Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

cat squatting in litterbox

If a dog is eating cat poop, whether it’s out of the litter box or when your dog finds cat poo outdoors, it’ll often leave its owner wondering — why?

Not just why, but how common it is, if it’s bad for their dog, and most importantly how to stop their dog from eating cat poop. If your dog is eating poop — be it cat litter or just cat poo, these are important aspects to consider, and questions you should know the answer to.

Because of this, it’s crucial to know the science behind why dogs like cat poo, and just poop eating in general. Knowing about this, as well as how you can stop your dog from eating the cat litter or cat poo they find, will give you a greater understanding of your pet.

The Science of Dogs Eating Cat Poop

The reason why your dog may be likely to construct its own feast out of cat poop is actually because of its nature. Although eating cat poop is disgusting to us, for dogs, it seems totally normal and is actually an evolutionary result of your dog being a descendant of scavengers.

The scavenger, such as the vulture or similar animal (and in this case dog) actually feeds on remains, or “scavenges”, for their food. Because of this, dogs — whose ancestors had to scavenge to survive — naturally possess these qualities and are likely to exhibit similar behaviors. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean cat feces are the only thing your dog is going to scavenge for — this is just one of the items on a very long list. Be it cat feces, random scraps of food, or even cat food, it’s likely that your dog will attempt to scavenge in one way or another.

The scientific term for the desire to eat feces is called coprophagia. Interestingly, there are multiple animal species that exhibit coprophagia, so your dog is hardly alone with this desire. With that being said, the natural science behind this habit of eating poop doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog.

happy chihuahua puppy carrying dog poop in mouth, running outdoors

How Common Is It for Your Dog to Eat Cat Poop?

Well, the short answer to this is that almost every dog has the ability to try to eat cat poop for one reason or another. Because this is much more of a hereditary or evolutionary trait than a learned trait, your dog doesn’t just pick this habit up from other dogs or have a sudden desire to eat cat poop. Even beyond this, there’s a possibility that your dog may want to eat kitty litter for another reason as well.

Suffice it to say it’s highly unlikely that your dog doesn’t even have the urge to eat cat poop, even if they are well trained and know to behave themselves, or even completely ignore any cat poop they come across. Beyond that, however, there are multiple reasons your dog may want to eat cat poop, and each of these reasons is important to consider if you need to train your dog to stop eating cat poop.

If your dog eats cat feces for health or medical reasons, for example, this could lead to different training and medical treatment rather than just the behavior correction needed for behavior issues.

Instinct

The first, and most likely the instigator for any desire to eat cat feces or kitty litter, is instinct. Basically, this means that your dog is very likely to be born with an innate instinct to scavenge, and poop is just one of the items which your dog may attempt to eat.

Behavior Issues

If your dog is allowed to continue eating cat feces or has been allowed to do this in the past, this may cause behavioral issues as well. Basically, this means that your dog may come to see finding the cat poop in a litter box as a reward rather than something it should avoid.

Although clearly, as a dog owner, you may want your dog to avoid eating cat poop, the cat litter box seems, to the dog at least, to be a reward any time it is accessed.

Another behavioral issue that may cause your dog to engage in the act of eating feces is boredom. If your dog has too much time and expends too little energy, or is left alone for too long, it’s very likely that your dog will get into things he or she shouldn’t. One day it’s eating a couch cushion, the next it’s treating Mr. Mittins’ litter box like a Golden Corral. Neither is wanted, but one is especially troubling.

Because your pet can get just as bored, if not more, as you do, it’s no surprise that sometimes one of the things dogs will “get into” is scavenging through the cat litter for some poop.

Finally, your dog may be drawn to eating cat feces during periods of sensory overload. Basically, this means that when your dog may be stressed or have similar sensory overload, your dog may either begin old habits or start habits that are ingrained through an evolutionary trail.

