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As lovable as dogs are, let's face it: They sometimes do things that are kind of gross. One of those gross behaviors is raiding your cat's litter box and eating what they find there. Learn why your pup is prone to this behavior and how to keep dogs out of the litter box for good.
My Dog Eats Cat Poop from the Litter Box
While it may be foul to humans, eating cat poop is somewhat normal dog behavior, says American Kennel Club (AKC). Dogs are natural scavengers who tend to devour anything with a strong smell, even poop. To the highly attuned nose of a dog, cat poop smells like cat food, which, as far as your dog is concerned, is a special treat. Once your pooch discovers these tasty nuggets in the litter box, it's like they've hit the jackpot.
But despite this behavior being enjoyable for your dog, it should be discouraged, and not simply because it's gross. Cat feces can carry harmful bacteria, including salmonella, which could make your dog sick. It also can carry a parasite that causes a condition called toxoplasmosis that can be harmful to humans if your dog licks your face, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cat litter can also harm your dog if consumed in large enough quantities to cause an intestinal blockage.
How to Keep Dogs Out of the Litter Box
Keeping your dog out of the litter box might be easier said than done. The best method depends on the size, temperament and trainability of your dog. Your cat might also have a say in whether certain methods will work.
Clean the Litter Box Often
One of the most effective methods is scooping the box often, suggests PetSafe. While it might not be realistic to clean up after your kitty every time they go, cleaning the box once or twice a day will help to cut down on your dog's opportunities. A self-cleaning robot litter box can make this task easier, if your cat will tolerate it. You could also switch to an odor-neutralizing litter to discourage your pup.
Train Your Dog
The most permanent way to keep your pup away from the cat box is to train them to leave it alone. Before you begin, make sure your dog is getting high-quality dog food so that they're not missing any nutrients in their diet. They should also be getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation so that they aren't exploring the litter box out of boredom. Once those bases are covered, try following these steps from the AKC to teach your dog the "leave it" command:
Hold a treat on the floor under one hand and allow your dog to sniff it.
When your dog loses interest and gives up, say "leave it" as they're turning away.
With your free hand, give them a better treat than the covered one.
Gradually work up to telling them to "leave it" while they're still inspecting the treat. Reward them with a better treat when they turn away.
Once they learn to associate the command with getting a better treat than the one they're investigating, practice letting them sniff the litter box and telling them to "leave it."
If all else fails, you might simply need to restrict your dog's access to the litter box. If you have a small dog, this might be as simple as elevating the litter box out of reach, or placing it inside a bathtub. For larger dogs, a covered cat box might work if your cat will tolerate a lid. If your cat vetoes a lidded box, installing a pet gate or a cat flap to the room where the litter box is stored might be your best option.
Whichever method you try, be sure to keep your kitty's preferences in mind. If you need to relocate the litter box, move it gradually, in small increments, to give your cat time to get used to the idea. Similarly, changing litter should be done gradually, mixing a little bit of the new litter with the old and increasing new litter slowly as your cat becomes used to it.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.