Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop? Decoding Canine Cat Poop Cravings

Dog Behavior, Dogs

Last Updated - December 12, 2023

Home / Dogs / Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop? Decoding Canine Cat Poop Cravings

Have you ever witnessed your beloved pet indulging in what appears to be the most unappetizing snack imaginable—cat feces? It's a peculiar and (dare we say?) gross habit that leaves many dog owners scratching their heads. In the canine world, this behavior has earned the not-so-fancy name "coprophagia." But why on earth does your dog eat cat poop? Is it simply a canine culinary curiosity, or does it signify something more?

If you are wondering why dogs eat feces, you are in the right place. In this post, we will delve into the answer to that intriguing question: "Why do dogs eat cat poop?" - and how you can curb this disgusting dog-eating-cat-poop behavior.

Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

Before you can determine the best way to prevent your dog from eating cat poop, you need to ascertain why your dog is eating cat poop in the first place. There are many reasons dogs eat cat poop. To a dog's mind, it's not gross at all! Once you learn why your particular dog is eating cat poop, you can better stop the behavior.


Dogs are natural scavengers, and this animal behavior may have roots in their ancestral past. Before dogs were domesticated, their ancestors were opportunistic scavengers and hunters. In the wild, they had to rely on whatever food sources they could find - even if it meant consuming the feces of other animals. This instinctual behavior may still be present in some dogs today, causing them to view cat poop as a potential source of nutrients or an interesting curiosity.

Taste and Smell

Dogs possess a much more acute sense of smell compared to humans. Their olfactory receptors are finely tuned to detect various scents, and they can differentiate between odors in ways that are nearly impossible for us to comprehend. What might be an offensive smell to us could have an entirely different appeal to a dog! In short - cat poop actually smells appetizing to a dog!

In addition, while dogs have fewer taste buds than humans, they are more sensitive to certain flavors. Dogs are recognized for their inclination towards robust and pungent flavors, such as those found in feces. Cat poop may also contain remnants of undigested food. A decent amount of cat food remaining undigested in their poop will make the poop smell like cat food to dogs.


Dogs are naturally curious animals. They explore their environment with their noses and mouths, and this curiosity can extend to unusual things they find, such as cat poop. They might consume cat poop on occasion simply because it's available, with no particular motive. Then, if they find it interesting, they might continue eating cat poop. It provides physical and mental stimulation!


Dogs are masters at gauging their owner's reactions. If your dog discovers that eating cat poop grabs your attention, whether it's scolding or trying to stop them, they may continue doing it to gain your focus. Remember that dogs don't necessarily distinguish between positive and negative attention! They simply want your interaction and engagement.

Dietary Deficiencies

Sometimes, dogs may resort to eating cat poop because they are lacking essential nutrients in their diet. If your dog isn't getting a balanced and complete diet, they may be compelled to seek alternative sources of nutrition. To tackle this issue, ensuring your dog is on a suitable diet that fulfills their nutritional requirements is crucial. Consulting with your veterinarian can help determine if a dietary adjustment is necessary.

Anxiety or Stress

Just like humans, dogs can experience stress and anxiety. In some cases, they may resort to eating cat poop as a coping mechanism when they are feeling anxious, bored, or even when they're experiencing separation anxiety. This behavior can provide temporary relief or distraction from their emotional state, much like how humans might engage in stress-eating. Breaking this habit can be challenging.

Learned Behavior

Dogs are highly observant and social creatures. They learn through their environment and their interactions. If a dog sees a cat using the litter box, they might mimic the behavior out of curiosity. Once the dog eats cat poop once and discovers the taste, they may continue the habit.

If your dog sees other dogs eat cat poop without negative consequences, they might be more inclined to try it themselves. This is a normal behavior of social bonding in a group of dogs, but it can lead to a cycle where multiple dogs in a household engage in coprophagia.

Environmental Factors

Sometimes, the environment plays a role. If litter boxes are easily accessible to your dog, they may see them as a convenient and consistent source of what they perceive as a "treat." Remember, cat poop smells and tastes appetizing to your dog! Placing litter boxes in areas off-limits to your dog can help mitigate this issue.

Medical Conditions

When dogs eat cat poop consistently, it can cause concern and indicate an underlying medical condition or issue.

If you notice your dog eating poop regularly or if they exhibit any unusual symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, or changes in appetite, it's crucial to consult with a veterinarian.

A veterinarian can conduct a comprehensive examination, perform diagnostic tests, and identify the underlying cause of this behavior. Treatment will depend on the specific condition or issue diagnosed. It may include dietary adjustments, medication, behavioral modification, balancing your dog's diet, or other interventions to address both the medical and behavioral aspects of the problem.

