While it’s not especially pleasing to ponder, have you ever wondered: Why do dogs eat cat poop? Perhaps the more relevant question is, how can you prevent your dog from eating cat poop? We have a few solutions for those pet households with both dogs and cats running around.
So, why do dogs eat cat poop?
There are a few theories as to why dogs eat cat poop. This nasty habit—scientifically referred to as coprophagia—is, nevertheless, somewhat normal in dogs. (Puppies are even more likely to “indulge.”) Let’s discuss a few reasons why.
Your dog’s coprophagia may be the result of certain dietary deficiencies. Some troubleshooting is required to determine whether the deficiency is a result of their diet not meeting all of their nutritional needs, or their digestive system is behaving abnormally and may require additional diagnostics and treatment. When in doubt, it is best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your adult dog is continuously seeking your cat’s feces as a snack.
To dogs, cat poop may smell like a snack
Cat feces (and those of other small mammals) often have attributes that dogs find appealing. While that is hard to believe, the odor, texture, and taste are often enticing enough that dogs can completely ignore the fact that it is poop. Depending on the time of digestion prior to defecation, the feces may also still smell like the food the cat ate. Therefore, to dogs, there may hardly be a difference in smell and taste from regular cat food. It also has a tendency to contain nutrients which can tie back into the nutritional deficiency argument.
Dogs are scavengers
Most dogs are extremely thrifty; if hungry, they will find something to eat. It’s your dog’s natural instinct to eat just about anything. Just look at their wild ancestors: Wolves and coyotes will eat their own feces or that of other animals if they don’t consume enough prey or other food throughout the day. Between their tendency to scavenge and cat poop often smelling like cat food, it’s no wonder that dogs will eat it with no prompting.
Boredom or stress
In many cases, dogs eat cat poop simply because they have access and nothing better to do. They are bored. On the other hand, eating cat poop can be a form of “stress eating” for some dogs. Take into account whether your pup is getting enough physical activity and mental stimulation throughout the day; if you notice that they’re exhibiting other symptoms of stress, try to determine the source of that stress and remedy it.
Certain medical conditions
Disorders like Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), intestinal malabsorption (the inability to effectively absorb nutrients from food), or diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar as a result of insulin abnormalities) can make dogs “ravenously hungry.” They will basically try to eat anything that has even the slightest resemblance to food. If your dog is behaving abnormally in addition to eating everything in sight, cat poop included, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions behind your dog’s yucky “snacking.”
Can dogs get sick from eating cat poop?
In most cases, dogs will not get sick from eating the feces of a healthy cat. However, it can be a real concern, as feces can carry multitudes of bacteria and potentially harmful pathogens. For instance, we know that cats can pass zoonotic diseases along, including bacterial infections like salmonella and campylobacter, to both humans and dogs. Certain intestinal parasites can also be transmitted through consumed fecal matter.
Finally, cat litter itself can pose a risk to dogs. For instance, if a dog consumes a fair amount of clay-clumping litter while snacking on cat poop, the litter can cause a harmful blockage that may require emergency surgical intervention.
How to prevent your dog from eating cat poop
Now that we’ve answered why dogs eat cat poop, let’s take on the more important question: How do you prevent your dog from doing just that? There are two surefire ways to stop your dog from eating cat poop.
1. Make the cat poop disappear before your dog can get to it.
This isn’t always feasible if you have a traditional litter box. Chances are, you’re not sitting around waiting for your cat to use the litter box just so you can spring into action and clean it. What you need is a dog-proof litter box like Litter-Robot. This self-cleaning litter box has a patented sifting process that automatically separates your cat’s waste from the litter, depositing the clumps into a waste drawer for easy disposal.
The Litter-Robot timer countdown (cycle delay) function really comes in handy for households with both dogs and cats. This is how it works: When your cat exits Litter-Robot, a timer counts down, allowing the litter to clump before a clean cycle begins. You can set this timer to 3, 7, 15, 25, or 30 minutes.
Setting the Litter-Robot cycle delay to 3 minutes effectively prevents most dogs from nosing out a “snack” in the litter box.
The most important adjustment of setting the time to 3 minutes is ensuring that your litter is able to clump fast enough to ensure proper sifting of the box. This should be more of a concern for urine as opposed to feces but it is important to consider and troubleshoot if needed.
2. Make the litter box inaccessible to your dog.
If, however, your dog outsmarts the 3-minute timer (or you don’t have a self-cleaning litter box), your best bet is to make the litter box itself inaccessible to all canines in the house. This might include placing the litter box out of reach from your dog, in a spot only your cat can jump to. There are many litter box furniture options or you can use a baby gate to keep dogs out of the space without forcing your kitty to compromise.
Whisker has a few fantastic options for litter box furniture that will effectively hide the litter box and prevent access to dogs, including a litter box credenza or litter box storage cabinet. Learn more about how to dog-proof your litter box.
Why do dogs eat cat poop? While there are multiple reasons why dogs partake in this gross habit, we can all agree that there are some great ways to prevent it. Try a self-cleaning litter box and litter box furniture today!
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