It’s every pet owner’s nightmare: you come home from work to find that your dog has gotten into the cat’s litter box and made a huge mess.
Not only is it gross, but it can also be dangerous for your dog if they ingest any of the contents of the litter box.
So, how can you keep your dog away from the cat’s litter box? Here are a few tips.
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Why does my dog like cat poop so much?
Dogs eat animal poop, including cat poop, for multiple reasons. One of them is because they just like the taste of it.
While it sounds disgusting to us, some dogs just find cat poop irresistible.
Another reason is that cat food is usually high in protein and their poop can contain undigested protein making it an irresistible snack.
How to keep a dog out of the litter box
The good news is there are many ways to prevent your dog from litter box surfing. Each one comes with its pros and cons and not every method will work for your dog and cat.
When going through the list, consider your cat, your dog, and where the litter box is. And remember it may take some trial and error to find what will work best for your household.
Keep the cat litter boxes clean
This is the first step in preventing your dog from eating cat poop. Clean out the litter box often and make sure there isn’t anything left behind that would attract them.
The benefit of this method is it doesn’t cost anything or make it more difficult for you or your cat to move through the house.
The downside to this method is that it requires you to clean the litterbox every time your cat uses it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to clean the litter box every single time either of my cats uses it. Partially, because half the time, or more, I don’t know when they use it.
Teach the “Leave It” Command
The “leave it” command is a great way to tell your dog to leave something, like the litter box, alone.
The benefit to this, similar to the above, is that it costs nothing. Plus, teaching “leave it” is something that should be taught to a dog anyway to prevent them from getting things that could hurt them.
The downside is that if you have a dog like Morgan, “leave it” only matters if you are right there to say it and enforce it.
Morgan will leave the litter box if I am right there to tell her to leave it. As soon as no one is in sight, the litter box is fair game to her.
Use a pet gate or baby gate
One easy way to keep your dog out of the cat’s litter pan is to use a pet gate. You can just set it up in front of the door or area where the litter box is located.
The benefit of this method is that it’s very easy to do and doesn’t cost a lot either.
The downside to this method is that it can be inconvenient for you, your cat, and/or other humans in the house if you need to get into the room with the litter box on a regular basis.
One of our litter boxes is in the laundry room and I absolutely hate stepping over it every time I have to do a load of laundry. Especially when I’m carrying a basket full of clothes.
There are a couple of things to consider with using a baby gate to keep your dog out of the litter box. If you have a large dog, like Luna, will they jump over the gate?
Luna loves jumping over baby gates, especially in an indoor obstacle course. But, the funny thing is, she absolutely refuses to jump over the gate into the two rooms we have litter boxes.
The second thing to consider is your cat’s age and health. During the last year or so of my cat Allie’s life, she refused to jump the baby gate keeping the dogs out of her litter boxes. She would climb the gate, to get to the litter box, but then she would wait for someone to lift her back out.
I ended up putting a shoe box on one side of the gate to give her a boost to help her over the gate. This worked until I found something better for her.
Try a door latch
Another good idea is to use a door latch on the door to the litter box. The door latch that I use is the Door Buddy.
It is an adjustable door strap that is attached with a strong adhesive and latches into another piece that is attached to the door frame. This is actually what I switched to when Allie started struggling with the baby gate.
The benefit of this method is that it is simple to unlatch and relatch when you need to go in or out of the room. Another benefit is that it is great for those cats that don’t like to, or can’t, jump over a gate.
The downside of this is that it won’t work for all dogs. It only works for those whose dogs are larger than their cat. If you have a small dog or one that is smaller than the cat, then they will be able to get in just as easily as your cat.
It also won’t work for larger, aggressive dogs that have no problem running into a partially opened door. It works great for us because Luna won’t force her way in if there is any resistance on the door. But if she put her mind to it, I’m sure she could go right in.
Raise the litter box
Another option is to raise the litter box up off the floor. All you have to do is get the litter box higher than your dog’s head. This is easiest for those with smaller dogs.
Depending on how you raise it, you will also need something next to it for your cat to climb or jump on to get into and out of the litter box.
The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t affect your ability to get into or out of the room the litter box is in. It also may make cleaning the litter box easier as you won’t have to bend down or kneel to clean it.
The downside is that it requires a good deal of customization on your part and may not work for those in smaller homes.
There is also the possibility that your cat won’t want to use a litter box that has been raised.
Install a cat door
This is generally most people’s first or second idea when thinking about keeping their dog out of the litter box. It does require purchasing a small cat door and then cutting your door to install it.
The benefit of the cat door is that it doesn’t affect the human use of the door it’s installed on. It also will keep larger dogs out of the litter box.
The downsides of this are that it requires cutting the door and smaller dogs can still get through the door. Both of these have prevented me from trying this option.
My litter box surfer is small enough that she could probably squeeze through the standard-size cat door.
But the bigger reason I haven’t used this is that I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life in this house and I don’t want to have to replace the door to make my house more saleable.
Distract your dog
Another way to keep your dog away from the litter box is to distract them. The simplest way to do this is to give them something else to do when they go near the litter box.
