Litter Kwitter: Toilet Training our Cats

in Life at Sea / Sailing with Cats
toilet training cats sailing

With two humans on board Hideaway so busy learning new skills like engine repair, wiring, fishing, cooking, and finding new and daily uses for silicone, it didn’t seem fair to let the cats off the hook just because they lack opposable thumbs.

I mean, sailing with cats isn’t all purring and cuddles. We spend a great deal of time cleaning up after Charlie and Celia, who’ve taken to tipping over their food dishes so they can pick and choose which morsels to eat off the cabin floor, leaving the other bits behind to either make their way into the bilge or glue themselves to the bottoms of our feet.

And for all the work we do to keep the cats well-fed, dry and comfortable, you’d think they could at least learn to make a good cocktail to say thank-you now and then. But, no. Instead, they demand food and attention every morning by jumping on our heads and, occasionally, reminding me that their litter needs changing by peeing in my shoes.

So, since our cats have yet to transform themselves into cocktail waitresses or deck hands, I figured we could at least knock one cat chore off the list by getting rid of the litter box and potty-training the little fur balls.

That’s right. The eight-week Litter Kwitter training regime has begun aboard Hideaway. And as their strap line says, “The line for the bathroom just got longer.”

I, for one, am confident this will save us money, keep the boat a little cleaner and free up some much-needed space in our back berth (where we’ve stored 4 boxes of litter). Ryan, on the other hand, is more than skeptical, considering we failed miserably in getting Charlie and Celia to use the cat flap we installed in our washboards; so much so that we now have to prop the cat door open for them so they can get in and out. Who’s trained whom, eh?

So far, the toilet-training results have been dubious (our litter-covered head is not quite what I imagined when I first saw the creepy cat on the front of the Litter Kwitter box), but I’m still holding out hope.

And hiding all my shoes.

litter kwitter sailing with cats

“Seriously? I mean, have you seen how creepy that cat is?”

hideaway sailing with cats

“Ok, I’m on. Now what?”

hideaway sailing cats toilet training

“I’m only doing this ’cause I can’t find the shoes.”


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  • Fred Facker February 11, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Aren’t you scared that litter is going to escape into the head and clog up your hoses during this training exercise?

    • Tasha February 11, 2013, 12:16 pm

      Yes, we are. Funny you should mention that. What we’ve now started doing is putting a plastic bag under the whole contraption to catch any stray litter. It is an increasing concern, though. And if we abandon this project, that will probably be the reason. It’s better to have a stinky litter box than no head. 🙂

  • Carly February 11, 2013, 1:21 pm

    I had a sick little office cat that stayed the size of a kitten. I hate kitty litter so I trained her with one of these. She got to the last stage but then she passed away :(. Too funny when my husband would open the door to the bathroom and see our little cat doing her business. FYI when you start the next stages a fair bit of kitty litter does get into the toilet because of their scratching.
    Good luck!!

  • Michelle February 11, 2013, 1:52 pm

    Interesting! I had no idea that you could potty train cats like that.

  • Sarah and Ben (@BlueWaterDreamn) February 11, 2013, 6:13 pm

    Great post, made me laugh! We hadn’t thought of training Fluffy to use the head but I think i’d be too stressed about clogging the head during the training phase. Still it’s something to consider! I hope the process works for you guys without any clogging. We’ve been thinking of transitioning to a littler-less tray set up, something that can be dunked over the side. Scooping poop is my least favourite chore since moving aboard. Are two cats much more work than one…we’ve been thinking of taking on more crew and would appreciate your thoughts.

    • Tasha February 11, 2013, 6:49 pm

      Yeah, we have also started worrying about litter making it’s way down the head and causing problems for our macerator or clogging up the toilet. So, now we put a big bag under the whole contraption to catch any stray litter – they’re so flipping messy when they scratch!

      I actually am not bothered by maintaining and changing the litter, but it’s a lot of litter to carry with us all the time, and so far I’ve only seen big bags of it in Nassau. So I think I’d have less to worry about if we didn’t need the litter. But the training phase is a pain for everyone on board!

      As for extra “crew,” we adopted Celia when we moved to NYC and were never home. We felt so bad for Charlie, who was pretty much going out of her mind by the time we got home, craving attention. With two cats, they can entertain each other, and they do. As for extra work, it’s pretty much the same to maintain two cats as one. We don’t feed them a ton – they eat out of the same dish (taking turns, which is cute) so we split one small can between them. And they share the same litter box and it seems to get stinky just as fast with two as it did with one.

      Stay tuned on the Litter Kwitter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we throw in the towel! It’s been so messy! Hey, thanks for reading, though!


      • Sarah and Ben (@BlueWaterDreamn) February 12, 2013, 7:17 pm

        Thanks for your reply. We’ve had similar concerns about the amount of litter we’d need to take with us when we eventually cast off the dock lines, we won’t have the space for bags and bags of it, not to mention I’m sick of it being tracked through the boat and getting underfoot. We currently use the crystal litter which is great for odour control, but if it gets crushed into a dust it can eventually find it’s way to the hull and cause rust (as it absorbs and retains moisture). So i’m a bit obsessive about vacuuming and sweeping it up. But Fluff is an older cat, we’re not sure how well he’ll like a litter-less tray, he’s been known to passive-aggressively poop/pee before.

        I’m home during the day so Fluff and I keep each other company, but Ben and I are suckers for a cute kitten, especially if they’re black and white and little fluff balls. And I do have a soft spot for ginger cats. We almost bought a new kitten a few weeks ago when we were in the local pet barn, he was adorable, a mini fluffy, we named him and everything. But will power finally kicked in and we told ourselves if he was there the following week we’d get him. He wasn’t.

        It’s great your two cats have bonded so well, they’re very cute btw, and I love how they share a food bowl! You’ve given me hope that we could be a two cat boat family in the future. I’m looking forward to reading more of your Litter Kwitter journey. Don’t be afraid to quit, above all else, the system has to work for you and the boat first.

  • Lorraine Dolsen February 11, 2013, 9:21 pm

    How do you think it would work under way in rough seas? Good luck. I would like to know ow it does workout because I thought it would be a good idea.
    S/v Changes

    • Tasha February 11, 2013, 9:42 pm

      Good question, Lorraine! Nothing slips by you, does it? We worked out this little problem on our last sail – we had to take the thing off, put it on the floor, and put the toilet seat down. Otherwise it looked like it was going to slide right off. Again, another reason why we’re not holding our breath on this one 🙂

  • Steve Bean March 7, 2013, 10:11 pm

    You can find a number of videos on YouTube about toilet-training cats.

  • Christine January 1, 2015, 9:27 pm

    Hi Tasha,

    Love your site, I laughed my head off reading this post! I tried the Litter Kwitter thing for less than a week at our land-based home before I just gave up. How did the training go for your two cats?

    I hope for your sake that it worked. I really wish I’d tried to train them when they were kittens rather than three year-old cats… we’re heading our cruising within a month and I’m concerned about carrying litter aboard.

    s/v Twist of Fate

    • Tasha January 7, 2015, 1:50 pm

      Hi Christine!
      Thanks for your comment – good lord, the training did not go well at all. We had issues with the cat litter going absolutely everywhere in the heads during the training and it was just the worst mess everywhere, especially when sailing. So we gave it up and vowed to try again later when we were in port for a period of time, but that never happened either. I would like to try it again. But it requires us sitting still for a while, and that doesn’t seem to happen much! If you get it to work, please send me the videos!

      I hope we’ll see you out there on the water!


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