My dog regularly raids the catís litter box, a habit
that I find disgusting. Why does she do this, and how
can I get her to stop?
Youíre right, Rhonda, it is a disgusting habit from
our standpoint. Who knows, perhaps our dogs find it just
as bewildering that we donít join in. This is clearly
one of those species-specific behaviors ó normal for
dogs to do and normal for us to find revolting.
shouldnít be a cause of concern from a health
standpoint ó coprophagia, the medical term for this
behavior, is quite common and rarely a sign of a medical
issue. Ordinary reasons for dogs to do this include
learning the behavior from other dogs, being on a diet
(causing an increase in hunger) and generally liking the
taste. Extraordinary reasons can include severe
malnutrition or starvation and severe pancreatic
insufficiency; none of these are likely the cause in
your situation. There is a "normal" time for
dogs to do this; when females have a litter of pups,
instinct drives them to consume the puppiesí
any case, this is less of a training issue and more of a
management one. Why? Because your options in terms of
training this behavior away are limited and not very
effective. The first option is to purchase a product,
available from your veterinarian, that you would add to
the catís food to change the taste of its stool in the
hopes that your dog would no longer find it appealing.
Once the cat is ingesting this product, you would want
to leave plenty of stool available for the dog to try,
in the hopes that she would consistently find it
distasteful and decide to stop raiding the litter box.
The second option would be for you to stand guard over
the litter box to redirect the dog away from it anytime
she goes near it. No matter how effective you are with
this message, she is likely to go back to the litter box
in your absence.
makes the most sense in this scenario is management, or
manipulating the environment in such a way as to make
the behavior impossible for your dog to accomplish. This
is where you can get creative.
possible solution is to simply place the litter box off
the floor, out of the reach of your dog. I have the same
issue with my dogs. My solution was to purchase a litter
box with a cover, and I placed it on the floor, turning
it around so the entrance was just a few inches from the
back wall. My kitty is small, so she can easily get in,
but my dogs are too large to do the same. I have a
friend who placed her catís food, water and litter box
in the laundry room, and then installed a cat door. The
laundry room door remains closed at all times; the cats
are free to enter and exit, but her dogs canít get in.
Another option would be to install a baby gate, as long
as your cat is agile enough to easily get over it to
gain access to the litter box, while the dogís access
get your creative juices flowing, Rhonda, and figure out
a way to permanently deprive your dog access to the box,
with the understanding that itís perfectly normal for
your dog to do this and equally normal for you to be
disgusted by it!