For as long as mankind has kept cats, one question has nagged: How can you get rid of the smell that comes from the litter box?
“I’m a longtime dog lover just because of the litter box (issues),” said Elizabeth Slone, the inventor of The Purrfect Potty.
But then she acquired a cat the way so many dog people do – fortuitous accident – and “the first thing I thought was, I’m going to try to teach that cat to use the toilet.”
People have tried putting cats outdoors to potty (which can be unsafe for the cats), they’ve covered kitty litter boxes to at least limit the release of the odor, or used self-sifting litter boxes and litter box liners. And there’s a wide variety of cat litters that promise to kill that smell: Icy-looking crystals, pellets infused with baking soda, extreme clumping action to form an odorless clump. Cat owners have tried odor eliminators in spray, scented wax, oil and candle forms.
But the ultimate in cat toilet behavior could be if the critters could simply use a toilet. (Even more ultimate would be if they could flush and spritz some Febreze, but one Everest at a time.)
Elizabeth Slone, 47, of Lexington has done a lot of jobs. She has worked at Lexmark and in Lowe’s home decor department and as a rural mail carrier. Then she found her calling as a masseuse.
She works from home, where she has two giant friendly dogs and one cat.
The problem is that when you work from home and you’re trying to help people relax, cat box is not the odor you want wafting about.
So Slone set about designing a product to reduce cat odor. Having worked at Lowe’s, she knew about obtaining materials. She got some engineering help and was able to test her claim that the device works on every toilet by literally trying it on every toilet seat at Lowe’s. Now she gets the Purrfect Pottys manufactured in batches as needed.
It’s a two-piece device that sits on top of the toilet seat. A flat plastic surface holds a hole within which a second piece – an area for catching waste – sits.
Initially you put the whole shebang in a litter box until the cat gets used to it. Then you move it to the toilet and eventually you remove the catchment device. Voila! A cat that does its defecation straight into the toilet.
Perhaps you think you’ve seen this idea before. Slone said that’s because you’ve seen things like it before, but not her design. Most important, her design sits on top of the toilet seat rather than the bottom, so nothing your cat does splashes down onto the human part of the seat.
“The cat’s been walking on the floor and he’s going to use my seat: I don’t think so,” Slone said.
The idea is that the cat makes a deposit, you flush it away and are spared from ever again buying litter boxes, the soul-smashing labor of cleaning litter boxes and the heavy lifting of buying cat litter. It’s kind to the environment because you’re not making the scooping of cat litter a ritual.
The Purrfect Potty is less than $40 and comes with a catnip-like chemical to lure the cat, a cat toy and a set of vinyl grip pads.
Dr. Jon Korton with the Woodford Vet Clinic is quoted on the Purrfect Potty website, but said he hasn’t yet had time to train his cats to make the no-litter switch. Still, he said, cats are trainable, even if they don’t respond like dogs, who are motivated by praise.
Cats that like to be petted are easier to train, Korton said, “but some cats just want to exist. They want to lay in the sun and be left alone.”
Nonetheless, cat behavior can be modified, Korton said: “Some animals may take a little more time than others.”
Slone is seeking an investor so that she can make her company bigger. At the moment, she processes orders out of her home in south Lexington and has some stock in Incredipet, Pet Wants and MVP Pets at Beaumont. She has shipped to New York and California in the United States, as well as internationally to England, Belgium, Japan and Australia.
Additional investment would enable her to personalize her stock – adding a cat’s name or a slogan, such as the “Go Cats Go,” which is on Slone’s Purrfect Potty T-shirt, which is Wildcat blue.
How well does it work? Amazon reviews for other products, such as CitiKitty and Litter Kwitter, range from success to sheer horror.
The Purrfect Potty website says that cats up to 13 years (apparently you can’t teach an old dog – or an old cat – new tricks) can be trained to go in a toilet with the product.