It’s the age-old question that has stumped dog lovers for centuries: Why do dogs eat cat poop? You lovingly prepare your dog’s favorite meal, perhaps adding some bits of steak or chicken to make it extra appealing. You call your dog’s name and he’s nowhere to be seen. You finally find him dining on leftovers in the cat’s litter box. Why? Is your dog particularly disgusting or is this normal for dogs? And, what can you do about it?
Is It Normal?
Actually, yes. Experts say that it is normal behavior for dogs to eat all kinds of poop from different animals. Hard to believe, yes, but it’s true. Dogs do seem to be especially fond of cat poop, however.
Dogs are scavengers by nature. Ask your veterinarian and s/he has probably seen all kinds of odd things in an x-ray for a dog that has eaten something weird. Dogs will eat rocks, trash, knives, golf balls, laundry – you name it. Compared to these items, chomping down on some cat poop is no big deal. The medical term for dogs who seem addicted to eating weird things is pica.
Poop-eating has its own term. It’s called coprophagia. There are all kinds of theories about why dogs love to eat poop, whether it belongs to cats, other animals, or it’s their own poop. Some of these theories include:
- Dietary deficiency
- Behavioral problem
- Mother dogs cleaning puppies (extremely normal)
Whatever the original cause, eating cat poop is something that most dogs will happily do if they get the chance. Why is cat poop a particular favorite with dogs? It could be something about the way cats digest food. Or it could be the cat food that cats eat. Cat food has more protein and, often, more fat than dog food. Maybe dogs like the remnants in the poop. We may never know why dogs are attracted to it, but they seem to love it.
Is Cat Poop Bad for Your Dog?
Just because your dog likes cat poop doesn’t mean you should let him eat it, of course. Not only will your dog have horrible breath but he can pick up bacteria and parasites when he eats from the litter box. Salmonella and other bacteria can be transferred to your dog and then to you.
If your dog happens to munch on cat litter while he’s helping himself to the “tootsie rolls” in the litter box, it can also be harmful to him if he eats enough of it. Most dogs would have to eat a lot of cat litter before it would lead to a blockage but if your dog does eat cat litter or the clumping kind of litter, you should watch him for any signs of distress. If he has any difficulties such as constipation, see your veterinarian.
Can You Prevent Your Dog from Eating Cat Poop?
In theory, yes, you can prevent your dog from eating your cat’s poop, but it’s not always easy to convince a dog that he should leave the litter box alone. It can be almost impossible to train a dog to leave a litter box alone since every time he successfully gets to it and eats from it, the bad behavior is reinforced. That means that most owners end up trying to hide the litter box from their dog. With your dog’s acute sense of smell, this is impossible. Your dog will always know exactly where the litter box is – and what’s in it. The only thing you can really do is place the litter box somewhere your dog can’t reach it or get to it.
You can put the litter box on a high shelf or in a room that only your cat can enter. Try putting a very small cat door in the door to the room so your dog can’t get in the room. You can also try using a baby gate or a dog gate but a determined dog can sometimes get through them.
You can also try using a litter box with a closed top or a so-called “dog-proof” litter box. Again, if a dog is determined enough he may be able to find a way to reach the litter box.
If your dog won’t leave the litter box alone no matter what you do, you can try scooping it out as soon as your cat uses it. The problem with this idea is that you may not always know when your cat potties. But your dog will know by using his superior nose.
If you have a problem with a neighbor’s cat pooping outside in your yard, it can be even harder to keep your dog from eating it. Some people have used a basket muzzle on their dog successfully. These muzzles allow a dog to bark and do other normal things but the dog can’t eat things he shouldn’t.
If your dog continues to eat cat poop or other things he shouldn’t, no matter what you do, keep him wormed for parasites regularly. Have your veterinarian check him out on a regular basis to make sure he’s not suffering any ill effects from his eating habits.
Eating cat poop or other poop is a very unsavory habit but there’s probably nothing wrong with your dog. It is a natural behavior. It’s a good idea to do everything you can to prevent your dog from engaging in eating cat poop but sometimes you can’t stop it. If your dog still eats poop sometimes, have your vet check him out regularly for parasites and any other health concerns. You will probably want to invest in some breath fresheners for your dog, too.