Remember Mr. Jinx, the Himalayan cat that was the beloved pet of Robert DeNiro's character and nemesis of Ben Stiller's in "Meet the Parents" as well as the (in Quadrants' learned opinion) less-funny sequels?
Well, ol' Jinxie, or at least the cats that portrayed him, may have changed the cat litter landscape forever.
In the movies, the cat had been trained to use and even flush a toilet. Never mind that it was all "movie magic."
Those scenes spawned Litter Kwitter, a three-step training kit that teaches cats to use a toilet instead of a litter box. It was invented by Jo Lapidge along with her husband, Terry. After some research and tests, the Sydney, Australia, couple launched their company in 2005. Since then, they've sold 750,000 kits.
Lapidge says the kit has an 80 percent success rate that "would be higher if humans stopped to follow all the instructions and showed a bit more patience."
Litter Kwitter and other toilet-training kits on the market work like this: The toilet seat is fitted with a series of plastic rings the cat can step on so it doesn't fall in. The hole in the rings gets larger over time until the cat can simply balance on the toilet seat.
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But training a cat to use the toilet is not as easy as a litter box. Cats instinctively bury their waste to hide it from predators, and litter fosters that instinct in a way that using the toilet does not, said Steve Duno of Seattle, a veteran pet behaviorist and trainer.
That's why, when switching to the toilet, some cats will scrape the bowl, the tank or the wall next to the toilet. In addition, some cats tolerate change in their routines while even a slight switch in feeding schedules for others will make their world fall apart, said Dr. Meghan Herron, chief veterinarian at the Behavioral Medicine Clinic at Ohio State University.
"Cats are slaves to routine and very wary of danger to themselves," Duno added.
And there is nothing about the size or height of a toilet that is normal to a cat, Herron said. "One bad experience with a toilet can make them never use it again," she said.
Duno, who has toilet-trained several cats, says he's "known cats that have fallen into the toilet and that's it, you're done right there."