This could be a toy or treat that you can throw across the room and have your dog chase after it instead of going for the litter box.
The advantage of this method is that it requires no extra equipment other than the toy or treat.
The downside is that it can be challenging to make sure you always have a toy or treat handy. And if you don’t, your dog may still go for the litter box despite your efforts.
Use a covered litter box
You can purchase a covered litter box at most stores that sell cat supplies, including Amazon and Chewy. Most come with a cover that latches onto the base of the litter box and has a door your cat has to go through.
These prevent some dogs from getting into the litter box by limiting the size of the opening to the litter.
The advantage of this is that it requires no additional items, just the litter box.
The downside is that it has a door on the litter box. Not all cats will want to use a litter box with a door.
I actually bought one of these when I adopted Tsuki and Howl because the litter box I ordered was delayed in shipping and it was the only style available in store. I ended up taking the door off because they didn’t seem to like using it with the door.
It’s also important to note that while these covered boxes can help keep most dogs out, some dogs may still be able to get in.
Try a dog-proof litter box
Another option is using dog-proof litter boxes for your cat. There are several styles you can try if this is the route you want to go.
These work to keep your dog out of them in a few different ways. One style has an opening on the top of the litter box, making it harder for your dog to get to the litter. Check out this one on Chewy or this one on Amazon.
Another style, like this one on Amazon, has a ramp for your cat to go up. The ramp makes it so the litter has to be farther from the opening which makes it harder for dogs to reach.
The third main style has the litter box hidden in a second area with a small opening for your cat, but not your dog, to get through.
The benefit to these is that you have nothing to buy other than the special litter box.
The downside is that these do tend to be more expensive than a traditional litter box. And it’s possible your cat won’t want to use these styles.
There is also the possibility that your dogs will still be able to get to the litter, though it will stop some dogs.
Try an automatic self-cleaning litter box
Another option is an auto-cleaning litter box. These are becoming more popular and there are many options on both Amazon and Chewy.
These work by automatically scooping the litter after your cat uses it and keeping it in a separate bin away from your pets.
The benefit here is that there isn’t cat waste immediately accessible to your dog making it less likely they will get into the box and make a mess.
The downside here is that these are generally more expensive than regular litter boxes. There is also a chance that your cat won’t want to use this type of litter box.
Keep your dog occupied
Another way to keep your dog out of the litter box is to make sure they’re getting enough exercise and mental stimulation. This can be as simple as taking them for walks or playing fetch in the yard.
The benefit here is that it will help tire out your dog so that they don’t have the energy or desire to get into the litter box.
The downside is that it may not deter a dog that really enjoys the taste of cat poop.
Keep an eye on your dog
The least expensive method to keep your dog out of the litter box is to simply watch them. This ensures that you can intervene right away if they start to approach the litter box.
The benefit here is that it’s a free and easy option. And if done correctly, should be able to train your dog not to go near the litter box.
The downside is that it takes time, dedication, and consistency to be successful. You also need to be aware of your dog’s behavior at all times.
If you don’t stay aware of your dog at all times, they may sneak away and get into the litter box. Morgan has done this on more than one occasion when we let our guard down. She is incredibly quick and quiet when she wants to be.
Visit the vet
Finally, if all else fails you may want to consider consulting your vet. They can check your dog to see if there is a medical problem that may be causing their interest in the litter box. They can also provide advice specific to your pet.
The benefit here is that you get professional advice tailored specifically to your pet from a trained expert.
The downside is that this can be expensive, depending on what tests and treatments your vet recommends.
Can eating cat poop make my dog sick?
Yes, eating cat poop can make a dog sick in certain situations. Cat feces can contain harmful bacteria and intestinal parasites that can cause gastrointestinal issues like digestive upset and diarrhea in dogs as well as other health problems.
The only good thing is that if your dog is eating your cat’s poop, you know the health of your cat. If your cat is not ill, the risk to your dog is significantly lowered.
When I first realized Morgan was eating Allie’s poop, I mentioned it to our vet. They said that while it’s a disgusting habit and should be stopped, Morgan would be fine because Allie was completely healthy at that time.
Now, our new cats have had tummy issues since we got them and after a couple of months of letting them adjust to their new home and adjusting their diet, the vet did some tests on their poop. The vet found a bacteria that is actually more common in dogs than cats.
They said that if our dogs had been eating their poop, they could also get this bacteria. Thankfully, we have found ways to keep them out of the litter box and neither of them has gotten sick.
So while, yes, dogs can get sick from eating cat poop, the cat has to be sick in order to spread that illness to the dog.
No one wants their dog in the cat litter box, it’s nasty and gross (though the dogs don’t seem to agree). Thankfully there are many methods that can be tried to keep your dog out of your cat’s litter box.
I, personally, prefer to use the door buddy or a gate along with the supervision of the litter box surfer. Morgan is not allowed to be anywhere in the house that doesn’t have a human in it.
She will take advantage of any chance she gets to get into the litter box. Along with that, she will eat anything that is left within her reach. Luna, on the other hand, is much more trustworthy and needs less supervision.
Try a few different methods and see what works for both your dog and your cat. I’m sure you can find something that works for both of them and keeps everyone happy.
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