Monthly Archives: June 2015

How and Why I Toilet Trained My Cat.

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We had company visiting and while we were chatting my cat walked by to the bathroom and then a few minutes later walked back, meowed at me, and left. I excused myself to go flush for him. My guests were amazed. “Your cat uses the toilet?” This led to a discussion about how and why I toilet trained my cat and never spend a penny on kitty litter or time cleaning the litter pan.

Why was easy. Klinger had gotten separated from us and was gone for 8 weeks before we got him back. During that eight weeks I got really comfy with not cleaning the litter box and while it was good to have him back, I found I really resented having to clean that box again. I have asthma and artificial scents and fine dust make me wheeze. I found it was getting harder and harder to find kitty litter that was not full of stuff that makes me wheeze. Bad enough you have the natural dust but all that “fresh air” scent crap they add to cover the dirty litter box smell leaves me with watering eyes and a cough. So that was one reason.

And there was the cost. I didn’t really consider the cost until I started collecting the buckets and using them to make a container garden. That really hit hard. I had a whole bunch of these buckets each one representing about $12 and so that meant I was spending over $600 a year on kitty litter! You don’t think its all that much but add it up over time. I can certainly think of a lot of things I’d rather spend $600 on. That was the second reason.

Then there is the environmental cost. Kitty litter is made of clay which has to be strip mined off the face of poor mother earth. The litter then mostly ends up landfills. Do I really want to be involved in that kind of recycling? No. That was the third reason.

And then there is Klinger. He is a highly fastidious creature, even for a cat. He absolutely hates using the litter box if there’s anything in it. I mean this cat is a clean freak even for a cat. Every single time I cleaned the litter box he would rush right over and display all the signs of delight I feel when I find a public washroom long after the urge has started. I do think that he was holding it as long as he could because the litter box was so unpleasant. That’s not good for cats, especially male cats because retaining urine can help cause stones. Since he learned to use the toilet I have noticed he goes a lot more often then he did with the litter box. The toilet means he always has a nice clean place to go so he doesn’t wait. He even tells me when he has used it and frets until I flush it all away. Apparently he likes the smell even less than I do. That was the best reason. (We did not teach him to flush because people who have done that complain the cat likes to flush for fun over and over again all day and night long.)

So how did we do it? It was easy and hard. It was easy because the steps are simple and straightforward. You don’t try to train the cat all at once. You do it very slowly adding teeny tiny increments until the cat can do it. It was hard because you have to be SO patient while doing those teeny tiny increments. You also have to put up with accidents while learning. It helps to think of accidents as being your fault. An accident means you moved to quickly or made a step too big for the cat.

The steps are available from many excellent on line websites and you tube videos so I won’t detail them here. In summary you start by moving the litter box to beside the toilet for about a week. You then raise the litter a bit (about 15 cm or 6 inches) at a time leaving the litter box at each level for about a week. (Yes it is awkward putting up with the litter box by the toilet. It IS temporary and it IS worth it.) Once you have the litter box at the same level as the toilet and the cat is accustomed to jumping up to that height, you move the litter box over onto the toilet. You now have to put up with a week of moving the litter box every time you need to use the toilet but bear with me.

The next few steps are the trickiest ones and there are various ways of doing it including a neat commercial kit. I used a big bowl I had that happened to sit very nicely in the toilet and was easy to move off and on when I needed to use the thing. You get the litter down to under the toilet seat. The first time Klinger found the litter suddenly under the toilet seat he walked around and around, checked very carefully, tried to get into the small circle and failed. He then gave a cat shrug and balanced on the seat, did his business, covered it and left. This step represents a major hurdle. Some people start by putting a separate toilet seat over the litter box at floor level because of this. Once the cat is reliably using the litter in the bowl while squatting on the seat you can start slowly, very slowly, reducing the amount of litter and increasing the depth of the litter. The cute commercial thing actually has a centre hole that can be adjusted larger and larger. I kept reducing the litter in the bowl until I had none and then I let him get used to using it dry. Because we were living in the trailer when I did this, he didn’t have to learn over water. I did one other thing which I think helped. Mother cats train their babies to bury their waste. I think Klinger regards me as a mother figure so whenever I used the toilet I would invite him in and encourage him to watch me. After I was done I would put him on the toilet seat so he could see and smell. He did seem to “get” what I was up to. Klinger also responds to rewards of cat nip, praise and a nice ear rub. Every time he did something right he got lots of praise for it.

Over all it took about 8 weeks until he was reliably using the toilet. He went through a period where he started using the bathtub instead, when we first moved into the house, because he didn’t like the water in the regular stick house toilet. I had to keep the bathtub full with a layer of water to get him to get over that.  I actually saw him when he found the tub full of water. I could see his cat brain working. Hm tub with lots of water and no perch or toilet with only a little water and a perch. Toilet it is. One other tip is we removed the toilet lid. He can’t lift the lid up by himself and it’s not fair to leave him in that fix.

