There aren’t too many things less appetizing than catching your dog having a little snack of, well, kitty poop. Yuck.
Whether they found the tasty morsel outside, or they’ve gotten into the litter box at home and have the evidence sprinkled all over their snout, the entire situation is gross to us humans.
Then, of course, you can’t help but think about them licking you and giving you kisses, and oh the horrible, horrible kitty poop breath! At that point, all you can focus on is your dog’s stinky breath and how that busy tongue licking your face has been in contact with cat feces.
As humans, this habit is both disgusting and baffling. While there is no definitive answer, the short theory is that dogs eat kitty poop out of perfectly natural behavioral tendencies. In fact, many dogs are happy to eat any kind of poop, they don’t discriminate.
They do seem to have a special affinity for feline feces, though, which is why it can be so tough to keep them out of the litter box once they’ve discovered this delectable appetizer and developed a taste for it.
The technical term for this habit of eating poop, regardless of origin, is called coprophagia. Coprophagia actually may be a part of a dog’s natural exploratory instincts. Apart from being a natural tendency, there are several other reasons your dog may eat poop, so keep reading.
Dogs Eat Cat Poop Because It Tastes Good
As unfathomable as it seems to be for us humans, the truth of the matter is that some dogs simply like the taste of kitty poo. Feline feces most likely tastes pretty similar to cat food, and we all know that (most) dogs love cat food even more than their own food. Some will even go so far as to guard the bag of cat food in the house to keep it “safe.”
Dogs Eat Cat Poop Because They’re Bored
Sometimes, dogs are just bored and looking for something to get into. Raiding the kitty litter box can be exciting and helps to break up the monotony of their day lounging around the house, napping, eating, and barking at things outside the window.
If they are left alone in the house, especially if they are left alone for extended periods of time, they will raid the litter box just because it’s something to do and they have no human there to distract them and tell them no.
If you suspect your dog is getting into the cat poop because he is bored, you can try making sure he gets a bit more exercise throughout the day to help burn off any excess energy and throw in some extra play sessions. Keeping him busy may help discourage him from getting into the poop bin.
Dogs Eat Cat Poop Because They’re Scavengers
Dogs are explorers and they love to scavenge for things that seem intriguing. That means they will pretty much eat anything and everything, whether it’s garbage, rocks, carpet, toys, socks, or anything else they might run across. Dogs are not picky.
This means that when they run across a tasty morsel of feline feces, they are happy to consume it. This is probably because cat poop smells a lot like cat food. Cat food is the doggie version of chocolate or brownies, so it ranks pretty high up there on the scale of favorite treats. Despite their special affinity for cat poop, dogs are attracted to feces of all kinds, so when they find it, they eat it. That’s just what canine explorers do.
Dogs Eat Cat Poop Because of a Nutritional Deficiency
Sometimes, your pet may eat kitty poop because of some nutritional deficiency in their diet that you may not be aware of. Consuming feline poo can be a signal for you to evaluate what they are eating on a daily basis, and possibly see your vet to discuss ways to bolster the nutrition they are receiving. Dogs suffering from malnutrition or a nutrient deficiency may be experiencing this due to a wide range of issues, not only because they aren’t eating enough.
You might need to change your dog’s food, especially if they eat dry or canned kibble, to reflect better nutrition ratios of fiber, fat, and protein. You’ll also want to make sure your dog is receiving the vitamins and minerals that they need, which dry and canned kibble doesn’t always provide for adequately.
Is It Dangerous for a Dog to Eat Cat Poop? Can They Die?
The long and short answer is that yes, it can be dangerous and even fatal for a dog to eat cat poop. However, it’s not likely to be fatal, nor likely to be all that dangerous, unless it’s a frequent habit.
As a responsible pet owner, you should always know the risks associated with your dog’s tendency to eat kitty poop, especially if it becomes a habit that is hard to break.
One of the biggest dangers is that dogs can ingest all kinds of toxic parasites when they eat cat poop. In fact, toxic canine parasites are one of the reasons pregnant women aren’t supposed to clean out kitty litter boxes either, because they can get sick too.
This is because kitty poop can contain all sorts of bacteria and parasites, some of which can be transmitted to humans. One dangerous bug that dogs can pick up is caused by the T. gondii parasite, which causes a condition called toxoplasmosis. This parasite infection can cause very serious symptoms, such as seizures, muscle weakness, fever, lack of coordination, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, and diarrhea.
