While some are dog people and some are cat people, many love both. And if you are both a cat owner and a dog owner, then you have probably encountered one of the grossest doggy habits: eating out of the cat litter box. Before you resort to inconveniently putting your cat’s litter box high on a shelf, there are several things you can do to fix this problem.
Dogs are pack hunters. They’re also scavengers: willing, able, and even eager to eat pretty much anything that smells even slightly interesting. As you have already observed with your dog’s fascination with the garbage, even the best dog will find many gross smells and tastes interesting. And that, unfortunately, includes cat poop.
Yes, your dog can get sick from eating out of the cat litter box. Dogs may be scavengers by nature, but that doesn’t make them immune from the consequences of eating unhealthy materials such as your cats waste. Dogs can get diseases like salmonella and E. coli from eating out of the cat litter box and parasite-related conditions like ringworms, giardia, and toxoplasmosis. And some of these conditions can be very dangerous to your canine companion.
How Can I Keep My Dog Out of the Litter Box?
Now that we know that eating cat feces is a definite no, no, let’s look at what pet owners can do to keep dogs out of the litter box and prevent them from eating this forbidden “treat.”
If you always keep the cat litter box clean, your dog won’t have the opportunity to eat out of it. However, that would require you to clean it immediately after your cat uses it, which is especially a pain if you have multiple cats. And, of course, you won’t always be home or awake when your cat uses the litter box, so you may need to take additional steps. An automatic self-cleaning litter box could take care of the problem.
You may be able to keep your pup out of the cat litter box by making sure they have enough good, nutritious food to eat. After all, a lack of nutrients or calories might be what caused your dog to start eating cat poop in the first place. Do some research on both your current brand of dog food and your breed of dog to make sure that hunger isn’t the root of the problem.
Eating out of it won’t be a problem if your dog can’t get to the cat box. If the litter box room has a door, get a dog latch for it. This door latch will let your cat push the door open just far enough to get through, making it impossible for larger dogs to force their way in.
Dog proofing the litter box room could also mean installing a cat door, which may quickly solve all of your problems. A cat door is straightforward to install but does require you to cut a hole in your door. While this may not be an option for you if you live in an apartment, a cat door may be an ideal solution for homeowners. It’s important to keep in mind that smaller dogs may be able to sneak through the cat door (if they’re brave enough to try!).
You can also try covering the litter box. Some cat litter boxes are even sold with covers that are easy to attach and remove. While a covered litter box can be effective in keeping your dog out, it may not be effective if you have a small dog and may not work for larger cats. It should be noted that some cats refuse to go to the bathroom in a covered box, so you may just end up trading one problem for another.
You could also set your cat litter box up high enough that it’s out of your dog’s reach, as long as your cat still has an easy way to get to it. This can be the easiest and most effective solution, but it can also backfire spectacularly. Some cats think it’s funny to push things off of high places to watch them break. If your cat gets it into their head to do this with the litter box, you could end up with quite a mess.
Train Your Dog
Training your dog not to go in the cats litter box is the most labor-intensive solution, but it also might be the most effective. To do this, you will need two different kinds of doggy treats. One should be something your dog loves much more than the other.
To train your dog to leave something alone, follow these instructions:
- Put the less yummy treat on the floor and cover it with something your dog can’t move, like your hand.
- Let your dog come up and sniff the treat, but don’t give it to them.
- When your dog gives up trying to get the treat and turns away, say, “Leave it.”
- Give your dog the yummier treat.
- Repeat this process a whole bunch of times. Start saying the “leave it” command earlier and earlier in the process and only give your dog the better treat if they turn away when you say the command.
- Eventually, you need to get your dog to the point where you can leave the first treat uncovered on the floor, and they won’t eat it if you give them the “leave it” command.
- Once your dog has become used to leaving the first treat alone on command, start giving the command whenever your dog starts going near the litter box.
Finding the best solution so your dog no longer eats out of the litter box will probably take some time. If you find that your canine friend has gotten into the litter box again, put them outside or in some other isolated location until you can get them cleaned up. After all, you don’t want your dog licking you, your kids, or your furniture after eating cat poo.
Once your dog is isolated, brush their teeth with dog toothpaste and a dog toothbrush (if your canine buddy will put up with it, of course!). If not, you can try washing out their mouth with a soft washcloth. In any event, give your dog plenty of water to drink, regroup, and try again!