Here are some potential medical conditions or problems associated with dogs eating cat poop:

Gastrointestinal Issues

A dog eating cat poop frequently can lead to gastrointestinal upset. The cat's feces may contain harmful bacteria, intestinal parasites, or pathogens that can cause digestive problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach discomfort in dogs.

Parasitic Infections

Cats are susceptible to certain parasites like tapeworms; their feces can contain tapeworm eggs. If you let your dog eat cat poop, they may contract tapeworms or other parasites, leading to health issues.

Nutritional Deficiencies

The act of a dog eating poop may indicate an attempt to compensate for nutritional deficiencies in their diet. If your dog is not receiving a well-balanced diet, they might be seeking additional nutrients from the cat poop.

Malabsorption Disorders

Some dogs suffer from poor intestinal absorption, which hinders their ability to absorb nutrients properly from their food. In such cases, they may seek out alternative sources of nutrients. This behavior may drive the dog to consume cat poop directly from a litter box.

Dental Problems

Dogs with dental issues or oral discomfort might eat cat poop as a way to soothe their discomfort. This is somewhat common with senior dogs. Dental problems can lead to difficulty chewing or swallowing, and eating feces from a litter box seems easier on their teeth and gums than eating hard kibble.

Pancreatic Insufficiency

Some dogs with pancreatic insufficiency may seek out eating cat feces due to difficulties digesting and absorbing food properly.

Boredom and Loneliness

Dogs that are left alone for long periods or not mentally and physically stimulated enough may engage in undesirable behaviors to pass the time or alleviate boredom. This behavior may involve the dog eating poop directly from the litter box. Ensuring your dog receives enough exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship can help reduce such behaviors.

Social Hierarchy and Dominance

Dogs are pack animals with inherent social hierarchies and dynamics of dominance. Eating cat litter can sometimes be linked to social hierarchy and dominance issues in a multi-pet household, especially one with both dogs and cats. In multi-pet households, the interaction between pets can be complex. Some dogs may eat cat litter to exert control over the environment, particularly if they feel threatened or challenged by the presence of cats.

Tips To Stop Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop

You should now have a decent answer to the question, "Why does my dog eat cat poop?" With this information, you can now develop a strategy to prevent your dog from eating cat poop!

Keep Litter Boxes Out Of Reach

Place the cat's litter box in an inaccessible location to your dog. Poop-eating behavior can't continue if the dog can't access the poop in the first place! Implementing baby gates or barriers can help establish a cat-only zone, preventing your dog from accessing areas where cat poop might be present. Ensure the cat can access the box while keeping it off-limits to your dog.

Clean Up Promptly

Ensure to scoop the cat's litter box daily to promptly remove waste, minimizing the opportunity for your dog to indulge in undesirable snacking. For most dogs, it is the smell of the poop that is most enticing. Scooping the poop from the litter box asap minimizes the temptation for your dog and helps keep the area clean.

Train the "Leave It" Command

Train your dog to respond to the "leave it" command, providing a useful tool to deter them from approaching or consuming cat poop. This command can be invaluable in redirecting their attention away from undesirable items. Practice this command consistently during training sessions. It's much more effective for pet owners to have an obedient dog than to try to dog-proof the entire world. Besides, if you take your dog on walks, you have more than just the litter box to worry about. There are many neighborhood cats leaving poop everywhere!

Health Check

If your dog's poop-eating behavior is sudden or extreme, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying hormonal or endocrine imbalances or other medical issues that may be driving your dog's behavior.

Get Dog-Proof Litter Boxes

If your dog eats cat poop, opt for a covered cat litter box, a litter box robot, or a hidden cat box furniture. These are the best dog-proof litter box smart solutions for households with dogs and cats. These boxes are designed to keep your dog from accessing the cat's litter while allowing your cat to use it comfortably.

Is Eating Cat Poop Bad For Dog Health?

Eating cat poop can be harmful to a dog's health due to several reasons, making your dog sick.

  1. It may contain intestinal parasites like Toxoplasma gondii and tapeworm eggs, potentially leading to parasitic infections and gastrointestinal distress.
  2. Dogs may seek cat feces for nutrients, resulting in a nutritional imbalance in the dog's diet.
  3. Diseases like feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus can be transmitted if the cat has an infectious disease.
  4. Behavioral issues may arise, such as stress or compulsive behavior.

It's also harmful for dogs to eat cat litter, with or without poop involved. Clumping cat litter forms solid clumps upon contact with moisture, and if ingested, it can potentially obstruct the dog's digestive tract. This may lead to severe health issues, requiring immediate veterinary attention. This is why it's important to keep your dog from eating from the cat litter tray, even if you keep the litter box clean of cat poop.

To safeguard dog health, it's crucial to prevent dogs from accessing and eating cat poop - and to seek veterinary advice if ingestion occurs.

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About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.