Dear Tabby,

Our dog has started eating (ew!) out of the litter box! We find this behavior both disgusting as well as annoying. Any tips on keeping Fido out of Fluffy’s toilet?

Grossed Out in Garden Oaks

Dear Grossed Out,

For as long as dogs and cats have coexisted, the issue of dogs eating cat poop has been a problem (And, when I say “problem,” I mean that it’s a problem for the humans who love their pets--not a problem for the dogs who really seem to enjoy the taste of cat poop).

As you might imagine, cats eat cat food, so their poop smells like cat food. Dogs enjoy cat food, too, so it only stands to reason that a dog would want to eat anything that smells like something that they enjoy eating. While eating poop can sometimes be a symptom of a dietary deficiency, for most dogs, eating cat poop is just a nasty habit and nothing more.

Is it safe?

Unfortunately, dogs can ingest intestinal parasites from cat poop and get really ill, so aside from being a gross habit, it can also be dangerous. Also, cat litter should not be ingested as it can cause a blockage in your dog’s intestines, so if you see your dog straining to use the bathroom after eating cat poop, there’s a chance that the litter could be causing an obstruction. Long story short: It’s just not a good idea to allow your dog to eat from the litter box.

How to break the cycle?

So, how do you stop your dog from eating cat poop? The first step in breaking this cycle is eliminating the cat poop from your dog’s environment, so be diligent about keeping the litter box clean. If you can catch your cat pooping in the box, swoop in behind her and get the poop out immediately and dispose of it. If that’s not an option, look into an automatic litter box, which promptly cleans after your cat has used it.

Another option is to move the litter box to a place that is inaccessible to your dog, such as up on a counter or behind a closed door. A litter box with a cover might also keep Fido out of the box, so if you don’t already have a cover, switch to a box that has one.

Training

Lastly, work on the command “Leave it” with your dog, so that when you catch him in the act, you can get him to stop the behavior on cue. Over time, after teaching the command to your dog, you should be able to divert his behavior if you suspect he’s even thinking about munching on the poop. Soon enough, he’ll get the idea that the litter box is off limits.

When you have multiple species living in the same house, issues like eating cat poop are sure to arise. Just remember that as gross as it may be, your dog is following his instincts when he seeks out cat poop for an afternoon snack. And, while you really DON’T want to invite him over for a kiss after, using positive reinforcement, training and maybe some creative litter box placement might nip this unsightly problem in the bud.

Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at deartabbyquestions@gmail.com.

Pet of the Week

Keeping dogs out of the litter box

Meet Sweetheart. Sweetheart was born on Valentine’s Day 2020 and lives up to her name in a big way. Sweetheart is sweet and playful and makes the perfect work-from-home companion. Her hobbies include bird watching and treat-eating, and Sweetheart is even social media savvy (check her out on Instagram @sweets.sweetheart). To learn more about this perfect gal, visit www.friends4life.org.

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