Dog Eating Cat Litter

Dog Eating Cat Litter

dog eating cat litter - cat litter house

A dog eating cat litter is not uncommon despite the fact that it sounds awful. A lot of animals eat feces including dogs. The dog’s objective is not to eat the litter but the cat’s feces, which invariable means eating a bit of litter at the same time for obvious reasons.

So what is it all about and what can people, who care for both dogs and cats, do to stop it? Should they try to stop it?

Eating Feces

I won’t go into this in detail as I don’t think that this kind of information, in a general sense, is very relevant to this article.

Briefly, the behavior of eating feces is called, Coprophagia. Many species of animal eat feces. it can involve eating the animal’s own feces, the feces of other animals of the same species and the feces of other species.

Some examples:

  • Gorillas eat their own feces and the feces of other gorillas. Reason: to improve the absorption of vitamins and/or other nutritive elements that are made available during the re-ingestion of seeds.
  • Hamsters eat their own droppings. The reason: a source of vitamins B and K, produced by bacteria in the gut.
  • Young elephants eat their mother’s feces. The reason: to obtain the bacteria required to properly digest vegetation that is found in their habitat.

Why Do Dogs Eat A Cat’s Feces?

It seems that the experts are not sure of the reason. it has been proposed1 that it is caused by one or more of the following:

  • dog seeking attention or stressed.
  • obtaining vitamins produced by intestinal bacteria.
  • cleaning up their area due to incorrect training. The dog may be fearful of defecating and eat its own feces and the cat’s.
  • scavenging.
  • removing the scent of feces for natural survival purposes.
  • feces are a form of food. Cat food is high in protein relative to dog food. If the cat is overfeed the cat food might not be completely digested leaving feces that contains useful protein for a dog. This may be encouraged if the dog is underfeed.
  • health problems such as pancreatitis, intestinal infections and food allergies, as some examples.

The above are hypotheses.

What Can Be Done to Stop It?

There would seem to be three methods to tackle the “problem”. And it is a problem as litter can be dangerous to a dog. It is highly expandable when wet. A blockage might form in the dog’s digestive tract – a serious condition that can be fatal. There is also the risk of the dog contracting contracting intestinal parasites, I would have thought.

Solutions:

  1. Find the particular reason why the dog in question is eating cat litter and remove the cause. This may be difficult as the reasons in general are not completely understood. A vet might be usefully consulted.
  2. Physically prevent the dog eating cat litter.
  3. Make the cat’s feces unattractive to the dog in question.

I would like to expand on solutions 2 and 3.

There are products that are available. One is on Amazon and I am sure that there are other outlets that sell products that prevent dogs from getting to the litter.

The above product is an attachment to the entrance to a covered cat litter box.

Another nice product is a covered cat litter box that has a built in entrance that is designed to present a barrier to a dog. It is called the Litter House (opens in a new window – link broken). The “door” to the covered litter box is on an angle to the litter inside. I think that it is this that makes for a barrier to a larger dog. If the method is that simple, why are there not more of these products on the market? A dog eating cat litter is, apparently, quite commonplace.

{Please note: sometimes embedded videos go black because the creator has taken it off YouTube – I have no notice of this}

I am guessing but the effectiveness of these barriers would seem to be dependent on the size of the dog. If the dog is the same size as a cat I cannot see how they can work.

As to making a cat’s feces unattractive to a dog, this requires applying additives to the cat’s food2. My research indicates that this is not advisable for commonsense reasons, (a) the food becomes unattractive to the cat and (b) the food may become harmful to the cat – the cat has very specific dietary requirements. It is important to not upset the integrity of high quality cat food in my opinion.

Conclusion: Probably the best and commonsense method to prevent a dog eating cat litter is to buy the Litter House cat litter box (a USA product, incidentally). This website receives no commission on sales by the way!

Dog eating cat litter — Notes:

1. Hofmeister, Cumming, and Dhein (2001)

2. Wikipedia®

From dog eating cat litter to cat health problems

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