If you’re both a cat owner and a dog owner, you may have discovered that dogs eat cat poop from time to time. It may seem gross to us, but a dog eating cat poop is actually natural behavior and is called coprophagy.
WHY DO DOGS EAT CAT POOP?
Dogs eat cat poop because they’re attracted to the strong smell of it and it’s also a high-protein snack for them.
It’s not just cat poop; your dog will likely eat all kinds of poop, given the opportunity. But they can easily find a fresh piece of poop in the same place each day, which is why it may seem that they’re more drawn to cat poop.
Although a dog eating cat poop out of the litter box may be considered “normal” behavior, there are a few things that may provoke this behavior, so it’s a good idea to be aware of them, as they may help you find a solution that gets them to stop eating cat poop.
1 – NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY
There are several reasons a dog may have a nutritional deficiency that leads them to eating cat poop. It may be due to being fed the wrong type of food, not being fed enough food, or a medical condition that increases appetite or prevents them from digesting their nutritional food properly.
Underlying medical issues should be ruled out by a veterinarian before brushing the cat-poop-eating behavior off as “natural”. Your vet may recommend a simple change to their diet, which may correct the issue.
2 – STRESS OR BOREDOM
Many people over-eat when they’re stressed or bored and dogs are no different. Cat poop may not be considered an indulgent treat by us, but dogs are obviously much different than humans and are attracted to different tastes and scents.
You know your dog best and will be able to figure out if there have been any changes to their lifestyle. Is the cat a new addition to the house? Your dog may be jealous of the attention they’re getting. Maybe you’re not at home as much as you used to be and your dog is experiencing separation anxiety. Or perhaps tensions are high in your household, your family is stressed, and your dog is picking up on that.
Our pets may not deal with the same type of stresses we do, but they can and do get stressed and cope with it in strange ways (just like we sometimes do).
3 – LEARNED BEHAVIOR
It is normal for a mother dog to clean her puppies and thus ingest their excrements, or even ingest their poop to hide the scent from predators, so a puppy may learn this behavior. If you notice it early on, it’s easier to correct with proper training and nutrition to prevent it from becoming a habit.
HOW TO KEEP A DOG OUT OF THE LITTER BOX
There are several ways to keep your dog out of your cat’s litter box and stop them from eating cat poop. Hopefully one of these tips solves the problem for you.
#1 WAY TO KEEP A DOG OUT OF THE LITTER BOX: DOG PROOF LITTER BOX
Addressing the litter box is a quick, easy, and sometimes cheap way to stop your dog from eating cat poop. There are many dog proof litter box options; here are some of the best:
DOG PROOF LITTER BOX DIY
The key to making a dog proof litter box is to enclose your cat’s existing litter box in a larger box and make the entrance to get inside the larger box big enough so your cat can fit through but too small for your dog to fit through.
Choose a container/box that’s large enough to allow your cat to walk in and take a step or two before they reach their litter box. This will help ensure your dog can’t get their snout in there and reach the litter box, and it will also cut down on how much litter gets tracked outside the litter box. Here are some other tips to reduce cat litter tracking.
- LARGE PLASTIC BIN – You may use a large plastic storage container with a lid and cut a small hole in one of the sides or in the lid, which will allow your cat to access the litter box inside, but keep your dog away from the cat poop.
- CARDBOARD BOX – An even cheaper option is to use a big cardboard box. If your cat litter box is out of sight, or you don’t mind the look of a cardboard box out in the open, find one large enough to fit your cat’s litter box, tape it closed, and then cut a small hole on one of the sides, or in the top.
If you’re creating a top entrance, you may need to reinforce the top, or turn the box on its side so a solid piece of cardboard is on the top. You don’t want the top of the box to cave in when your cat jumps on it.
- PIECE OF FURNITURE – Another option to DIY a dog proof litter box is to use an existing or new piece of furniture that allows a litter box to sit inside, gives you easy access to it for cleaning, and allows you to cut a small hole in it.
The downside is that you do put a hole in a piece of furniture, but you can put the hole in an inconspicuous spot (e.g. in the back of a cabinet and move the cabinet a foot or two away from the wall).
