Is your dog eating “treats” from your cat’s litter box? In this article, you will learn how to keep dogs out of cat litter boxes and why they eat cat feces right out of the tray.
Dogs are attracted to litter box contents for several reasons. They are naturally predisposed to keep their home area clean, even if it means eating their own feces or the feces of their compadres. Puppies are keen to investigate the world around them, and many dogs find the taste of cat feces rather appetizing.
Is it bad that your dog eats litter box contents? Short answer: It certainly isn’t something to be ecstatic about. At the same time, there are worse things.
The biggest issue from most pet owners is their disgust. The thought of it can cause gagging (hopefully you aren’t right now), and you definitely don’t want a lick from your dog after his “snack.”
Cat feces may also contain pathogenic bacteria and internal parasites; though the likelihood is smaller if you keep your cat and dog up to date with worming medicine and vaccinations and check in with your vet regularly.
Besides that, there aren’t many other problems with a dog eating cat feces. They are rich in protein and contain some minerals; thus, they are not the worst kind of snack. You’re welcome!
How to stop a dog from eating cat feces
Whether you find such behavior disgusting or not, you probably want to stop it. You can train your dog to not to eat what isn’t allowed, though it would be much easier to prevent him from accessing your cat’s toilet.
WARNING: Any obstacle you create for your dog to keep him from reaching the litter box also creates an obstacle for your cat. If your cat begins to eliminate out of its box soon after you make our suggested changes, likely the changes are the cause—you must change everything back to previous state and think of other ways to keep dog out.
- Block your dog’s access to part of the house. In our opinion, the soundest solution is to prevent your dog’s access to the part of the house where you place the litter box, at least for the times you are not home. A baby gate is the most convenient way to do this. They do not block sound and sight from other rooms, and healthy cats can easily jump over them. In case yours find jumping troubling, you can use a pet gate with a small opening at the bottom for cats or place an object or a shelf near it as a step. In the baby department, you can find a door strap, which would let let you close the door for dogs and babies, but leave a small gap for a cat to pass through.
- Use a cat door. You can place a litter box in a location that is accessible through a cat door. This is not an option, however, if you have smaller dogs.
- Use a covered litter box. If your dog is a decent size, you can block his access to litter box by putting a hood on it. An alternative, especially if you have a cat-sized dog, is to put the litter box inside a piece of furniture. However, if your cat is used to an open litter box, he might find a closed box troubling to use. There are litter boxes with top entrances, which, in our opinion, are weird and make your cat look like a tank driver.
- Place litter box on an elevated surface. This is another example of weirdness, but does work for some cat owners. Although cats are climbers, they naturally eliminate on the ground, where there is a soil to dig. Cats don’t eliminate on top of our heads from tree branches. Also, it’s rather impractical to keep a litter box on a large cat tree or pedestal, in our opinion, but you can try and see for yourself.
- Keep the box clean. If the litter box contains no feces most of the time, the dog has nothing to munch. But, do you need to scoop your cat’s box every hour? Not necessarily. Many people clean the litter box less than once a day, though general recommendations suggest twice daily (or at least daily) scooping. Normal cat eliminates two or four times a day, depending on food quality. If you know your cat’s habits, you can adjust the scooping so it’s done soon after the cat eliminates, thus keeping the box clean most of the time. If you are away, you can block the dog from the litter box area and scoop as soon as you get home.
- Train your dog not to eat from litter box. This can be effective to a degree, depending on several factors, including your skill in dog training and your freedom to devote time to training. The basic concept is to redirect your dog’s attention from the box whenever he intends to visit it (e.g., when he enters the room where the box is or sets a course to it). You can call him to you, throw a bouncy ball, or command him to sit or go to his bed. If he responds before anything is consumed, you can praise him. If he does not, give a command “No!,” grip his collar and direct him away. Do not be aggressive, mean, or lecturing. Just interrupt the act and ignore the dog for several minutes afterward. To achieve results, you need to use the technique consistently, be patient about the time it takes, and you will need some basic understanding about dog obedience training. You can always involve a professional dog trainer.
In our opinion, the most effective way to prevent a dog from eating out of a litter box is to block his access to it. Relying solely on training is tricky, especially if your pets stay home alone regularly. However, if you combine both techniques and keep the box clean, you can wean your dog from his strange appetite over time.