Fact Check

Gizmo, the Toilet-Flushing Cat

Homeowners discover a furtively flushing feline is the source of their huge water bills.

Published Oct 24, 2009

Claim:   Homeowners discover a furtively flushing feline is the source of their huge water bills.

Status:   Real video; inaccurate description.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January, 2007]

Huge water bills

Jennifer and Jim kept getting huge water bills. They knew beyond a doubt that the bills weren't representative of their actual usage, and no matter how they tried to conserve, the high bills continued. Although they could see nothing wrong, they had everything checked for leaks or problems: first the water meter, then outdoor pipes, indoor pipes, underground pipes, faucets, toilets, washer, ice maker, etc. — all to no avail.

One day Jim was sick and stayed home in bed, but kept hearing water running down-stairs. He finally tore himself from his sick bed to investigate, and stumbled onto the cause of such high water bills. Apparently this was happening all day long when they were not at home. Knowing that few would believe him, he taped a segment of the 'problem' for posterity — see attached video.

Be sure to turn on your sound! This is darling.

Origins:   As the current housemates of five cats (and the temporary foster parents of many a litter of motherless kittens), we've found — as most other feline owners have — that there's no such thing as a "typical" cat. They may share many common behaviors, but, like human beings, they exhibit a wide variety of personalities,
interests, habits, etc. For example, although most cats have a natural aversion to water, we've owned a few that were fascinated by it — particularly the motion of running water. They'd often risk the temporary

discomfort of a wet foreleg in order to stick a paw under the flow from a faucet,
gleefully watching the results as the redirected water streams sprayed in different directions and patterns.

We've never had a cat figure out how to generate a stream of water from a bathroom fixture on its own, though. But someone else has.

Gizmo, the feline shown in the video linked above, was fascinated with the swirling motion produced by water emptying out of a flushed toilet. Not only was he fascinated by it, he also quite remarkably figured out how to initiate such a display all on his own, without any human intervention — calmly using both forepaws to pull down the handle and flush the toilet, repeating the action each time the water finished swirling down the bowl.

Although Gizmo's toilet-flushing activities came as a surprise to his Santa Clara, California, owners (Nick and Scarlet, not Jim and Jennifer), it isn't true that — as claimed in the humorous e-mail forward accompanying the video — his unusual habit was uncovered only after the household experienced a huge increase in monthly water bills. As Nick explained to us:

The e-mail is completely bogus. The real story is that my wife was in the office (she works at home) in the mid-afternoon and heard the toilet flush. This confused her, as no one else was home. She thought that either I had come home from work early and sneaked in or that there was someone else in the house. But when she investigated, she saw that it was our new kitten named Gizmo, doing more or less what was shown in the video.

When I got home, she told me the story. As she was starting to tell it, we heard the flush, and I grabbed the camera. The result is the video you see.

Gizmo's interest in toilet flushing has waned somewhat over the years, but his owners nonetheless still try to keep the bathroom door shut. And neither Gizmo nor his sister Jade uses the toilet for its intended purpose, making do instead with litterboxes in the garage.

Last updated:   8 February 2007


David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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