The best pieces of furniture to make a dog proof litter box from are hollow benches, hutches, linen cabinets; really, anything that sits low to the ground, is enclosed but has doors you can open to access the litter box, and that has a shelf/flat surface inside for the litter box.
DOG PROOF FURNITURE LITTER BOX
If you don’t want to make your own dog poof litter box out of a piece of furniture, you can also purchase a ready-made one. There are several on the market. These are a few favorites:
SMALL DOG PROOF LITTER BOX
If you have a small dog and the approach of narrowing the entrance to the litter box won’t work, because your dog and cat are about the same size, then you’ll have to think “up”.
Your cat is likely able to jump higher than your dog, so consider making or buying a litter box that has a top entry that requires your cat to jump up onto the top of the litter box to access the entrance.
BEST DOG PROOF LITTER BOX
There are several cat litter boxes on the market, but these are the best dog proof litter boxes, and are the best-rated:
The steps help get more litter off your cat’s feet before they walk through the house, and they also create a narrower entrance for your dog to get their head into.
This is one of the best dog proof litter boxes because of the top entry. If you have a shorter dog, this will stop them from getting to your cat’s poop. If your dog is larger, unfortunately, some dog owners did find their dogs were able to get their head in the hole and even pull the lid off completely.
This litter box may help deter your dog from getting in, but it’s at the bottom of the list because your dog may still be able to simply poke their head through the door. However, you can combine a covered litter box with some of the ideas in the “DOG PROOF THE AREA” section found below.
SELF-CLEANING LITTER BOX
A self-cleaning litter box is one of the more expensive solutions, but it will ensure there are never any pieces of cat poop left out for your dog to eat. Shortly after your cat leaves the litter box, a tool will automatically scrape the cat poop or clumped litter out of the box. You can even go with a covered one for an extra deterrent.
A cheaper alternative is to increase your litter box scooping. Your cat’s litter box should be scooped at least twice a day to avoid litter box aversion, but if you’re dealing with a dog eating the cat poop, you may want to increase the scooping (here are tips on the proper way to keep the litter box clean as well as what to do if your cat starts pooping on the floor).
If the cat litter box is in a place you can hear them scratching around, go scoop as soon as they’re done. This doesn’t help when you’re not home, but if you keep your dog in a kennel when you leave the house, that won’t be an issue.
#2 WAY TO KEEP A DOG OUT OF THE LITTER BOX: DOG PROOF THE AREA
Instead of changing the litter box, you may change the location of it or its surroundings. Here are a few ideas:
If you can put the litter box in a room or closet with a door, you can then keep your dog out of that room. You may keep the door closed tight and cut a hole in the door and add a cat door, like this one. This option will work if your dog is too big to fit through a cat door.
Alternatively, if you rent and can’t cut a hole in the door, or don’t want to cut a hole in the door, you can use a door strap, designed for this exact purpose. It will keep the door ajar just enough to allow your cat through, but not your dog, and will ensure the door doesn’t close and lock your cat in or out of the room.
You can also use a dog gate to close off the room the litter box is in. This gate has a smaller door to grant your cat access.
If you want something more attractive to block off the litter box in a room, a privacy screen or room divider could work
USE A CORNER
If you have a covered litter box but your dog is still able to stick their head through the door, it may work to simply turn the entrance to a corner. Leave enough room on the sides and away from the corner so your cat can get back there and into the box.
ELEVATE THE LITTER BOX
You can make a regular litter box dog proof by simply setting it on a surface that’s higher than your dog can reach. Cats have the ability to jump higher than most dogs, so you may be able to find a surface or shelf in your home that’s high enough your dog can’t reach, but that your cat can still access by jumping from one surface to another.
Of course, you don’t want to create an obstacle course and make it difficult for your cat to use the litter box, this could lead to litter box aversion (which is also a difficult behavior to correct, but here are some tips). So keep an eye on your cat and ensure they’re still able to, and happy to, use the litter box when it’s on a new level.