Dog lying next to a chewed up remote and phone

Medical Issues

Finally, your dog eating cat poop may actually be a result of medical issues. Although this is much less common than eating cat feces because of instinct or behavioral issues, your dog may exhibit a tendency to seek cat poo or something similar for a medical reason.

The most common issue which causes dogs to eat feces is actually nutritional deficiency. This can be caused by either not being on the correct diet or being on a homemade diet of some sort that has a deficiency in some manner. It’s always important to consider that a dog that is eating cat poop may just need to follow some of the correct nutritional tips for dogs.

Another issue that may drive dogs to eat feces may actually be intestinal parasites, which will cause side effects and changes, leading to your dog digging through the kitty litter instead of their dog food.

This is obviously an issue, so it’s important to treat these intestinal parasites or any nutritional deficiency if your dog exhibits a likelihood of either of these things.

Medical issues which cause your dog to eat cat poop can be dangerous for your dog even beyond this habit, so it’s important to seek professional medical help if you believe this may be the case.

Is Eating Cat Poop Bad for Your Dog?

A common question that many people will have is if eating cat poop is actually bad for their dog? After all, if this is a natural, evolutionary habit, isn’t there a chance there are no ill side effects?

The answer is that eating cat poop, although it’s natural your dog may attempt to do so, can also be dangerous for your pet and corrective measures should be taken in order to help your dog stop eating feces.

It’s definitely a disgusting habit, but the negatives don’t just end there. Keep in mind that although this habit may not be harmful to every dog, there is a chance of contracting dangerous diseases or parasites from eating cat feces. Especially cat poop found outdoors; who knows what’s going on in that clump of poop.

Can Your Dog Get Sick Eating Cat Poop?

A question that many dog owners have is if their dog can get sick directly from eating cat poop. The answer, clearly, is yes — but with that being said, it’s important to realize that in many cases consuming fecal matter may be a symptom, not a cause.

A good thing to consider is that your dog may have a preexisting condition, which would mean that your dog is already sick, and this may cause it to eat cat poop.

This can be something such as internal parasites, a nutritional deficiency, or some other form of harmful bacteria.

Remember that if your dog is scavenging through a litter box, it’s important to realize that this may be a habit that needs to be rectified, but it also may mean that your dog is either sick or in pain.

If this is the case, it’s important to seek medical help for your pet. Although eating cat feces can definitely cause sickness and shouldn’t be encouraged, it’s also important to stop to consider why your dog is eating cat poop in the first place, especially if it’s a suddenly appearing habit.

Dark brown old dog sleeping or sick

How to Stop Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop

Stopping your dog from eating cat poop can be incredibly simple and easy in some situations, and incredibly complex in others. Ultimately, it may be as easy as cleaning the kitty litter box, or it may be something as important and urgent as taking your pet to the vet.

No matter how you stop your dog from eating cat poop, it is important to rectify that habit. Because of this, using some of the most common methods which will help your dog break this habit can be important.

Clean the Litter Box

Making sure that you clean the litter box frequently is one of the easiest methods you can use to ensure that your dog doesn’t eat cat poo. Remember that this may be a habitual aspect of your dog’s life, and removing the enabler (in this case, the cat poo) can cause your dog to overcome this habit easily and quickly in many cases.

Because of this, it’s important to consider that you can clean your kitty litter out and ensure that the cat litter box is frequently cleaned in order to stop your dog from eating cat poop.

By doing this, you can easily ensure that your dog doesn’t have any tempting substances easily accessible, and in many cases, this may result in your dog ceasing to exhibit the tendency to eat fecal matter.

Keep Your Dog on a Leash

Similarly, if you find that your dog is scavenging for cat poop during walks or visits to a park or lake, an easy way you can stop your dog from doing this may be to keep it on a leash.

An important thing to keep in mind is that because dogs are scavengers when they are allowed to roam or scavenge their instincts may take over, which may result in negative habits such as the consumption of cat poop.

