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Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop? Why ARE They So Fascinated?

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Your dog thinks they just undertook a stealth mission. But as you watch them lick their chops, you notice something suspicious. Are those pieces of LITTER? You know what that means: they’ve been helping themselves to the cat’s litter box again. It’s so disgusting! And the expression on your cat’s face lets you know they aren’t impressed, either. Why does this happen? You feed your dog high-quality food. They even get treats throughout the day. So why in the world are they snacking in the litter box? Dogs eating cat poop baffles most owners who mix canines and felines. And if you’re ready to put a stop to it, we can show you how.

Coprophagia

When any animal decides to eat feces (or poop), it’s known as coprophagia. And while it makes our skin crawl, it’s normal dog behavior. Canines use their powerful noses to go after strong smells. And you’d be hard-pressed to find something that smells stronger than cat poop. (Our oldest cat can clear a room!) It’s irresistible to doggie noses. This is why even a well-fed pup goes exploring in the litter box.

Cats have fairly short GI tracts. Most carnivores do. As a result, cat poop contains a lot of protein – their food doesn’t get fully digested. What goes in (the yummy cat food your dog may try to steal in the first place) smells about the same coming out. You don’t want to deny your feline their favorite food, but it’s contributing to the whole dogs eating cat poop process.

And dogs don’t have as many taste buds as we do. So they’re not as picky about what they put in their mouth. We’d NEVER consider anything in that litter box. Your dog – and their scavenger heritage – has no problem with the concept.

Dogs Eating Cat Poop: Health Issues

Canine nature alone is enough to send your dog hunting around in the litter. But there CAN be something more sinister driving dogs to eat cat poop. You’re probably already keeping tabs on the habit (after all, you get doggie kisses with that mouth), but monitoring the frequency is a good idea. Because daily trips for cat poop snacks can signal a big problem.

Some health disorders interfere with the natural digestion process in dogs. If they can’t get nutrients (especially protein) into their system, they start hunting for them. We know cat poop is high in protein. So dogs eating cat poop can signal an underlying problem:

  • Cushing’s Disease: Malabsorption is one of the symptoms on the list of this hormone imbalance. The adrenal glands go crazy, and dogs’ appetites skyrocket.
  • Diabetes: When your body’s insulin doesn’t work properly, you end up feeling like you’re starving. Dogs eating cat poop is a desperate plan to get ANY “food.”
  • Malnutrition: Dogs on homemade diets that lack proper balance miss out on nutrients and calories. So they go looking for something to fill in the blanks.

When you start questioning your dog’s “stealth missions,” it’s time to go to the vet. They’ll run the proper lab work to check for these problems. You’re better off being safe than sorry. And, really, you probably need an appointment in the first place. Because cat poop? It’s not sanitary. (You probably guessed that already)

Dogs eating cat poop can have underlying health concerns

The Consequences of Dogs Eating Cat Poop

Your cat never goes outside. And you’ve never noticed a single sign of illness. It doesn’t mean their poop is “clean.”

Cat poop often carries bacteria. The microbes don’t harm your cat, courtesy of their sturdy GI tract. But every microbiome is different. And dogs eating cat poop can have serious consequences. They can end up exposed to some nasty bacteria:

  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridia
  • Salmonella

There’s also the possibility your cat may have intestinal parasites hanging around. Even if they don’t set foot outside, as everyone walks back and forth from the outdoors, they CAN bring eggs in on the dirt from their shoes. It doesn’t take much for your cat to accidentally ingest one. And now your dog ends up with an infestation, courtesy of that litter box foraging trip.

Litter

Unfortunately, the potential problems don’t end there. Cats are fastidious in their bathroom habits. So when dogs eat cat poop, they also ingest litter. And they can’t digest litter. Most of the time, it’ll pass through their digestive tract without a problem.