#3 WAY TO KEEP A DOG OUT OF THE LITTER BOX:TREAT THE DOG
Although a dog eating cat poop is considered somewhat normal, you do want to be sure it isn’t more than just natural instincts or a behavioral issue, and see if, with a little work, you can correct the issue or behavior.
The first thing you want to do is talk to your veterinarian. If your dog was recently in for a checkup, they may be able to take a closer look at their bloodwork and examination notes to see if anything stands out that could be connected to your dog eating cat poop. Or your vet may require you to bring your dog in to run more tests or examine for specific diseases or deficiencies that could be causing the issue.
Either way, it’s best to do so now to ensure there isn’t an underlying issue that could lead to bigger problems and vet bills down the road.
Your veterinarian may also be able to make dietary suggestions to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need from their food and help ensure they don’t need to go looking elsewhere to satisfy their cravings.
Consider their environment and if there’s anything that’s changed that may be causing your dog stress.
Something as simple as spending more time playing with your dog, taking them on more walks, or even speaking in a very calm and soothing tone around them can help reduce their stress.
Your dog instantly gets your attention when you catch them eating cat poop, and our pets crave our attention (even if it’s not always positive attention). Talk with your vet or a dog trainer to learn the right way to react and respond to your dog eating cat poop. Although it’s frustrating, never shove a dog’s nose in the poop or yell at them.
You can work on indicating to your dog, at the first sign of them moving towards or sniffing poop, that the behaviour is bad. When you give them another behavior to replace it with (e.g. come sit by you) and reward them for it, you may be able to teach your dog a new habit and break them of the old cat-poop-eating habit.
I put stool deterrents on the list, not as a recommendation, but as a suggestion to consider NOT using them.
The idea behind stool deterrents is to feed your cat (and/or your dog) a “food” that makes your cat’s poop less desirable to eat. These stool deterrents are typically full of all kinds of ingredients a cat’s digestive system wasn’t built for.
Cats and dogs are already fed many ingredients that aren’t natural to them or their digestive systems; stool deterrents only add to that.
Cats are carnivores and should follow high protein, low carbohydrate diets. But unfortunately, most traditional store-bought cat foods are full of grains, plant proteins, artificial flavors and colors, etc. It’s speculated that these types of foods are the cause of some diseases cats are commonly plagued with these days (e.g. diabetes).
Some of these stool deterrents use MSG to make the stool taste bad (humans shouldn’t consume MSG, so why should we make our pets?) and some of the ingredients are undisclosed for proprietary reasons (not exactly reassuring).
Although stool deterrents are on the market, and may even be recommended by a vet, consider exploring other options to see if you can solve the problem without them.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A DOG EATS CAT POOP?
A dog can get sick with intestinal parasites from eating cat poop. They may have symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite, dehydration, or lack of energy.
If your dog regularly eats cat poop, talk to your veterinarian so they can put your dog on a preventative medication, if required, and examine for parasites with regular checkups.
In most cases, your dog will be fine after eating cat poop, but it is a habit you want to break them of and be sure it’s not causing any health issues.
If your cat eats cat poop and cat litter, it could cause an intestinal blockage, especially if they’re eating large amounts of cat litter or clumping cat litter. Your dog may be vomiting, or they may stop eating or going to the bathroom. A blockage is a serious and urgent matter, so be sure to contact your vet right away if you suspect they may have one.
CAN CAT POOP KILL DOGS?
Cat poop does have the potential to kill a dog if they get an intestinal parasite from it and it goes unnoticed or untreated. The same can happen if your dog eats enough cat litter to cause an intestinal blockage and it’s not caught and treated quickly enough.
I hope this article has helped you understand why dogs eat cat poop and how you can deter them from doing so 🙂
You may also be interested in reading:
- WHY IS MY CAT POOPING ON THE FLOOR? (7 REASONS & QUICK FIXES)
- 7 (MOST EFFECTIVE) WAYS TO STOP CAT FROM PEEING IN THE HOUSE
- 6 (MOST COMMON) REASONS A CAT IS PEEING OUTSIDE THE LITTER BOX