Q. My cat likes to drink from the toilet. Will this make her sick?

A. That depends, to put it bluntly, on what’s in the bowl. I would be most concerned about her drinking water with any of the drop-in bowl cleaners or other cleaning products in it. But, honestly, there’s nothing in the bowl that she wouldn’t be better off not having.

While drinking from the toilet is more often associated with dogs than with cats (which is why I wrote Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet?, a New York Times best-seller), the reason why pets are drawn to the bowl is the same no matter if they're cats or dogs.

The water is often fresher than what’s in their water bowls, since toilet water is changed every time the toilet’s flushed. The water is likely cooler as well, and if the toilet is running, it’s even more appealing. 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. (This preference may also be the reason some cats play with the water in their dishes.)

Trade the Toilet for a Fountain

Fortunately, there is an alternative to letting Kitty drink out of the toilet: Get your cat a drinking fountain. They’re not expensive, and they offer what your cat loves: cooler, running water, but without all of the things you don’t want your cat ingesting from the toilet. I like to recommend the kind that offers pets the choice of lapping directly from the stream, off a ramp or from the bowl. Since the water is constantly filtered and flowing, your cat will be likely to drink more. Many cats are chronically dehydrated, so anything that gets more clean water into them is a good idea. (Note: If your cat seems thirstier than is normal for her or is constantly seeking water, you need to have her checked out by her veterinarian.)

As for where your cat currently drinks, I’d advise getting the family used to keeping the lid closed.