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When out in the yard with your dog, you may have asked yourself, “Why do dogs eat cat poop?” In fact, while it may sound disgusting, dogs eat cat poop as a result of natural canine behavior. When it comes down to it, dogs like to eat something with a strong smell, like that of cat poop, or even better, cat food.

The Science Behind Why Dogs Eat Cat Poop

Many dogs enjoy eating all kinds of poop, much to our disgust. This behavior is totally natural, since dogs are scavengers by nature. That being said, dogs eat all kinds of things that aren’t healthy for them, like garbage, carpet, rocks, and more. Cat poop is just another thing to scavenge and eat.

While you might think cat poop smells gross, it probably smells like cat food to your dog. Since normal cat food appeals to a dog’s sense of smell, and many dogs love to eat cat food, this may be one of the reasons why they’re often ready to snack out of the litter box.

Eating poop, a habit called coprophagia, can be the result of a dietary deficiency. But in most cases, it is just the product of canine exploration, which can become a bad habit. Additionally, normal maternal behavior for dogs includes the consumption of feces and urine of young puppies.

Is Cat Poop Bad for Dogs?

It’s gross, but is eating cat poop actually bad for dogs? It can be. While many dogs eat cat poop, and they’re fine, eating any poop carries the potential for the dog to contract harmful bacteria and parasites. Some of these bacteria, like salmonella, for example, can be transmitted to humans, as well

Furthermore, dogs can contract several different species of internal parasites from cat poop.  And just because your cat isn’t showing signs of a parasite infection, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

American Staffordshire Terrier lying outdoors next to a kitten that is playing with the dog's nose.
©Grigorita Ko -

Additionally, cat litter can be problematic for dogs if they eat it in large quantities. The good news is that most dogs would have to eat a lot of litter before it could cause a blockage. If your dog has eaten cat litter or clumping cat litter, keep an eye on them. If they have normal bowel movements, they’re probably fine. But if your dog appears to have difficulty pooping, does not poop, or if their poop is abnormal, you should call your veterinarian.

Despite these risks, in most cases, your dog won’t suffer any health consequences from eating cat poop. However, for you and your dog’s health, eating cat poop is one habit your dog definitely should kick.

How to Prevent Your Dog From Eating Cat Poop

The easiest way to prevent your dog from eating cat poop, according to veterinarians, is to place the cat litter box in a spot where your dog can’t access it. Dog gates are great at keeping dogs out without getting in your cat’s way and can also give your cats space of their own.

If you can’t keep your dog away from the litter box, you can invest in a covered cat litter box with a closed top or a “dog-proof” top-entry cat litter box that makes it harder for dogs to get in.

Sometimes, the cat poop in question is out of your control. If neighborhood cats are pooping in your yard, there is little you can do to prevent your dog from eating it, other than trying to repel the cats from your yard in the first place. If this is the case, take your dog in for regular visits to the veterinarian to make sure they haven’t contracted any internal parasites from their scavenging.

Coprophagia is disgusting, but eating cat poop does not necessarily mean there is something wrong with your dog. This natural behavior does come with some risks, however, so do your best to prevent it by using these tips, and contact your veterinarian for further advice.

Related article: Why Does My Dog Eat Dirt?
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