How to Potty Train Your Cat: A Handy Manual by Charles Mingus


Charles Min­gus, the inno­v­a­tive jazz musi­cian, was known for hav­ing a bad tem­per. He once got so irri­tat­ed with a heck­ler that he end­ed up trash­ing his $20,000 bass. Anoth­er time, when a pianist did­n’t get things right, Min­gus reached right inside the piano and ripped the strings out with his bare hands — a true sto­ry men­tioned in the BBC doc­u­men­tary, 1959: The Year that Changed Jazz.

But Min­gus had a soft­er, nur­tur­ing side too. If you head to the offi­cial Charles Min­gus web site, you will find a copy of the Charles Min­gus Cat Toi­let Train­ing Pro­gram, a lov­ing lit­tle guide cre­at­ed for cat own­ers every­where. The trick to pot­ty train­ing your cat comes down to edg­ing the lit­ter box clos­er to the bath­room, even­tu­al­ly plac­ing the box on the pot­ty, and then cut­ting a hole in the cen­ter of the box. Expect to spend about three weeks mak­ing the tran­si­tion. And who knows, Min­gus says, your cat may even learn to flush. The full guide appears here. Or read it below:


First, you must train your cat to use a home-made card­board lit­ter box, if you have not already done so. (If your box does not have a one-piece bot­tom, add a card­board that fits inside, so you have a false bot­tom that is smooth and strong. This way the box will not become sog­gy and fall out at the bot­tom. The gro­cery store will have extra flat card­boards which you can cut down to fit exact­ly inside your box.)

Be sure to use torn up news­pa­per, not kit­ty lit­ter. Stop using kit­ty lit­ter. (When the time comes you can­not put sand in a toi­let.)

Once your cat is trained to use a card­board box, start mov­ing the box around the room, towards the bath­room. If the box is in a cor­ner, move it a few feet from the cor­ner, but not very notice­ably. If you move it too far, he may go to the bath­room in the orig­i­nal cor­ner. Do it grad­u­al­ly. You’ve got to get him think­ing. Then he will grad­u­al­ly fol­low the box as you move it to the bath­room. (Impor­tant: if you already have it there, move it out of the bath­room, around, and then back. He has to learn to fol­low it. If it is too close to the toi­let, to begin with, he will not fol­low it up onto the toi­let seat when you move it there.) A cat will look for his box. He smells it.


Now, as you move the box, also start cut­ting the brim of the box down, so the sides get low­er. Do this grad­u­al­ly.

Final­ly, you reach the bath­room and, even­tu­al­ly, the toi­let itself. Then, one day, pre­pare to put the box on top of the toi­let. At each cor­ner of the box, cut a lit­tle slash. You can run string around the box, through these slash­es, and tie the box down to the toi­let so it will not fall off. Your cat will see it there and jump up to the box, which is now sit­ting on top of the toi­let (with the sides cut down to only an inch or so.)

Don’t bug the cat now, don’t rush him, because you might throw him off. Just let him relax and go there for awhile-maybe a week or two. Mean­while, put less and less news­pa­per inside the box.


One day, cut a small hole in the very cen­ter of his box, less than an apple-about the size of a plum-and leave some paper in the box around the hole. Right away he will start aim­ing for the hole and pos­si­bly even try to make it big­ger. Leave the paper for awhile to absorb the waste. When he jumps up he will not be afraid of the hole because he expects it. At this point you will real­ize that you have won. The most dif­fi­cult part is over.

From now on, it is just a mat­ter of time. In fact, once when I was clean­ing the box and had removed it from the toi­let, my cat jumped up any­way and almost fell in. To avoid this, have a tem­po­rary flat card­board ready with a lit­tle hole, and slide it under the toi­let lid so he can use it while you are clean­ing, in case he wants to come and go, and so he will not fall in and be scared off com­plete­ly. You might add some news­pa­per up there too, while you are clean­ing, in case your cat is not as smart as Nightlife was.


Now cut the box down com­plete­ly until there is no brim left. Put the flat card­board, which is left, under the lid of the toi­let seat, and pray. Leave a lit­tle news­pa­per, still. He will rake it into the hole any­way, after he goes to the bath­room. Even­tu­al­ly, you can sim­ply get rid of the card­board alto­geth­er. You will see when he has got his bal­ance prop­er­ly.

Don’t be sur­prised if you hear the toi­let flush in the mid­dle of the night. A cat can learn how to do it, spurred on by his instinct to cov­er up. His main thing is to cov­er up. If he hits the flush knob acci­den­tal­ly and sees that it cleans the bowl inside, he may remem­ber and do it inten­tion­al­ly.

Also, be sure to turn the toi­let paper roll around so that it won’t roll down eas­i­ly if the cat paws it. The cat is apt to roll it into the toi­let, again with the inten­tion of cov­er­ing up- the way he would if there were still kit­ty lit­ter.

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

Bonus: Below you can hear Reg E. Cathey read The Charles Min­gus CAT-alog for Toi­let Train­ing Your Cat.

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  • Anders says:

    This might be a bit out­side the sub­ject mat­ter, but you can’t rip out the strings of a piano with your bare hands. Nobody, not even the great Char­lie Min­gus could have done that. The wood parts, sure. Appar­ent­ly even the BBC gets it wrong some­times.

  • Doug says:

    Destroyed a $20,000 bass? That’s asi­nine. What an idiot.

  • Peter F says:

    Doug, I don’t know how much you know about Charles Min­gus. He had a very, *very* bad tem­per at times, as Jim­my Knep­per, his trom­bon­ist for many years, learned. Min­gus has been dead since 1979, and prob­a­bly would­n’t have stood for being called an idiot. He could be self-destruc­tive, angry, but not an “idiot”. And he might just as well have laughed at your words. Charles Min­gus was seri­ous about his music. He also had an excel­lent sense of humor and even bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion of the absurd. Any black man in the U.S., cer­tain­ly of Min­gus’ gen­er­a­tion, would need those traits in order to sur­vive and thrive.

    Half the sto­ries told about Min­gus are sus­pect. Instead, lis­ten to a cou­ple of his more approach­able albums, such as Blues And Roots, or Min­gus Min­gus Min­gus Min­gus Min­gus. You might appre­ci­ate his tal­ents more and per­haps under­stand his life a bit bet­ter. Don’t know if you’ll see this, but best wish­es.

  • chk says:

    Doug, appar­ent­ly you don’t know that things like these don’t hap­pen as a result of a con­scious deci­sion, and bad tem­per is not equal to idio­cy.

  • Tom Welsh says:

    Doug, I am curious…if the instru­ment had been “worth” less, would Mr. Min­gus have been less of an idiot, less “asi­nine”?

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