Dogs eat cat poop for several reasons. It’s typically a normal behavior, as dogs naturally like to scavenge and enjoy the taste of cat poop. Your dog may also be bored due to a lack of exercise, mental enrichment, or attention. It’s possible they have a nutrient deficiency, especially if eating a homemade diet.
In this article, we’ll discuss all of the reasons dogs eat cat poop and how to stop them!
Table of Contents:
Why do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
There are several reasons dogs eat cat poop. It’s normally completely natural behavior, though it’s not a behavior you should allow. While cat poop itself isn’t typically harmful to dogs, cat litter can cause intestinal blockages that can kill a dog without treatment.
The following are the most common reasons dogs eat cat poop.
Firstly, it’s important to know that dogs scavenge by nature. Eating poop may be gross to us, but it’s completely normal to them.
Your dog isn’t trying to misbehave or cause problems. They just don’t know any better! Please remember to have patience with them.
It’s also important to remember that eating cat poop doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with your dog.
Cat Poop Smells Similar to Cat Food
What goes in must come out! I’m sure you’ve noticed your dog’s love of cat food already. Most will steal from the cat if given half the chance.
You may not realize that their strong nose can still smell all of the food and nutrients that your cat’s body didn’t absorb. This is what makes them want to eat the cat’s poop so badly.
Your Dog is Understimulated
A bored dog is bound to get into trouble in several ways, and one of these may be getting into the litterbox. Especially if your dog is making a mess while you’re away from home, they may not be getting enough exercise or mental enrichment throughout the day.
It’s important to give your dog enough physical exercise based on their breed. This can vary, but all breeds benefit from at least one daily walk alongside playtime in the house or yard.
They also all need mental enrichment, which is what allows them to act on their instincts. Some instincts your dog may need fulfilled are foraging, chewing, hunting, and herding. For instance, scatter feeding their food allows a dog to forage and flirt poles help them act out their hunting instincts.
Training is also a great way to work your dog’s mind and keep them engaged. Play and training also help you to build a bond with your dog.
It’s a Way to Get Your Attention
Many people get angry at their dogs or think that attention-seeking behavior should be ignored, but this isn’t true!
Behaviors are communication. If your dog is eating cat poop in an attempt to get your attention, they may need more time with you, an increase in exercise or mental enrichment, or they may even be acting out for a bigger reason such as an illness.
Every time they go to the litterbox, your attention turns to them as you try to get them away from it. This may be enough to reinforce the behavior in their minds.
They May Have a Nutritional Deficiency
Sometimes, eating cat poop can happen because your dog isn’t getting the nutrients they need in their diet.
This is very uncommon if your dog is eating a quality, vet-recommended dog food. It may be more likely with smaller, lesser-known brands.
However, you’re going to see this most commonly when a dog is eating a homemade diet not formulated by a certified veterinary nutritionist. (Please note that this isn’t the same as someone who simply calls themselves a pet nutritionist without the education or certification, which happens commonly.)
If your dog is eating a homemade diet, one of the best things you can do for them is to either hire a certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure they get proper nutrients or switch to store-bought dog food.
Is it Okay if my Dog Eats Cat Poop?
It’s not okay to allow your dog to eat cat poop. Whether they’re eating it indoors from your own cat or outdoors from strangers, this behavior comes with several health risks.
If your dog eats cat poop from an unknown cat, or even if your own cat goes outdoors, they should see a veterinarian to rule out illness and parasites.
Below are the risks associated with dogs eating cat poop.
Your dog can catch diseases through the bacteria in cat poop, including Salmonella and toxoplasmosis. If the cat is sick with anything that’s contagious to dogs, it may be transferable through their feces.
Of course, there is little risk of this if they’re eating your own indoor cat’s poop, and a higher risk if they’re eating poop from outdoor cats with unknown health.
Several parasites, including worms, can be caught when your dog eats another animal’s poop. Hopefully, your dog is on year-round parasite prevention, which negates this risk.
Of course, cats kept safely indoors also have very little risk of parasites–if they do have them, it’s most likely that they’ve caught them from the dog already.
But if your cat goes outdoors without parasite preventative or your dog eats random cat poop on a walk, it’s very easy for dogs to catch worms or other parasites from this.
Your Cat is on Medications
If the cat is on any medications, you should call your veterinarian immediately to ensure that they’re safe for your dog to consume. While many medications are the same for dogs and cats, this isn’t always true.
