Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop — and How to Get Them to Stop


May 11 2021, Published 2:15 p.m. ET

Why dogs eat cat poop
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When you have both cats and dogs at home, there are definitely strange days ever now and then. For instance, you might find that your dog has taken to looking for unsavory treats in his counterpart’s litter box — an activity that’s no good for anyone involved. If you find yourself wondering why your dog eats cat poop, fear not, we’re here to offer an explanation and some solutions.

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The best of friends
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Why does my dog eat cat poop?

Cat poop isn’t the only poop that dogs “enjoy” eating. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs are scavengers, so eating poop is a natural (though overtly disgusting) behavior for them. Cat poop, like garbage, toxic plants and veggies, and our leftovers, is just another potential food for the bottomless pits we often call “man’s best friend.”

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Scientifically speaking, eating poop — cat or otherwise — is known as coprophagia. This habit can arise as the result of dietary deficiency, juvenile exploration, anxiety, or stress. Mother dogs will often eat the feces of their young in order to keep the den clean and puppies might evince the same behavior if an accident occurs during crating. Either way, it’s not unusual for many dogs to do this; what’s unusual is for it to continue well into adulthood. 

Cat in litter box
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Is eating cat poop bad for dogs?

Cat poop might smell pretty terrible to us, but to a dog, whose sense of smell is much more acute than our own, it might just smell like cat food that’s “gone off a bit.” But whether they like the smell or not, that sickly scent is an indication of harmful bacteria and potential parasites that can make dogs very ill. Some of these bacteria, like salmonella, can get transferred to humans with a single friendly lick.

Eating too much cat poop can also cause dogs to vomit it back up again. If you’ve never had the misfortune of encountering that aroma, consider yourself lucky. The other problem posed by cat poop indigestion has to do with the kitty litter itself. 

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According to the AKC, enough ingested cat litter can cause intestinal blockages, especially if it's the kind that clumps when introduced to moisture. Other than these few cases, however, eating cat poop isn’t intrinsically harmful to dogs, but it's a habit that can get rather messy if it isn’t immediately answered.

Clean kitty litter
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How to stop your dog from eating cat poop

According to A1 Savannah, curbing coprophagia can be as easy as training your dog to “leave it alone.” The leave it command isn’t an easy one to master, especially if the dog is older, but the trick to making it work is vigilance. Every time your dog goes for a bit of their new favorite indulgence, tell them to leave it. If they obey, reward with an actual dog treat. If they disobey, repeat the command even louder. Eventually, they will understand the seriousness of your tone.

Coprophagia often occurs when a dog is bored or stressed out, so keeping your dog busy with toys, games, and other distractions can give them something else to focus on. Finally, keep the litter box as clean and as out of reach as possible. Cleaning often will ensure there are no temptations for your coprophagic canine. Your cat will probably appreciate the consistent cleanings as well. 

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