Even if dog sometimes sample water from various places in the house, but why would pets drink toilet water? While most people simply chalk this behavior up to the pet being stuck inside the house, bored, curious, or odd, there are reasons for this behavior that stretch back to the wild.
In the wild, fresher, moving water is generally a safer bet than sitting water when a pet is searching for a drink. Dr. Marty Becker at Vet Street says:
Animals are naturally drawn to cool, running water, which is more likely, in the wild, to be safer for drinking than warm, still water. Think about the difference between a mountain stream and an algae-heavy pond and it’s obvious this is a good strategy for survival.
The toilet water may actually taste fresher to your pet since it is changed every time the toilet is flushed. When choosing between water that’s been sitting out a few days in their bowl or water that is changed multiple times a day, your pet may legitimately think the toilet water is fresher and safer. The frequent flushing of toilets means toilet water also likely has a higher oxygen content than other available water.
The toilet bowl may also make the toilet water cooler than the water sitting in your pet’s bowl. Cooler water can make a big difference to a fur-covered pet on a hot day! Although the toilet water obviously contains other compounds that are likely not great for your pet to be ingesting, evolution may be indicating something very different to them.
Your pet may have connected the toilet with playtime – many dogs and cats drop their toys into the toilet, showing that they have made some sort of connection between the two things. Your pet may have been rewarded in some way for this behavior and the connection between the toilet and fun could be difficult to break. Pam Johnson-Bennet at Cat Behavior Associates says:
If there aren’t other forms of stimulation and environmental enrichment, kitty may develop an interest in watching the water swirl around whenever the toilet is flushed. That visual fascination may then lead to curiosity and she may dip a paw in the water. Some very smart cats have even learned to flush the toilet themselves.
This sort of behavior may indicate that you need to provide more enrichment in your pet’s life. Pick up a few toys, some catnip, a scratching post or maybe commit to taking your dog to the park more often to help keep your pet from drinking toilet water.
It definitely could! The biggest risk to your pet may be any cleaning & chemical residue in the toilet water. You should be concerned about this especially if you use bleach-based and other toxic chemicals to clean your toilet, if you have a drop-in toilet freshener, and (especially!) if you place anti-freeze in your tank to keep the water from freezing in the winter. (Antifreeze is poisonous to pets, and although it is FAR too hot in Okinawa for this to be a concern, you should be aware for the future!) Any of these chemicals and cleaning agents can cause chemical burns to your pet’s mouth and throat, which can lead to other problems. Susan Parretts at the Nest says:
At the very least, your pet will likely experience some gastrointestinal upset or vomiting if he ingests even a small amount of toilet cleaning chemicals.
In addition to concerns about Chemicals, toilets are also obvious breeding grounds for bacteria and germs. Toilet water like this can easily make your pet sick. There are other dangers that may be inherent when your pet drinks from the toilet as well, especially when your small pet drinks toilet water – they could easily fall into the bowl. This could easily lead to confusion, injury and death.
There are a few easy interventions that will help keep your pet safe:
1. Keep your toilet lids closed (or close the door to the bathroom)
2. If you can’t keep your pet out of the toilet, use a pet safe cleaner like vinegar and baking soda
3. Get a pet drinking fountain – the peace of mind these bring you may be worth the money! They offer your pet the same things they’re looking for in toilet water: cooler, running water, but without the dangerous aspects. See a few options on Amazon here.
3. Check toilets when you bring your pet to visit a friend’s house
What have you done to keep your pets out of the toilet?