The litter-box hound can raid in secret or in plain site. For those with dogs who stay clear of the litter box, congrats. But for those of us who have to cope with canine companions who mistake the kitty litter box for a tray of treats, we need some sort of solution.
Why Dogs Eat Cat Poo?
There is an actual name for the cat poo eating habit. It’s called “Coprophagia.” The first thing worth knowing is that eating cat feces is a natural activity for dogs. It’s part of the scavenger tendencies they have. It may be hard to understand because we don’t eat that way, but cat poo actually smells like cat food to them.
Cat food tends to have more protein than dog food, making it more appealing to dogs that other snacking opportunities around the house, such as garbage. Occasionally, nutritional needs can lead a dog to seek value in litter-box bites. Probiotics and better digestive health can be a solution.
There can also be environmental triggers that cause stress, which can make our pups do things they wouldn’t normally do. Stress can lead to a number of problems, but eating cat poo is definitely one of them. Isolation, being confined for too long or too often,
and anxiety can lead to confused eating habits.
Sometimes, confusion can lead puppies to the litter box. After being cleaned by their Mom, they can smell litter or cat feces on her breath. That familiarization, called “appetite inoculation” can lead to poop eating later in life.
Is Cat Poo Bad For Dogs?
This is the real question, right? How important is it that we stop the feces-feeding? Well, even though this happens all the time for dogs everywhere, the truth is, it’s not a great habit to allow. All poo carries with it the possibility of harmful bacteria and parasites. There are several parasites specific to cat poo that can be harmful to dogs, even though the cat may be fine.
In large quantities, litter can cause intestinal blockages, which can be extremely painful. If left untreated or if the blockage is a bad one, it can be deadly. This is especially true with clumping litter. Even for dogs who have been eating litter here and there for years, it’s best to do everything we can to correct the habit and protect our pups from the possibility of a problem in the future.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Eating Cat Poo?
Thankfully, there are many options. Any combination can and should help. However, prevention means ending a habit, which doesn’t always happen overnight.
- Limit access to the litter box. This can be tough since experts say there should always be one more litter box than there are cats in the household. So, a two-cat household should have three litter boxes throughout the house. That can make it difficult to find enough places that are hard for dogs to get to, but easy for cats.
- Hiding litter boxes or placing them in furniture, such disguising them inside bedside tables or coffee tables can also be a way to go. This is especially true if there is a door for the cat to get through that limits how far the dog can fit his head. There are dog and cat doors that will only open if they have a microchip on their collar.
- Change the habit. Hiding litter boxes has limitation on how realistic a solution it can be in some households. Changing thebehavior is an important step. For some, this means yelling or punishing, but this can be counterproductive. For our pup, cat feces is food. She’s not thinking of it as poop. Dog psychology dictates that if we punish her for eating, it will lead to confusion over other foods and could create a negative disruption to the entire intake process. Use commands like, “leave it” and “drop it.”
- Keep the litter box clean, clean, clean. If there isn’t any poo to eat, Fido will lose interest in checking the litter box for snacks. Make sure he isn’t around while you are cleaning the litter box and check it often. After a few weeks, maybe even a few days, the habit will have been interrupted enough to redirect his attention to other habits.
- Keep pups active, mentally engaged, and safe. Anxiety and other environmental triggers can lead to the habit of seeking cat poo. Increasing the exercise regimen can actually improve health and reduce scavenging out of boredom. Feeding pups at regular times every single day will reduce uncertainty and anxiety, which will minimize their desire to look for snacks to hold them over until the next meal. And there are plenty of fund mentally engaging activities that will keep our dogs mentally sharp and limit boredom.
- Add dietary supplements to their food. Commercial food can be hard for dogs to digest. There are preservatives and fillers. Some dogs can develop allergies or sensitivities that make them uncomfortable, but are difficult for us to detect. Adding a dietary supplement, such as EcoDigestive can help boost their digestive health and limit or eliminate nutrient-seeking around the house.
- Switch to a more wholesome diet. For the same reasons a dietary supplement can be helpful, switching to a whole food diet that is free-from fillers and irritants can make all the difference for our pooches. Choosing a dehydrated dog food like, EcoEats, is as close as we can get to a whole foods diet, without the grocery store visits and big meal preparation projects. Try it risk-free and see the difference it can make.
- Redirection can be a really useful tactic. Anytime we want to break any habit, directing attention away from the undesirable activity and onto something else is standard. Placing peanut butter in a dispenser is one method. There are toys on the market that will keep our dogs busy trying to get to healthy snacks. They limit snacking, but allow for just enough that they are worth playing with for many dogs.
The bottom line? Eating cat poo is bad, but there are tons of options that will eliminate the habit. Just combine two or more of any of these and discover the best solution for your fur-family.