If your dog is infected with this parasite, they will have to have blood work done to confirm it. Then they will need antibiotics to treat the canine bacterial infection. Fortunately, dogs can recover from it as good as new, but it is definitely a dangerous risk.
Additionally, dogs can contract other parasites and bacteria that are harmful not just to them, but humans as well, like salmonella. So, yes it can be dangerous for your dog to habitually eat kitty poop, so you should do your best to discourage or prevent the behavior as often as possible.
Blockages and Clumping
Dogs can also endanger themselves eating cat poop because of clumping and blockages caused by the cat litter they may ingest along with the poo. Remember that most cat litter is marketed for their clumping ability when it makes contact with liquid. If it happens in the litter box, it will do the same thing inside your dog’s digestive system.
While this doesn’t happen frequently, and your dog would have to consume quite a bit of litter for it to cause a real problem, the reality is that it is possible for them to eat enough of it to cause a blockage. So why take a risk?
When the litter clumps and causes a blockage, it hardens and dries out inside the walls of the intestines and gets stuck there. Surgery is required to remove the blockage, and if a blockage is left untreated, it could cost your dog his life.
If you notice that your dog seems to be having difficulty pooping, or if you notice abnormalities in his poop or don’t think he isn’t pooping at all, you should see your vet immediately, just to be safe.
Side Effects When a Dog Eats Cat Poop
While eating cat poop doesn’t always affect your dog in a negative way, when it does you may notice certain signs or symptoms, such as an upset tummy, especially if your dog has picked up any bacteria or parasites.
If you think that your dog has been chowing down on the kitty poop, here are a few things you should look out for that may clue you in on what they’ve been up to.
- Lowered energy levels
- No appetite
- Abdomen that is painful to touch
- Stinky, foul breath
- Foul-smelling gas
- And of course, a dead giveaway; kitty litter stuck in their snout or between their teeth!
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, chomping on cat poop could be the reason.
Ways to Keep Your Dog Out of the Cat Poop
Obviously, the best medicine with anything is prevention. Kitty poo is like catnip for a dog, and once a dog has had a taste of it, it is difficult to keep them out of it. The best thing you can do is keep your dog away from the kitty litter box altogether. Place the litter box somewhere that your dog can’t reach. This won’t help matters if your dog is finding poop outside though, which means you will have to be extra vigilant about keeping an eye on him when outdoors.
You could also try keeping your kitty litter box somewhere high that a dog can’t get to. Cats have no problem jumping and climbing, so placing it somewhere high won’t be a problem for them, but it will discourage your pooch.
If you have a large dog, you could try putting your cat litter box in a small cabinet or closet, and then use a door latch on it that only allows it to open just wide enough for your cat to enter. Just make sure the latch is sturdy or your dog may break it trying to breach it.
Some pet owners like to try using baby gates placed in strategic areas so that their dog can’t get to the litter box. Most cats can either jump over a baby gate or slip through the bars, or even shimmy underneath. So, using these can be effective in keeping your dog out of places that your cat can still go.
You should also strive to keep your cat litter box clean and tidy, and scoop everything out on a daily basis. When you allow the feces to sit, it just begins to smell even more enticing to your canine and becomes a bigger temptation. Some pet owners may consider investing in a kitty litter box that automatically cleans itself. Just be warned that if your cat has never used one of these boxes, you might have to make the transition slowly while they get used to it.
If you suspect your dog is eating cat poop out of boredom, make sure you’re providing them with plenty of toys to play with and activities to keep them busy. Try offering them regular treats, especially tasty ones like peanut butter, so that they have no desire to snack on other things they might find.
If your dog is getting into cat poop outside, take them out on a leash, or supervise them closely. When you catch them in the act of trying to eat cat poop, tell them no and lead them away from the temptation. Make sure that when they obey, you reward them, so you are reinforcing the desired behavior. You can also do this with the cat litter box inside the house, if you can catch them in the act. Reward the good behavior, and make it clear that the bad behavior is a big no-no.
One last trick you can try is adding a bit of olive oil to your cat’s food or giving your cat some canned pumpkin as a treat. This will change your cat’s stool consistency, and since most dogs prefer snacking on cat poop that is firm, stools that are soft won’t be nearly as attractive to your canine.
Finally, if none of these tricks work, you can always make your dog wear a muzzle until they get the hint. While this may not be the best long-term solution, it can be useful in the short-term. Just remember, it’s a natural inclination for dogs to eat cat poop, so try not to get too stressed if your dog imbibes in the occasional stinky treat. Pro tip- don’t let them give you any doggie kisses!