nasty habit: advice for curbing litter box snacking

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Jul 15 2013

Most dogs just can’t resist a tasty treat, but there’s one morsel that should be off of the menu. Cat box crunchies, litter fritters, tootsie rolls – whatever you choose to call them, snacks from the litter box are just plain gross (to us, anyway!).

Many pet parents wonder if their dog’s penchant for grazing from the litter box (coprophagia, the medical term for eating feces) is because of a nutritional deficiency. This is very rarely the case. It appears that dogs just really love the taste of their feline friend’s waste! If eating from the litter box is a new habit for your pooch, it’s likely that he just discovered the box.

It is never a good idea to allow your dog to eat feces from the litter box (or any feces for that matter). The most obvious reason for this is that it’s gross – it’s likely that your dog gives you or other family members big sloppy kisses. But more importantly, eating from the litter box can be hazardous to your dog’s health. Although it’s a rare occurrence, dogs can become infected with parasites if your cat has them and is shedding eggs in the stool.

Unfortunately, curbing your dog’s appetite for grazing from the litter box buffet can be difficult. Correcting your dog’s behavior needs to be consistent, and there’s just no way you can be there every time he wants a snack. In fact, once dogs figure out that you don’t like their behavior, they’ll wait until you leave to sneak off to the box.

Instead of trying to change your dog’s behavior, it’s best to make sure that they don’t have access to the box. If you have a dog who is guilty of coprophagia, try one (or more!) of the following tricks:

  • Use a baby gate to block entrance to the room where the litter box is. You can adjust the height of the gate so that your cat can slip under it, but your dog cannot. Some gates even come with a separate cat door that can be left open.
  • Try a covered litter box. Some dogs are put off by having to stick their heads into the box. Be warned, however, that some cats dislike covered boxes and may not use them.
  • Install a chain at the door so that it opens just wide enough for your cat, but keeps your dog out.
  • Place the box high enough that your dog can’t reach it. Make sure that your cat can jump to it and is comfortable doing so. Older cats often have arthritis, and jumping can be painful.
  • Consider putting a cat door in the door between your dog and the litter box.

Though coprophagia is very common in dogs, it is a rare occurrence in cats. Whoever the offending snacker is, though, it is important do your best to prevent them from indulging their cravings.