Does your dog love “all things cat?” Does he go bonkers for cat treats, food and even toys? Does his love go even further, so that he goes litter box diving for “snacks?” Are you having a hard time keeping your dog out of the litter box? If so, you’re not alone in this dilemma. Those of us with canines and felines under the same roof know this can be a real challenge. It’s bothersome because it’s a gross thing for dogs to do. And, we wonder if it’s a habit that’s detrimental to our dog’s health. Is it dangerous for a dog to eat cat feces and litter?
The scientific name for this behavior is “coprophagia.” This is when a dog eats it’s own or other animals’ feces. This behavior is very common in puppies. Fortunately, most dogs grow out of this habit, as they mature. There could be many reasons for your dog to surf for “treats” in the box: nutritional deficiencies, compulsive behavior or boredom. Or, because cat food is higher in protein and fat than dog food, the waste could just be tasty to your dog.
Your Dog Can Get Sick
From an article in the Washingtonian: “Your dog could get intestinal parasites from eating fecal material. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and Giardia could be transmitted from coprophagy (the medical term for eating fecal material). These parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, weight loss and anemia. Be sure to keep your dog on monthly heartworm prevention, as that also prevents most intestinal parasites, and if the cat goes outside, be sure to have him on preventatives, as well. Theoretically, a dog could also get sick if they ate a large amount of cat litter, since it absorbs moisture and could cause constipation or an obstruction.”
Your dog’s bad behavior may cause a domino effect of bad behavior to your cat. Your cat’s litter box should be a quiet, safe place for your kitty. If she discovers feces and litter strewn everywhere, or, comes upon your dog in the act of rooting through the box, she may feel threatened. The dog may also begin to follow your cat to the box, blocking her in, which will also make her feel unsafe. This may cause your cat to seek out other places to go potty.
WHAT TO DO:
Take Your Dog to the Veterinarian for a Check-up. You’ll want to make sure there’s no medical reason for this behavior. And, your vet may have some ideas to help deter the behavior.
Elevate the Litter Box. Put the box high enough to where your dog can’t reach it by standing on his hind legs. Perhaps on top of an unused table, counter or shelf. If you have a cat with mobility problems, set a cat tree nearby for easy access to the elevated box. If you do this, you’ll want to have an additional cat tree located elsewhere in your home, as a place just for your cat to enjoy and relax…away from her potty area.
Locate the Box for Cat Entry Only. Block out dogs with a baby gate. Raise it just high enough for cats to crawl under or level with the ground, if they can jump over it. Or, a baby gate with a small opening cut in it for a cat pass-through. Or, you might install a pet door to the room with the litter box. This could be to a closet or for the bathroom or powder room. This will only work if you have larger dogs that can’t fit through the smaller pet door.
Shaming. Put the litter box out in the open, where you can catch your dog in the act. Your dog likely knows this isn’t desirable behavior and may not want to partake in full view. The downfall to this strategy is the unsightly and smelly box in a well-used room.
Out of Sight. There are many furniture style litter box hiding options available. Ottomans, enclosed tables, etc., that help keep the litter box hidden, as well as making it more difficult for a dog to access.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
Best not to use covered litter boxes. Cats can be uncomfortable and feel unsafe in tight, enclosed spaces with only one entrance/exit. They may feel trapped or cornered.
Never rub a dog’s face in poop. This is not productive and is cruel.
Do you have other suggestions or solutions for this problem? If so, please comment, below, to help other pet parents.