Charles Mingus Toilet Trained His Cat. We Put His Method to the Test.

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Dizzy the cat
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The jazz musician Charles Mingus was a celebrated band leader and one of the most important composers of his generation. But at the same time he was recording The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, he was working on another masterpiece of sorts. He figured out how to get his cat, Nightlife, to poop in a toilet — and he decided he’d share his method with the world.

The Charles Mingus CAT-alog for Toilet Training Your Cat was a step-by-step guide available for purchase by mail. It’s full of charming advice and meticulous pedagogical detail:

 Here’s an excerpt from Step 1:

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.

Read the entire brochure here.

Mingus biographer Gene Santoro says there’s something about Mingus’ obsessive detail in the CAT-alog that connects to his composition. His bands improvised, but Mingus “was writing the music for the heads, and the themes,” he explains. “He was attempting to notate, down to the breath control, exactly what each note in those themes would be for every instrumentalist. And this is the period we’re talking about where this [toilet training method] gets generated.”

Reporter Jody Avirgan put the method to the test on four-month-old kitten Dizzy. His owners, Kevin and Nicole, even played Mingus throughout the process. 

→ Have you toilet-trained your cat using the Mingus Method or any other system?  Tell us about your experience in a comment below — or by e-mail.

Bonus Track: Reg E. Cathey reads the full CAT-alog


Music Playlist

  1. Pussy Cat Dues

    Artist: Charles Mingus
    Album: Ah Um
    Label: Columbia/Legacy
  2. Wee (A.K.A. Allen's Alley)

    Artist: Charlie Parker
    Album: The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall
    Label: Original Jazz Records
  3. We Are Analog

    Artist: Hol Baumann
    Label: Ultimae Records
  4. Better Get It In Your Soul

    Artist: Charles Mingus
    Album: Ah Um
    Label: The Jazz Corner
  5. Far Wells, Mill Valley

    Artist: Charles Mingus
    Album: The Jazz Effect - Charles Mingus
    Label: Reloaded Music
  6. Blue Bird

    Artist: Charles Mingus
    Album: Charles Mingus In Paris - The Complete America Session
    Label: SSC