But if your dog’s sneaking away all the time? And especially if you use clumping litter? You could face the possibility of an intestinal obstruction. If you start to see ANY of these signs, get your pup to the vet ASAP:

  • Decreased or NO appetite
  • Decreased energy
  • Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Painful abdomen (a hunched stance, not able to lie down)
  • Straining to produce a bowel movement
  • NOT producing a bowel movement
Cats don't appreciate dogs raiding their litter boxes

Stopping Dogs From Eating Cat Poop

Dogs eating cat poop grosses everyone out (you, your family, the cat). It’s also not a healthy habit. And your feline companion isn’t wild about the intrusion on their bathroom time. You want to break the habit before things get out of control.

You’ve been to the vet and ruled out potential health conditions. Now it’s time to go to work in the house. Luckily, this part of things isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Barriers

The simplest way of stopping your dog from eating cat poop is to remove the temptation. As soon as your cat finishes up, clean the litter box. Your pup can’t raid what isn’t there. You eliminate the “tempting” smell they seek out (and any scents you may have dealt with). And your feline gets a fresh bathroom spot.

Of course, this isn’t easy. People have jobs and responsibilities. And if you have multiple cats? Yeah, you’d need to hire someone to keep up. (I know there’s no way we could run around after our trio and still get anything else done). You CAN invest in an automatic litterbox to take over for you. Unfortunately, smart dogs learn to stalk your poor cat and get there before the machine switches on.

So most people turn to physical barriers. Baby gates (or dog gates) allow your cat to slide by while keeping the snooping canine OUT. This is the method we use in our house since our Greyhound is quiet enough to sneak past us. (She DOES think she’s a cat, and she probably learned to walk quietly from the felines) It means we have to step over them, but it’s a minor inconvenience.

You can also install cat doors. The discrete passages give your feline a private entrance to the closet or bathroom while keeping your dog on the other side.

Training

Sometimes a physical obstacle won’t work. If your dog and cat are the same size, gates and doors don’t help. This is where a little extra time and effort on your part comes in.

If your dog doesn’t already know the “Leave it” command, it’s a good time to introduce it. You’ll need to hang out within sight of the litterbox for the training to work if you want to break the whole dogs eating cat poop thing. But once the command is set, you can apply it elsewhere.

  1. When your dog approaches the box, in a firm, clear voice, say, “Leave it.”
  2. If your dog moves away, reward them with a treat.
  3. If they DON’T, repeat the command. Try a distraction with a toy to draw them away.
  4. Repeat the process until they consistently steer away from the litterbox on command.

Dogs Eating Cat Poop Outside

Inside, you have more control over the situation. In your yard, things aren’t as easy. Neighborhood ferals may find spots in your garden appealing to visit. And your pup probably knows every one of them. You don’t want to force your dog to walk on a leash all the time, but you can’t stand them eating cat poop. You WILL want to make that vet visit to check for intestinal parasites. And you may need to modify some things in your yard.

Cat deterrents can help encourage those transient felines to look elsewhere for their toilet needs.

If the cats are only using one or two spots, you can consider laying down gravel. It’s not a pleasant texture for cat paws. Without sand or mulch, they’ll move on in search of other “facilities.”

The Poop Solution

Dogs eating cat poop vexes all owners who share a home with cats and dogs. Never mind the fact that you question where that canine mouth has been as they dive in for a puppy kiss. It’s just plain gross. But if you recognize the possibilities of health concerns – and check to rule them out – things get a little clearer. And you can make modifications around the house to prevent your pup from “snacking” between meals.

Then you have nothing to fear when your dog lavishes kisses all over your face.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy worked as a Licensed Veterinary Technician for 10 years, focusing on Emergency/ICU and later Cardiology, as well as volunteering at both the Philadelphia Zoo and Virginia Living Museum for over six years. She's now a freelance writer, but she gravitates toward writing projects with a focus on animals (once an animal-lover, always an animal-lover). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three cats (one "works" as her personal assistant), and a Greyhound who thinks she's a big cat — all of them rescues.

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