Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Toilet Water? Household Dangers for Cats in All Rooms in the House

four black cats
Lady Emeraude and her court of jesters, and the toilet water is safely contained in the bathroom.

Toilet water! So why do cats drink out of toilet bowls? Yuck! I mean, we “go” there, don’t they know that?

Presumably, we keep our own toilets as clean as we keep their litterboxes, but cats don’t see the toilet as we do. Still, why choose the toilet bowl when they’ve got a water bowl, and maybe even more than one?

But their water bowl may be filled, or half-filled, or so…with water that you put in there days ago. It still looks fine to us! But it’s stale, room temperature, and may have a light coating of cat hairs that float around in the air and land lightly on the surface. And the bowl itself may have collected minerals from the water coating the bottom and sides, and perhaps even some slimy stuff in there that you really can’t see.

Whereas the toilet—each time we flush the toilet, likely several times a day, it’s refilled with fresh and usually cool water.

A cat’s biological instinct for water

Most animals are sensitive to water because their biological instincts guide them still from the time when they lived without convenient water bowls. Plus, because in nature water can be difficult to find, cats and other animals will often take a sip of any water source they find as long as it seems fresh and clean, like puddles.

Looking at the toilet as a cat, then, they are after an essential element in their life and the toilet bowl holds a gallon or so of it ready to go. Plus, it’s fun! And lots of cats like a challenge for those dull old daily activities.

The reason I have no photos of my cats drinking from the toilet bowl is because I closed the lid decades ago with the first kitten and it hasn’t been left open since then.

How to stop them from drinking toilet water, and why you should

Toilets are washed with various sanitizing chemicals, nearly all of which are toxic to cats, even residue, even fumes. Paws inside the toilet could touch that reside, and the toilet water could hold residue as well. Also, if a device of some sort emits sanitizing chemicals with every flush you don’t ever want your cat to come near that. And the same as letting them drink from a sink faucet, if the lid is closed, their preferred water source isn’t available.

Like all other behaviors that we deem “bad” we need to understand why cats are doing what they’re doing and find an acceptable substitute for them.

So cats need to drink water each day, they will drink water opportunistically, they want the freshest water available so they know it’s safe, and they like to have a little fun while they do. I think that sounds like your cat needs a fountain to fulfill all the requirements on their list. The fountain keeps the water fresh and aerated, if it has a spout they can play with it and drink from it. You should also provide more than one water source so they can get their water in various places, as they would in nature. Those sources can be more fountains and/or some bowls of still water, one placed in each room or area where they spend time.

Setting your cats up for water enjoyment success

A couple of decades ago I began setting out small water bowls around the house for the aging feline family at that time. Moses and Stanley and Peaches were grateful that when they awoke from a nap in the bedroom they didn’t need to go all the way to the kitchen for a drink, and used the water bowl in the bathroom all the time. Then I saw Cookie and Kelly having a sip as they passed one on the landing, and everyone had a sip from the one in the basement as they sat at the basement door or after they’d used a litterbox. I have maintained water sources all over the house since then, adding fountains when I bought a new or used one.

Place the bowls out of direct sun and away from traveling paths around the house both to keep the water clean of household dust and fur that might be raised with a human or cat passing by, and for the drinker to be undisturbed while drinking so they are sated when they are done rather than running off if someone approaches.

Water in bowls should be changed daily, and the bowl washed. I use the “cat water” to water plants, and that works for the plants because they should only be watered with room temperature water, and if it’s chlorinated tap water letting it sit for 24 hours for the chlorine to precipitate out is best. I had and still have a stack of glass, ceramic and stainless steel bowls and wash some in the bathroom, some in the kitchen, some in the basement, so that I always have clean bowls on hand.

Checking daily for good health

If the level in a particular bowl or fountain seems to reduce quickly, check to see who uses it and if anyone seems to be drinking more water than usual. It may be that source is just really convenient for the feline household, or it could indicate a health issue.


Cat Behavior Associates, “Why Does My Cat Drink From The Toilet?”:

AVMA Article, “Household Hazards”:

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Great Rescues Day Book

This information is part of what’s available in Great Rescues Day Book!

Each month features one of my commissioned portraits of a feline or felines and their rescue story along with a kitty quote on the left page, and on the right page the month name with enough lines for all possible dates, with standard holidays and animal-themed observances and events. Great Rescues also includes a mini cat-care book illustrated with my drawings including information on finding strays or orphaned kittens, adopting for the first time or caring for a geriatric cat, a list of household toxins and toxic plants, or helping stray and feral cats and beginning with TNR.

Each book includes also 10 sheets of my “22 Cats” decorative notepaper with a collage of all the portraits in black and white so you can make your own notes or write special notes to friends.

The portraits in this book, collected as a series, won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Annual Communication Contest, as well as the 22 Cats Notepaper mentioned below.

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4 thoughts on “Toilet Water? Household Dangers for Cats in All Rooms in the House

  • No matter what we’ve tried, Da Boyz do not drink water, which is why I add filtered water into their gushy food at every meal.
    Sometimes, the meal is rather soupy, but they lick it right up, and I find plenty of peeballs in the litterbox daily.
    Sweetie faithfully drinks water from her bowl, a habit she had as an ‘O’ Cat. Her kidney’s are Stage 2, which is common for her age. Plenty of peeballs for her too.

    • I don’t know where your comment went but now it’s back. I think I temporarily unapproved it because I had a bunch of spam comments.

      Anyway, I add water to food too, sometimes broth for flavor, but I’m lucky–this group stops and has a sip at each bowl and drink well from the fountains. Mimi’s up there with kidney issues too, but as long as they are drinking it helps cleanse the kidneys so thank goodness–I can’t see you giving fluids to Sweetie!

  • I can’t figure out how to get to the water I stand on the edge and look in. I haven’t seen any fish yet..

    • That’s probably the closest you need to be! If you ever see fish in there you need to ask your humans some serious questions.


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