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Library > Training and Behavior > Stop Your Dog From Snacking in the Litterbox

Stop Your Dog From Snacking in the Litterbox

3/8/2013

Spot slinks out of the hall bathroom with a guilty look on his face. You know something’s up, but you’re not sure what it is until he looks away from you licking his chops. You gasp in horror as it hits you.

He’s been snacking in the cat box.


Nasty But Normal

It’s normal. It even has a name: coprophagia. Seriously.

It’s disgusting. And it’s common in many species…not just dogs. But those species aren’t living in your house. Those animals aren’t sharing ice cream with your kids.

And while it’s normal instinctual behavior in nursing mothers and puppies, everyone hopes their dogs outgrow this pretty quickly. Unfortunately, though, some just don’t. They get the taste, and if it’s available…well, it’s kind of like putting a cone of cotton candy in front of an eight-year-old.

Yum?

Feces, especially from cats who eat high quality cat food, contain plenty of undigested goodness. Cat food often tends to be higher in fat than dog food, and the extra fat just adds to the appeal. When you consider that a cat’s digestive system isn’t 100% efficient, and that what goes in must come out…who can blame Spot for wanting a taste?

Unwanted Passengers

Despite the fact that a certain amount of nutrients are leftover in Fluffy’s leavings, a lot of unpleasantness is in there with it. If Fluffy is an outside hunter, the risk of worms and parasites rises. Even if she’s indoors, the occasional mouse or bug could leave her with some unexpected visitors.

And those problems can persist in her poop. When Spot decides to make it a meal? Not the wisest of choices he could make.

First things first:

Make sure that Spot is getting a high-quality dog food, and getting enough. Occasionally, coprophagia can start as a result of hunger or nutrient shortage, and then linger on as either an obsession or simply a preference.

Also critical is a solution that doesn’t make it too difficult for Fluffy to use her box…you don’t want to solve the problem of Snacking Spot just to create a new problem of Fluffy simply refusing to use the box at all!

We also hope it goes without saying that you should keep the litterbox clean.

Assuming that Spot is healthy and well-fed, and Fluffy is using a nice clean box….

Prevention is the Only True Remedy

No matter how good your dog is, training him to stay away from the box will not be a final solution. The temptation, once he’s realized it’s there, is just too strong (remember the eight-year-old and the cotton candy?).

First, find a place for the litterbox where the cat can easily get to it, but the dog can’t.  Some pet owners have found the laundry room or the bathroom counter to be effective alternatives, but that can be a little startling or just plain gross for the humans in the house.

Baby gates, which the cat can shimmy under or leap over, can keep a dog out of the room with the litterbox, but those are inconvenient to the humans.

Covered litterboxes can also help — as long as the dog is large and the cat keeps his business at the back of the box. But the first time he leaves a present near the front of the box where Spot can reach his nose in…Snacktime!

No, total separation is the key.

Placing the litterbox in a utility room equipped with a cat door works well–again as long as the dog is significantly bigger than the cat.

A custom litterbox enclosure could allow the box to be placed far enough away from the opening to give Fluffy some security but keep bigger dogs out. Although enclosures like this can make changing the box a real hassle, if you have the space and the carpentry skills, they can prove effective.

The easiest way to keep the litterbox accessible, but to keep Spot away? Indoor Shields® can allow Fluffy freedom around her box while warning Spot with a tone and a tingle whenever he gets a little too close.

The Disgusting Truth

In the end, it’s helpful to know that while your dog could run the risk of getting worms or another parasite, it’s not the end of the world.

Eating poop is gross. It’s dirty and disgusting. But it’s entirely controllable.

Keep a healthy distance between Spot and the litterbox, and rest easy when your son shares his ice cream with his best friend.

 

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