us. We've only got the one bathroom, and it's the only place he does his business (we'd like to continue with the toilet training as well) so we can't really cut off access to it. How do we redirect his fishing instincts to more proper channels?
posted by roomwithaview to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Provide an alternate fishing location (maybe drop treats that float in the alternate waterhole) and spray him with water every time you catch him fishing in the loo?
posted by aniola at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2010

Leave the lid closed.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:34 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Put the lid down?
posted by Mwongozi at 4:39 PM on December 6, 2010

They're training the cat to use the toilet, so closing the lid won't work.

I would pick which thing you want more -- the cat to use the toilet, or the cat not to go fishing in the bowl.
posted by kate blank at 4:40 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The OP is toilet training the cat, the lid has to stay up.

I would try giving him something else to fish in. Maybe one of those plastic tubs people use for doing dishes while they're camping or for ice and drinks at a barbecue.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2010

Can you take away his toys unless it's playtime? I suppose you run the risk he'll drop other things into the toilet, like your car keys, but it's worth a try.
posted by sbutler at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2010

I read or heard somewhere that cats put their favorite toys where they go to the bathroom because it's some kind of "special," hidden place for them to keep important things in/on.

Since you said you toilet trained your cat, it looks like the toilet has become his "special" place and that's why he's putting his toys there. The fishing your observing is probably just him trying to get his toy back out of the toilet.

But yeah, just leave the darned seat down. It's more hygienic that way anyway.
posted by elder18 at 4:42 PM on December 6, 2010

My 7 month old kitten likes to drop toys in the dog's water bowl and then fish them out. Maybe you can get a larger dog-sized water dish that he can use for toys. Our dog's dish is also pretty heavy and stable so the cat can't knock it over so that's good too.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 4:48 PM on December 6, 2010

I wonder if when you actually get the cat to use the toilet if he'll stop wanting to fish his toys out because he isn't going to want to fish around in his own urine and poop? Does he do that now with the half-pan? If he does continue then I'd probably give up the toilet training but maybe you can put a "fishing bucket" next to the toilet and see if he can distinguish which one to use for which purpose?
posted by marylynn at 4:53 PM on December 6, 2010

I'm sorry to be laughing as I type this, but I find your cat to be ingenious and awesome!!

Some cats like water and some don't. (I always thought it was has something to do with a weird genetic memory about fishing in the wild...) If you have a water loving cat I'm not sure how to discourage this form of play and keep with the toilet training.

I once had a cat that began humping one particular toy. We tried everything short of taking away the toy. Finally, we had to remove that particular toy. Incidentally, future toys of a similar nature were not humped. Since your cat thinks it is fun to dunk all his toys... it might be a hard slog to discourage this form of play without keeping the toilet lid closed.

My point is that cats are not like dogs. You can't train cats per se, only provide opportunity and invite them to do certain things. If they agree - Hooray! If they decline, you're left to using deterrents (like spritzing with a water gun) or adapting your own behavior to fit the cat (in your case keeping the toilet lid down.)

PS. I'd also be afraid of the cat falling into the toilet and not being able to get out if he fell face-first, since the sides of the toilet are slick and he's leaning forward to go "fishing."
posted by jbenben at 4:59 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. As kate blank et al. pointed out, we're trying to toilet train him, so closing the lid on the toilet isn't really our preferred solution.

It does sound like we have limited options when it comes to curtailing this behavior. Please keep tossing out ideas if you've got them.
posted by roomwithaview at 5:22 PM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and here are some photos of our sweet little monster.
posted by roomwithaview at 5:31 PM on December 6, 2010

Maybe you can try putting a piece of plastic mesh with large holes across the toilet bowl, so that (hopefully most of ) his business goes through, but maybe the toys won't. Depends on how big the toys are. If they do go through, he'll find that they are now out of reach and hopefully get frustrated and bored by the whole thing.

Also, you can try offering a replacement like this to keep him occupied.
posted by orme at 5:58 PM on December 6, 2010

Can you convince him that the bath tub is way cooler? My cat loves taking her balls into the bath tub, chasing them into the drain hole and then fishing them out from there (it's a tight squeeze and I don't know how she does it).

All of a sudden I'm actually quite grateful that it's the bathtub that she chose and not any of the other bathroom fixtures.
posted by scrute at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2010

Nosy recommends a bukkit.

He's much less interested in playing in the toilet now that he has his very own bucket. Since this video was taken, we wised up enough to keep it in the bathtub to prevent floods. He doesn't seem to mind the change. And he definitely let's us know when it's time for a refill.

We humans are hours of entertainment.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:11 PM on December 6, 2010

I've spent my entire adult life trying to outsmart cats. I am not always successful, because my cats are invariably smarter than I am (plus, they don't have an 8-5 job and so can spend more time on dodging my attempts to outsmart them than I can spend on devising my plans), but I have learned one very valuable thing: Cats like routine. For a little bit. Then that routine gets tired and they find a new one and it's just about the bestest thing ever.

So what you want to do isn't to dissuade your (very cute) cat from dropping his toys in the toilet. You want to VERY SNEAKILY convince him that there's something that's even more fun than that. The hard part is that you're going to have to make him think it's his idea.

If it were me, I would get a tall, narrow wine bucket like this. I'd put something heavy inside it so that it won't be easy to tip over. I'd fill it with 4 inches or so of water and then tuck it away in another corner of the bathroom. DO NOT LET THE CAT SEE YOU DO THIS. Make sure the bathroom door is closed. Better still, have someone distract him in another room so he doesn't know what you're up to.

Leave it overnight. Then, if he hasn't started playing with it already -- again, with the door shut and the cat otherwise occupied -- maybe leave one of his toys in there for him to find. But for god's sake, don't try to show him the toy, or the bucket. Don't make eye contact. Don't look at him and ask, "Don't you want to play with your toy in the bucket?" You do that, you're screwed.

The key here is to play dumb and to let the cat play smart.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

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