And that’s how and why I toilet trained my cat.

One funny note: One of my guests asked if the cat didn’t leave a mess I was worried about sitting in. The answer is no and if you look at the picture you can see why. When the cat is squatting on the seat all his equipment is well below. The cat leaves a lot less mess than a typical man! And he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up either. The women all laughed and the men all kind of squirmed and rolled their eyes.

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Fledgling

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Summer is close by. When I got up I awoke to this sight on my front porch. Just yesterday I told my husband that I had so been looking forward to seeing the baby robins looking down on me from their nest. Yesterday the nest was empty and I felt so bad thinking the babies had been taken by some predators. And then I was greeted by this sight through my screen door in the morning sun. Predators didn’t get the baby birds. They fledged!

Our little county house is home to so many birds it’s dizzying. Although I am no devoted bird watcher I have been watching long enough that I thought I had seen every variety around but yesterday I saw a new bird again and I had to go on line to identify it. It was a pine siskin, I had noticed a small flock of this tiny bird feeding on long tall black seed feeder. They are very common according to the information but somehow I went my whole life without ever noticing one before. The robin, on the other hand, is very common and a rather sassy bird. To me, robin says suburbs and mowed lawns. I was rather disdainful of this bird until I first spent time out at our bog and saw one living the wild life. Nature is harsh and this poor bird did not have a very successful nesting season. I can’t blame them for taking up residence in our suburbs where life is so much easier. This year I developed a brand new respect for the common robin. You see when my garden was tilled up I saw it was full of assorted grubs.

Worms are fine but I regard grubs with a deep suspicion bordering on hatred. Grubs include cut worms and potato beetles and all kinds of things I simply don’t care to share my garden with. The wonderful robin who built her nest in my hammock tree spent hours each day from dawn to dusk patrolling my garden along with her spouse. I would lie in my hammock and watch while this sharp eyed mom diligently cleaned my garden of all manner of grubs. Every few minutes she was carrying off a fat grub to her waiting brood. They would squeal with delight and the grubs would vanish. Every garden needs a robin with a brood of hungry babies. I even forgave her husband for being the first bird to start singing each morning at 4:30am at the first sign of dawn.

Robins also connect with me because when my children were very young we used to sing together. And one of our favourite songs was Rafi’s Robin in the Rain, I often found myself humming the tune while I worked in the yard and it brought back some pleasant memories of when I was a Mom with young children. I felt so bad when I thought the baby robins were dead that I laughed for pure joy to see that baby robin on my deck rail. Wow do they grow up fast! Then as I watched, Momma robin showed up with something good to eat and baby robin let out a demanding squawk. Momma obligingly fed her baby. Now I know what that strange squawk was that I have been hearing since yesterday. It’s not unlike the sound of the phone ringing followed by

“Mom can you loan me some money?”

My kids are well beyond that stage in their life. They are all self supporting, tax paying, solid citizen types and my littlest baby is not that far from 30. My don’t they grow up fast!

The Garden is Up!

This morning I went out to inspect the garden and cheek to see if I will need to replant anything. I was delighted to discover that there is stuff coming up in every row but one. SAM_5590

Here is my row of kale surrounded by weeds. (I will get to that shortly.) I don’t like kale but my kids asked me to plant kale so I did. At the end of the row on the left you can see my two zuchinni plants have taken very nicely.

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A pleasant surprise is all my seed garlic has sprouted. I’ve never had a lot of luck with garlic. Maybe this is the year.

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Beans are one my favourite seedlings. One day you have nothing at all and a few days later you have a row of little plants that actually look like something. Plus they produce enough you can actually get sick of eating them fresh from the garden.

The tomatoes plants I replanted have all taken and are growing like crazy. One of my horse radish roots and one potato have leaves above ground. I expect the rest shortly. Some of the rows look thin and I only have two sets of cucumber plants. If those don’t fill in soon I’ll replant with more but it’s too soon to give up. For fun, I put in sunflowers at the end of each row. I have never actually gotten any sunflowers to eat from the plants but they are so pretty and the birds love them. I plant them for the joy they give me. One thing I have not seen yet is anything from my row of corn. But I only planted the corn because hubby dearest asked me and you can’t get a lot of corn out of a little wee garden. If we get one meal I’ll be surprised, assuming of course the birds didn’t eat all the seed.

The northern garden is a strange thing. We have these incredibly long days in summer with the sun up by 4:30am and sunset not coming until after 10:00pm. Heat during the day and cool at night and usually lots of rain. The result is the garden leaps up so quickly you could almost measure the hourly progress with a ruler. So now the race is on to get the produce grown and in before the frosts of late August. This summer I can’t afford it, with all the expenses of the house, but next spring I hope to have the row garden converted to at least a few above ground box garden containers and have a green house. We’ll see. We gardeners always like to dream big for next year.