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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My cats have always liked drinking from the toilet. If I close the lid, they will yell at me and be sure I don’t repeat this terrible offense. I have regular bowls around the house that I change everyday, but they hardly use them. My problem is that I want to clean the toilet with a chemical of some kind to keep it clean and germ -free, but I don’t want to use something that will get them sick. Can you help?

~ Nick

Calico cat drinking from toilet

Image from the Cats Where They Do Not Belong blog

Siouxsie: Honestly, I’ll never understand why some cats like drinking from the toilet!

Thomas: Isn’t it gross enough that we have to clean our bottoms with our tongues? Why would we want to get all up in humans’  sh … um, used kitty litter?

Dahlia: Well, the water does get changed out every few hours, every time the human flushes. But yeah — I’m not feelin’ the toilet love, either.

Siouxsie: It’s not an uncommon habit among cats, though. A quick Google search for images of cats drinking out of the toilet yields almost 3 million hits!

Thomas: Of course, we know that cats belong wherever the heck they want!

Dahlia: But that’s beside the point. Poor Nick just wants to know what he can use to clean his toilet and not kill his kitties in the process!

Siouxsie: And the good news is that there are non-toxic cleaners that can kill the bacteria in your toilet and even remove rust or hard water stains.

Thomas: A website called EarthEasy recommends this method to clean the toilet: “Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse.”

Dahlia: They say a mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work, but we’ve seen reports about borax being toxic to cats, so we’d recommend avoiding this mixture.

Siouxsie: Gomestic also recommends an all-purpose vinegar-based cleaner, and their formula is 1 part white vinegar, to 4 to 6 parts warm water, and 5 t 10 drops of liquid dish soap.

Thomas: Vinegar has been used in folk cleaning product recipes for ages because of its strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Dahlia: Mama uses vinegar for all kinds of things, from cleaning glass to cleaning the toilet to getting hard-water grunge out of her electric kettle, and it works great!

Siouxsie: A number of companies sell environmentally conscious cleaning products, but some of these can still be dangerous to cats. One well-known green cleaning product company makes a toilet bowl cleaner whose ingredients are great — except for the pine oil used for the scent. Pine oils and other plant oils with phenol are toxic to cats.

Thomas: Another great natural antibacterial product is tea tree (melaleuca) oil, but this is also harmful to cats.

Dahlia: So, Nick, we’d recommend that if you want to keep your toilet — and the rest of your house — clean, and keep your cats healthy while you’re at it, you stick with the folk recipes.

Siouxsie: If you want to see if you can get the cats away from the toilet, consider buying a pet drinking fountain. If you do go that route, we recommend you get one made of steel or ceramic because those materials are easier to clean and sterilize than plastic.

Thomas: Good luck, Nick. We hope this helps.

Dahlia: While we’ve got you here, we want to remind you that you can make a comment to this post and be entered for the chance to win an amazing Tiniest Tiger Hipster Bag stuffed full of awesome cat goodies. Entries close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

About.com Readers' Choice Award Nominee ribbonSiouxsie: And please remember to vote every day for Paws and Effect in the About.com Readers’ Choice Awards. We’re vying for the coveted Best Website About Cats award! Voting continues through March 21, so vote early and vote often!