As a pet owner, it’s important to make sure that your dog doesn’t get away with this and to rectify any negative habits this has caused quickly.

In order to do this, it may be as simple as keeping your dog on a leash.

woman walking a scruffy dog on a leash through tall grass

Use Good Reinforcement Methods

Using good and positive reinforcement methods may be the key to resolving your dog’s negative habits. Keep in mind that there is a distinction between using positive reinforcement methods and negative reinforcement methods. In all actuality, using negative methods can actually make your dog rebel and end up causing more harm than good. If a dog owner uses negative reinforcement methods, it can result in their pet’s habit growing stronger, if anything.

Because of this, it’s crucial to use good reinforcement methods in order to rectify any habit your dog may have. By doing this, you will help your dog learn, set your dog up for future learning and make it easier for your dog to break future negative habits, and resolve the current negative habit — such as eating cat poop — more successfully.

Keep an Eye on Your Dog

Keeping an eye on your dog is another aspect that may result in your pet’s negative habit being fixed. In order to keep your dog away from any fecal matter, and rectify any attempted consumption of fecal matter, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog at all times.

In doing so, you’ll be able to ensure that when your dog does attempt to eat cat poo and scavenge through the kitty litter, you’re able to both observe and try to determine why your dog is acting as it is, but also use positive reinforcement methods to help your dog break this habit.

Make Sure to Feed Your Dog

Making sure to feed your dog can be a crucial aspect of ensuring that your dog doesn’t turn to scavenging to feed itself. If your dog does exhibit signs of scavenging or similar habits, this may just be a result of not getting enough food. Because of this, it’s always important to make sure you know how much to feed your dog.

Feeding your dog the proper amount is crucial to keeping your pet healthy, as well as keeping it away from the kitty litter box. Your dog’s diet is important as well, so it’s good to consider what you’re feeding your dog as well in order to avoid any nutritional deficiency.

man giving a Jack Russell Terrier a bowl of food

Take Your Dog to the Vet

It’s very important to know how to keep your dog healthy, as well as the signs of when your dog isn’t healthy or is in pain. Knowing how to determine if your dog is healthy or not is incredibly important, and in some cases may be the difference between life and death for your dog.

If your dog has recently begun a habit of eating stool, it’s important to consider if you need to take your pet to the vet to solve this issue. It may be a simple dietary concern, but your dog may also have a much more serious health condition that is causing it to consume fecal matter.

Because of this, there are some cases where taking your dog to the vet to make sure that it isn’t drawn to the cat litter box for a medical reason is crucial.

Reevaluate Your Dog’s Diet

Finally, you can try reevaluating your dog’s diet if nothing else seems to be successful. If need be, you can even consult with a veterinarian or similar medical professional in order to develop a custom dietary plan for your dog.

Remember that your dog’s diet is an incredibly important aspect of its health. As a dog owner, feeding your dog properly can be an incredibly complex responsibility, and it’s important to consider if the food you’re feeding your dog is nutritionally balanced as well.

If there are concerns about this, it’s a good idea to switch up your dog’s food or feeding schedule if needed in order to see if this can solve any issues your dog may have, or any negative habits your dog exhibits.

Dog dressed as a pig with a sign that says I ATE POOP

Natural, But Not Necessary

Ultimately, although it is entirely natural in many cases for your dog to try to eat cat poop, it’s good to remember that it’s not necessary for your dog to do so. Because of this, rectifying this habit is crucial to the health of your dog.

So why do dogs eat cat poop? Well, there are many reasons — from health reasons to habits, or even just behavioral issues. Undoubtedly, though, no matter the specific reason, this habit does need to be solved in order to ensure that no harm befalls your dog.

Eating fecal matter may be natural for your dog, but it can be equally as dangerous, causing your dog to be exposed to harmful bacteria, worms, or worse. Take cat poop off the menu, their breath and your nose will thank you.

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