When our kids first came home from our neighbors’ house talking about our neighbors’ new cat, my husband and I were confused.
“They are training the cat to do WHAT?” we asked in disbelief.
“They aren’t using a litter box,” the kids insisted. “They’re teaching the cat to use the toilet.”
We had a cat once. Indiana, a brown and gray cat with zero social skills and an allergen-laden coat of fur. I rescued Indy from death by injection at a local shelter when my husband and I were dating and gave her to him for his birthday, unaware that I would one day live with the cat, litter box and all.
Indy moved with us three times in 11 years, passing on to the great tunafest in the sky right before our move to Lawrence.
In that time, I learned cats could be trained to hide, scratch upholstery and drop hairballs on the kitchen counter during a real estate agent open house. I did not know they could be trained to use a commode.
But if anyone was capable of teaching a kitten to do what often takes human toddlers months of tears, bribes and M&M;’s to master, it would be our neighbors.
Highly educated, well-read and literally capable of curing cancer (his day job), our backyard neighbors are easily the smartest people who have ever dared to live within 100 yards of our gene pool. Naturally, they would enable a pet to reach such impossible potential.
I sat down with their two daughters, Karenna, 11, and Callia, 8, to find out how they were able to train this phenomenal feline.
“At first Dad thought Mom was nuts,” Callia explained. “But I was glad because my job when we got the cat was going to be cleaning his litter box.”
“Callia’s job is so easy now,” Karenna piped in. “I have to clean up after the dog.”
Both girls and their younger brother, Ryan (age 3 and a half, with a broader vocabulary than many college graduates), were required to sign a contract agreeing to assume pet care responsibilities before adopting the cat.
“Yes,” Callia confirmed. “All I have to do is flush! Ryan’s job is to help me.”
They gave me a tour of the cat’s quarters, a basement bathroom not usually used by people.
The training (Litter Kwitter, as seen on TV) begins by inserting a disc filled with litter into the rim of the seat to help the cat locate the facility. After a couple of weeks, the solid disc is replaced by one with a small opening. Every couple of weeks the disc is replaced by one with a slightly larger opening.
Before you can sing “Meow Mix,” the cat is straddling the bare porcelain like a pro.
But, according to Karenna and Callia, this is no ordinary cat.
“He’s definitely one of the smarter ones,” Karenna assured me.
Personally, I have scooped enough litter to know the cat might be smart, but this family is pure genius.