Dogs munching "treats" from the cat's litter box is a nasty habit pet owners hate. Eating waste from the cat's bathroom not only is unsanitary and causes yucky breath, but it can also lead to transmission of parasites.
Cats hate it, too. A dog trespassing in your cat's potty place may prompt the cats to find a safer place to eliminate, like under the bed. It's not just cat waste that appeals to dogs, either. My dog Magic targeted horse droppings when he was a puppy, as well as bunny waste and his own poop.
Why Dogs Eat Poop
The technical term for eating waste is coprophagia, and dogs munch waste because it tastes good. Cats and other critters may not thoroughly process their food. That means good nutrition goes to waste (pun intended!) and dogs benefit from this second chance snacking. Also, cat food also is much higher protein content than regular dog food, which makes it even more appealing.
Mom dogs naturally clean up after puppies to keep the nest tidy, and puppies copy her behavior. Snacking on feces is common in puppies 4-9 months old. Most dogs outgrow the poop-eating habit once they mature, but others may resort to feces when they're bored or want attention. Before it becomes a lifelong habit, use these tips to manage and stop this nasty habit.
11 Ways to Stop Litter Box Grazing
- Keep your cat's litter box as clean as possible. Scoop daily, and dump everything and clean the cat box as often as possible. Leaving the waste for any length of time makes the scent even more alluring to dogs and creates more temptations.
- When you can't scoop immediately, invest in an electronic cat box. These are designed to automatically sweep the feces into a bin within a short time following the cat's deposit. You'll probably need to transition your cat gradually to electronic boxes, though, to avoid the cat avoiding the box if she's scared.
- Most dogs aren't able to reach the cat's normal "second story" territory. Place litter boxes on a table or counter-top out of reach of nosy dogs.
- For dogs that are much larger than the cat, you can place the litter box in a small cabinet or closet, with a door latch that allows it to open only wide enough for the cat.
- Baby gates keep most dogs at bay, while a cat can either slink through the bars or leap over the barrier. Some pet gates can be situated a few inches above floor level so the cat can go beneath. My pet gate has an inset tiny door in the base to allow easy cat access while keeping the dog out.
- When your cats accept it, try using a covered litter box with an opening that the dog can't fit his head through. Remember, though, that covers keep smells contained and may feel like a trap to the cat, so use covered boxes with caution.
- Change the consistency of your cat's stool to make it unattractive for snacking. A tablespoon of vegetable oil added to your cat's diet makes the feces softer. Try offering a spoonful of canned pumpkin to your cat's food to change the taste or consistency of her stool. Cats often like pumpkin as a treat.
- Give bored dogs something better to munch, like a puzzle toy stuffed with a healthy treat. Peanut butter sticks to the roof of his mouth and makes a dog less likely to go sniffing out nasty alternatives.
- Supervise dog potty breaks in the hard by keeping him on leash. If he targets inappropriate snacks, say "no!" and lead him away. When he turns away from temptation, always reward with praise, a toy, or a legal treat. He should get more attention and fun for doing the right thing.
- For dogs intent on eating their own or other pets' waste, as soon as you see the dog finish his business, call him to come and sit. Reward with a toy or treat he gets no other time. He should quickly learn that once he's productive and comes to you, he'll get a prize after every bowel movement and won't be tempted to search for kitty leavings.
- When nothing else works, you may need to resort to a muzzle to keep your dog from snacking out of the litter box. The cat may actually prefer this!
Keeping your cat's litter box safe from munching dogs will increase the chances that both pets will get along.