How to Potty Train Your Cat, According to Jazz Musician Charles Mingus

When he wasn’t busy recording the greatest jazz concert of all time, famed jazz pianist Charles Mingus apparently dabbled in feline potty training, going so far as to produce a “CAT-alog for toilet training your cat.”

WNYC reported on this odd pastime in 2014, which you can listen to below. I have also included some excerpts from the “CAT-alog”, which is still available on

First, you need to teach your cat to use a homemade cardboard litter box, if you haven’t already. (If your box doesn’t have a one-piece bottom, add cardboard that fits inside, this will give you a smooth, sturdy false bottom. This way the box won’t get soggy and sink to the bottom. The grocery store will have extra flat cartons that you can cut to fit exactly inside your box.)

Be sure to use torn newspaper and not kitty litter. Stop using cat litter. (When the time comes, you can’t put sand in the toilet.)

Once your cat is trained to use a cardboard box, start moving the box around the room, toward the bathroom. If the box is in a corner, move it a few feet away from the corner, but not very conspicuously. If you move it too far, it may go to the bathroom in the original corner. Do it gradually. You have to make him think. Then it will gradually follow the box as you move it to the bathroom. (Important: If you already have him there, move him out of the bathroom, around, then back. He needs to learn to follow it. If he’s too close to the toilet, to begin with, he won’t won’t follow it onto the toilet seat when you move it there.) A cat will search for its box. He feels it.


Don’t be surprised if you hear the toilet flushing in the middle of the night. A cat can learn to do this, stimulated by its hiding instinct. His main concern is to cover himself. If he accidentally hits the flush button and sees that he’s cleaning the bowl inside, he can remember that and do it intentionally.

Also, be sure to turn the toilet paper roll over so it doesn’t easily roll away if the cat slaps it. The cat is likely to roll it down the toilet, again with the intention of covering it, as it would if there was still kitty litter.

It took me about three or four weeks to learn how to clean my cat, Nightlife. Most of the time, we move the box very gradually to the bathroom. Do it very slowly and don’t confuse it. And, remember, once the box is on the toilet, leave it for a week or even two. The main thing to remember is not to rush or confuse it.

The Charles Mingus CAT-alog for toilet training your cat

Image: Ocdp / Wikimedia Co