In addition, we never want our pets getting medications that they don’t need. This can be very harmful!
Cat poop itself can be digested, but cat litter usually cannot. The riskiest are clay litter and clumping litter, which are what most households use.
If your dog eats enough cat litter alongside the poop, they can develop a blockage in their intestines that may require surgery to remove. This tends to be very expensive and also risky for your pup.
When to See a Vet
If your dog eats one poop from the litterbox of an indoor cat, their risk level is low and they will likely be okay–though a vet trip will never hurt if you’re nervous.
If your cat has known parasites or is on medication, your dog should see the vet for treatment. (The same goes for kitty if their parasites are untreated!)
If your dog isn’t current on parasite preventatives and eats random cat poop from outside, or from an outdoor cat who isn’t on parasite preventative themselves, bringing them in for a check-up is a good idea.
Always watch your dog for symptoms after they eat cat poop. You may notice the following:
- Upset stomach
- Decreased appetite
These are fairly normal short-term symptoms and don’t necessarily mean you need to see the vet. If they last more than a couple of days, then it’s time to bring them in for a check-up.
If you notice the following symptoms of intestinal blockage, see a veterinarian right away:
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
- Stomach upset
Dogs can die from an intestinal blockage in just days, so quick veterinary care is a must. In some cases, you may need to bring your dog to an emergency vet clinic for immediate treatment.
How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop
Move the Litterbox
If the litterbox is where the dog can get it, they’re almost certain to continue eating cat poop! You’ll need to move it to an area that your dog can’t access, such as behind a baby gate.
This can also stop your dog from nosing around while your cat’s using the litterbox, which can be aggravating for your cat.
Remember to keep your cat in mind as well, and make slow changes whenever possible.
Use a Muzzle Outdoors
If your dog is eating cat poop outdoors, you may need a muzzle to keep them safe. Be sure to choose one they can open their mouths inside of so that they can breathe and pant easily.
Work with your dog to make the muzzle a positive experience through muzzle training. If possible, introduce the muzzle slowly.
While you’re muzzling your dog outside, you should also be working on training. Muzzling is a short-term solution to a problem like this.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash
Another way to stop your dog from eating cat poop outside is to keep them on a leash and avoid areas that contain cat poop.
If you need to pass it, keep the leash short so that your dog cannot reach the cat poop. Keep their focus on you using high-value treats.
Train Your Dog
Every dog should know “leave it” and “drop it” cues as early in life as possible. This not only helps stop them from eating cat food but all sorts of dangerous things.
In the meantime, you’ll need a management plan–a way to keep your dog away from the cat poop. The solutions above are examples of this.
Remember to use positive reinforcement when training your dog. Never punish them for getting it wrong, and don’t put them in situations that tempt them to make the wrong choice. Keeping them from eating cat poop is ultimately your responsibility, not theirs.
Keep training sessions short and always try to end on a good note, after your dog has accomplished something good and been rewarded for it!
If you’re struggling to train your dog, consider hiring a dog trainer who uses force-free methods. Avoid those who talk about dominating your dog, as this theory has been debunked. Also avoid anyone who calls themselves a “balanced” trainer or who is willing to use aversives on your dog, as they can cause more problems for you and your pup.
Things to Avoid
We always want to focus on force-free training methods for dogs, never using aversives or doing anything that can harm our relationship with them.
We also want to balance what’s best for all of our pets, so be sure to keep your cat in mind as well when making changes.
Here are some things to avoid:
- Punishment: Punishment-based dog training has been proven to be less effective, and can sometimes lead to fear and aggression. Never hit your dog, spray them with water, or yell at them for going in the litterbox.
- Covered litterboxes: Although this is a commonly-proposed solution for keeping dogs out of litterboxes, it’s not the best for your cat.
Covered litterboxes don’t ventilate well enough, which can be especially damaging if you’re using dusty, clay-based litter. They also trap odors inside of the box, making them less desirable to your cat.
Cats are less likely to use covered litterboxes and may instead pee or poop around the house.
- Sudden litterbox changes: Sometimes this is unavoidable–as I said above, we do need to balance what’s best for all pets in the household.
If you can, though, make litterbox changes slowly. Suddenly moving a litterbox to another room can disrupt your cat’s routine and may even cause them to go outside of the box.