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Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

It’s a battle familiar to many people who share their home with both cats and dogs. Despite being generally well-mannered (and certainly well-fed), many dogs can’t resist the urge to snack on cat poop. 

Aside from being disgusting, this puzzling canine behavior can have health consequences. If you want to discourage your dog from nosing through the litter box, you’ll have to find a solution that takes all of your pets’ individual needs and preferences into account. 

Why Can’t I Keep My Dog Out of the Litter Box?

Though we’re thoroughly revolted by the possibility of getting kisses from a pet who just ate cat poop, it’s actually well within the realm of normal dog behavior. 

dog who has been trained not to eat cat poop sniffs kittenWe tend to think of dogs’ wolf ancestors as hunters, but they are also adept scavengers. Cat food typically has more fat than dog food, and cats’ short intestines mean that their poop is more nutrient-dense than other animals’. Unfortunately, this makes it an attractive snack for opportunistic pets. 

Can Eating Cat Poop Make Dogs Sick?

While eating cat poop isn’t inherently harmful, feces can be a vector for bacteria and intestinal parasites. Additionally, if your cat is on medications that could harm your dog, it’s possible that eating their stool will cause health problems. 

Another worrisome possibility is that, if your dog ingests a large amount of litter (particularly clumping or silicone formulas), an intestinal blockage is possible. Seek a veterinarian’s attention if you notice:

  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in thirst or appetite. 

Though rare, there is a chance that your dog could transmit illnesses like salmonella and toxoplasmosis to human family members, so putting an end to litter box burglary is important, especially if anyone in your home is pregnant or immunocompromised. 

How to Keep Your Dog Out of the Litter Box

Ready to come up with a plan to keep your canine companion out of the cat box? Explore your options and choose the best solution for you and your pets. 

Create a Barrier

One way to deter a litter box-obsessed dog is to block their access. Depending on the layout of your home, consider adding a pet gate. Older or arthritic cats may have difficulty going over a barrier, so you may have more success installing it a few inches off the floor so they have the option to go under it instead.  

Partitioning off the litter box can give your cat some sanctuary and remove your dog’s opportunity to sneak poop altogether. 

Relocate the Litter Boxmultipet household keeps dog out of litter box

If gating isn’t a workable option, some families find that moving the litter box to a higher surface works best. 

Regardless, your cat will have final say in whether the solution is acceptable. Cats can have strong bathroom preferences, so if the change makes the litter box less accessible (or even just less appealing) they are likely to reject it altogether and use the bathroom in other areas of your home. 

Add a Lid

Switching to a box with a lid may help deter litter box raids. This simple solution can work like a charm in some households, and not at all in others. 

Just like cats can be particular about the location of their bathroom, sometimes changes to the box itself can upset their routine. Moreover, very persistent dogs may discover a workaround for the lid in short order. 

Keep it Clean

Unless you invest in an automated litter box, it isn’t always possible to immediately remove anything your cat leaves behind. That said, scooping the box thoroughly and often is a great way to help your dog make better choices. A good enzymatic cleaner can discourage your dog from following his nose to the litter box. 

Use Positive Reinforcement

In addition to simple deterrence, it’s also important to take time to train your dog to ignore the cat box. 

Pair a simple command, like “leave it!” with a favorite treat, and be consistent. With time and patience, your dog will learn to respond even when faced with temptation.