Your dog is sometimes your greatest source of entertainment. They love to play with you and you love to watch their silly antics. But sometimes, their behavior is downright weird.
While your dog and cat might get along well, you can’t understand why your dog likes to get the occasional snack from the cat’s litter box.
It’s disgusting, and you don’t know why your dog would do this when they’re fed on a regular basis with food you’re pretty sure is providing complete nutrition. What is the appeal of cat poop and why do dogs like to eat it?
More importantly, how bad is this nasty habit for your dog’s health?
Well, we hope to illuminate the answers to these questions here. Join us as we investigate why dogs eat cat poop and what you can do about it. Unraveling this mystery will help you understand your dog’s weird behavior so you can keep your pets – both dog and cat – healthy and happy.
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
This important question has many possible answers. In this section, we’re going to go in depth to answer the question of why dogs eat cat poop with the intention of helping you see all the possible reasons your dog is doing this.
You must first understand this behavior is natural. Your dog isn’t abnormal if they eat cat poop occasionally. This habit is so common, there’s a name for it, coprophagia.
Veterinarians and dog behavior experts have discovered several reasons your dog might be eating cat poop.
1. Medical Reasons Dogs Eat Cat Poop
Let’s start with the medical or dietary reasons your dog could be eating from the cat’s litter box.
To your dog’s highly developed sense of smell, cat poop smells like cat food, which dogs sometimes love more than their own kibble. Your dog might just like the taste of cat poop, especially if it reminds them of your cat’s food. Dogs are scavengers, so instinctively, they find cat poop a quick and easy snack.
Cats sometimes don’t fully digest what they eat, especially if you feed your cat an excess of carbohydrates. So, to a dog, this means their poop has available nutrients. Wild dogs will sometimes scavenge feces when they can’t catch other prey, so your dog might be doing something similar.
Your dog might be lacking certain nutrients in their diet, such as vitamin B, causing them to seek out alternative snacks to satisfy their needs. Some medications or medical conditions might cause this nutrient deficiency to happen.
2. Behavioral Reasons Dogs Eat Cat Poop
As mentioned above, eating feces is a natural behavior. Some experts believe it’s an evolutionary instinct left over from when dogs would eat feces that had been dropped in the den to protect the pack from intestinal parasites.
If your dog has access to the litter box, they might respond to the presence of cat poop instinctively by eating it.
If your dog is anxious or stressed, they might be drawn to eat cat poop. If your dog spends a significant amount of time without human interaction, this might lead them to dine on cat poop. For example, if you crate your dog and you work long hours away from home, this might be why your dog eats cat poop.
If one of your dogs is elderly or sick, this might trigger your other dogs to eat cat poop. Experts think this might be associated with the instinct to protect the pack from disease or predators. This instinct might also cause your dogs to eat one another’s poop.
Poop eating might also be a habit left over from your dog’s puppyhood. Mother dogs will lick their puppies to encourage them to poop or clean them afterward. Your dog probably smelled fecal matter on their mother’s breath and learned to associate feces with food or comfort.
Another reason your dog might eat cat poop is boredom. If your cat’s litter box is accessible and your dog has no other way to expend their energy, they might raid the litter box for entertainment.
Is Cat Poop Bad For Your Dog?
Now you know the answer to the question why do dogs eat cat poop. But is cat poop bad for your dog?
Well, the answer to that question is complicated. Most dogs will eat cat poop when given the opportunity, and it’s usually nothing to worry about.
Think about cat poop like an occasional treat. As long as it doesn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet, you shouldn’t be too concerned about their health. Most dogs won’t encounter any health issues from eating cat poop occasionally.
This doesn’t mean the behavior is harmless. Cat poop does contain bacteria or parasites, like any other animal droppings. Specifically, cat poop could contain salmonella, which can be passed to humans as well. Cat feces can also contain campylobacter or clostridia, both of which can be transmitted to your dog and cause illness.
Cats can carry parasites that your dog might ingest in their poop, and even if your cat appears perfectly healthy, they can still carry harmful microorganisms in their feces that will make your dog sick.
Cat litter isn’t good for your dog’s digestive system, either. Fortunately, most dogs don’t ingest enough of it to cause a problem. Your dog would need to dine on an enormous amount of cat litter to cause a blockage, but if your dog does eat vast quantities of cat poop and you use clumping cat litter, watch out for signs of constipation.
The main consequence if your dog does eat cat poop is how gross it appears to you and your family. You might be less inclined to let your dog lick your face, or worse, your child’s face if you know they’ve been snacking in the litter box. This is probably enough of a reason for you to want your dog to kick the cat poop habit.
Ways To Stop Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
Knowing why do dogs eat cat poop may not be enough for you. You probably also want to know how to get them to stop. It won’t be easy. Poop eating behavior is instinctual and often something your pup learned from their mother.
You may not be able to break this habit until you’ve determined why your dog eats cat poop, but once you do, veterinarians and dog behavior experts have come up with several ways to help you encourage your dog to stop eating cat poop, or at least eat it less often.
Here are some strategies you might try:
- Change Your Dog’s Diet: If you think your dog might be trying to make up for a nutrient deficiency, you should try supplementing or changing their diet. Include more or different proteins and carbohydrates.
- Leave Your Dog Something to Do: If you work long hours away from home, your dog is probably bored during the day. Leave them a chew toy or puzzle toy that rewards your pup with a treat when they figure out how to get to it.
- Restrict Access to the Litter Box: If your dog can’t get to cat poop, they can’t eat it. Move the litter box to a shelf or put it in a room with a baby gate blocking the door. If your cats are adaptable, try replacing an open litter box with one having a cover with a small entrance.
- Muzzle Your Dog During Walks: If your dog is eating outdoor cat poop, train them to use a muzzle when they go for a walk. You can make the muzzle look appealing by slowly acclimating your dog to using it. Eventually, they will get used to it, and you’ll feel better knowing your dog can’t graze on cat poop while you’re walking them.
- Give Your Dog Structured Playtime: If you suspect your dog is eating cat poop out of boredom, take some extra time out of your day to play with them. A regular playtime in which you entertain and train your pup will relieve anxiety and give them something to look forward to each day.
- It Can Be Tough – But Teaching Your Dog Not to Eat Cat Poop Is for the Best
While dog experts say it’s almost impossible to prevent your dog from eating cat poop, you can find ways to discourage it, so your dog does it less often. Medically speaking, if your dog is getting the right nutrients from their diet, eating the occasional piece of cat poop won’t do them any harm.
On the other hand, now that you know why dogs eat cat poop, you may want to discourage it. If this is the case, we hope the strategies you’ve found here can help you prevent your dog from getting into your cat’s litter box. If the problem becomes severe and none of these solutions help, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.
Regardless of whether your dog’s habit causes them to get sick, you probably find it disgusting and don’t want to accept any doggy kisses until they find a different snack.