It's not surprising to discover our dogs eating the feces from the litter box when there's a cat in the house. They may think they have found a treat, but to pet parents it's often repulsive to find their dog joyfully nibbling on cat poop. This behavior is not only unpleasant: Eating cat feces can be dangerous for your dog. There are a variety of tactics you can use to keep your dog from eating cat poop out of the litter box.
Why Does My Dog Want to Eat Cat Poop?
To our dismay, many dogs like eating various types of waste. Dogs are scavengers by nature, so this behavior is very natural, albeit disgusting. Cat feces are just another item to scavenge and consume. Dogs eat a wide variety of items, including garbage, carpet, and stones, among other unknown items. Scientifically, this is known as pica, or the consumption of non-food items.
While you may think cat poop is completely gross, your dog probably thinks it smells delicious due to the high amounts of protein found in cat food. One of the reasons they're often ready to snack out of the litter box is that conventional cat food appeals to a dog's sense of smell, and many dogs enjoy eating it.
Eating poop in particular, also known as coprophagia, can be the consequence of a dietary deficiency, but it's more often the result of curiosity, which can turn into a hazardous habit.
Strategies to Stop Your Dog From Snacking in the Litter Box
There are some steps you can take to keep your dog from feeding on cat poop in the litter buffet.
Baby gates are a great tool to keep your dog out but still let your cat in. Place the gate inside the doorway leading to the room where the litter box is kept. There are multiple styles of gates available.
- The openings in metal gates are large enough for some cats to walk through. This type of gate works if your dog is a medium to large breed, but will not work if you have a 5-pound chihuahua.
- Pressure-mounted baby gates made of mesh can work when mounted above the ground. Your cat can go underneath, but your dog won't be able to fit, unless you have a tiny dog.
- An inexpensive option is to purchase a simple baby gate and cut a hole in the plastic big enough for your cat to go though. You can place the hole higher up if you have a small dog.
Another product that works well is the DoorBuddy. This device is placed between the door and the wall, leaving the door ajar so that your cat can come and go, while denying your dog access.
Keep the Litter Box Clean
Remove the poop from the box as soon as your cat uses it to keep your dog from eating it. This only works if you are at home most of the day. It is good practice to clean out the litter box occasionally throughout the day to keep your cat happy, anyway. But if you work or need to be outside the home often, this option will be difficult.
Use a Different Type of Litter Box
There are litter box options that claim to be dog proof, though the only way to be sure is to try them out. Some of these include:
- Litter boxes cats enter from the top
- Litter boxes with retracting lids
- Litter boxes with cat doors
- Litter boxes that self clean automatically
Not every cat is a good candidate for these types of litter boxes. Older cats or larger cats rarely prefer them. You don't want it to be more difficult for your cat to do their business, as this creates a whole other problem. Some of these litter boxes are also not particularly budget friendly.
Can Eating Cat Poop Make My Dog Sick?
The dog that steals a quick snack from a litter box may not suffer any side effects. But eating cat poop regularly can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs can also get intestinal parasites from eating cat poop. Hookworms, roundworm, and giardia are all transmitted via feces. These parasites cause diarrhea, vomiting, and in severe cases, even weight loss and anemia.
A dog can also get sick from ingesting too much of the litter material. It may cause constipation or an obstruction of your dog's digestive system if enough is ingested. You should take your dog to see your veterinarian for regular fecal exams to make sure he hasn't contracted any intestinal parasites from eating cat poop.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Cat Poop
Your first impulse will be to scold your dog when you find them eating cat litter. Resist the urge to reprimand them, even if you catch them in the act. This will only force your dog to sneak away and do it when you aren't looking. If your dog has eaten cat poop, take them to see your veterinarian to make sure there are no adverse health effects.
Watch for these symptoms if your dog has ingested a large amount of litter or cat poop:
- Painful abdomen
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased energy
If you see any of these, your dog needs to see the veterinarian right away. If your pup is a frequent flyer in the litter box, talk to your veterinarian about keeping them on a monthly dewormer.
You Can Keep Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
When your well-meaning dog tries to help you keep the cat litter box clean, it is not only disgusting, it can negatively impact your dog's health. With some creative strategies and diligence on your part, you can keep your dog from using the litter box as their own personal treat buffet. Remember that your pup is just doing what comes naturally and doesn't know that it's bad for them.