Dogs often indulge in the habit of dung eating, technically called coprophagia. Mother dogs keep the nest free of smells by eating waste from puppies. As a result, many puppies copy the behavior when young, and may indulge in dung-eating of their own or other animal’s feces.
Most pups outgrow the behavior, but some dogs persist in the nasty habit. And when dogs share space with cats, the kitty litter box may be viewed as a snack bar. Ew!
Why Dogs Eat Litter Box Treats
The short answer for why dogs like cat waste is that it tastes good to them. It probably smells yummy, too. We know dogs live through their noses, so aroma means a lot to dogs.
How can that “schtuff” possibly taste good? Cat food actually has much higher protein content than dog food. Kitties don’t always process their food efficiently, which means what ends up in the litter box may still contain nutrients appealing to the dog. When dogs poke noses into cat business, kitty friends won’t like the dog messing with their potty, and may look for “out of the box” places to go instead.
You may inadvertently reward the dog by your reaction, too. When our dog was a puppy and brought his own deposits inside like toys, he thought it great fun when my husband got upset and chased him around the house! The key to curbing litter box snacking is to make the litter box out of reach.
3 Tips For Curbing Litter Box Snacks
- Clean the cat box as often as possible. Droppings left for any length of time may be too tempting for your dog to resist. Automatic cat boxes may be helpful because they sweep feces into a bin within minutes of the cat’s deposit.
- Situate the cat litter box out of the dog’s reach. Countertops work well for athletic cats able to access second-story territory, for example. Beware of covered boxes, though. These may keep the dog out, but also holds in odors and may make the cat feel trapped.
- I’m a fan of baby gates to sequester areas of the house. We have tall ones that keep even big dogs confined, but have a cat-size door that can be opened for kitty access. Some cats can squeeze through baby gate bars or leap over top, while keeping dogs away from the litter box.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT
Published December 4, 2017