If you have both cats and dogs at home, you’ve probably faced the not-so-pleasant issue of your dog sneaking into the cat’s litter box. Trust me, it’s a common problem and can be super frustrating for us pet owners.
Some dogs are naturally attracted to the smell of cat poop. That’s just how they are wired. But don’t worry, because in this article we go over just why that is, and then provide actionable items to tackle this problem so your furry pals can live in harmony and hygiene.
Understanding Why Dogs Get Into Litter Boxes
One minute you’re enjoying a peaceful afternoon, the next minute you’re chasing your dog away from the litter box. So why exactly does Spot seem so interested in what Miss Kitty leaves behind?
There’s actually quite a bit of science behind this puzzling unwanted behavior. Some experts believe that dogs raid litter boxes because cat stool has a strong smell. And let’s face it, dogs are notorious for being attracted to smelly things!
Another theory is that dogs might be trying to get at undigested bits of cat food within the cat poop (super gross, I know). It’s well known that dogs love fresh cat food, for its heavy fat and protein. Additionally, some pups may just be curious or like the taste – as much as we don’t want to think about it.
Dangers of Your Dogs Getting Into the Litter Box
Besides the ick factor, the fascination some dogs have with cat litter boxes can be genuinely dangerous.
Bacteria and Toxins
Cat waste is exactly that – waste. It’s packed full of bacteria and toxins which could lead to any number of health problems if consumed by your dog.
For instance, one common parasite found in cat feces is Toxoplasma gondii. This nasty little critter can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis which can lead to symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, internal parasites, and lethargy in dogs.
Digestive System Issues
Eating anything out of a litter box isn’t going to do wonders for your dog’s digestive system. Clumping cat litters can expand up to 15 times their original size when wet – imagine what that could do inside your pup’s tummy.
This bad habit can potentially cause blockages in their intestines or even more seriously – gastrointestinal obstruction. Symptoms might include vomiting, constipation or diarrhea along with abdominal pain.
It gets worse though; if left untreated these conditions could require surgery and may even prove fatal.
Proven Methods to Keep Dogs Out of the Litter Box
Now onto some good news – there are many tried and true methods you can use to discourage Spot from raiding the litter box:
Keep Your Cat’s Litter Box Clean
Keeping your cat’s litter box clean isn’t just a matter of hygiene. A clean litter box also one of the most effective ways to keep that pooch out of there. Dogs are naturally drawn to scents we’d rather they avoid. So, a dirty litter box? That’s practically an invitation!
Now, I’m not suggesting you scoop and vacuum every time your cat visits the litter box (like I do).
Overall, just make it a regular routine to scoop out what kitty leaves behind. A quick scoop in the morning and maybe another one at night if you’re up for it. I would prioritize scooping solids as soon as possible.
And let’s not forget about regular deep cleans either. Once every couple weeks or so should do the trick. This involves emptying out all litter and giving the box a good scrub down with soap and water or pet-safe disinfectant wipes.
Here are few other tips on maintaining that squeaky-clean status:
- Use clumping litter for easier scooping
- Invest in liners to make changing litter less messy
- Look into self-cleaning boxes if manual labor isn’t quite your thing
Switch to a Top-Entry or Self-Cleaning Litter Box
Consider investing in a top-entry litter box or automatic self-cleaning model. These dog-proof litter boxes make it physically difficult for dogs to get into them:
|Type||Why It Works|
|Top-entry||The opening is at the top making it hard for dogs who aren’t climbers|
|Self-cleaning||Automatically cleans after each use reducing “attractive” litter box odors|
Use a Covered Litter Box or Litter Box Enclosure
Switching to a covered litter box from a traditional litter box might just be your saving grace.
Covered litter boxes are great because they’re like little private bathrooms for our feline friends. They give block litter particles from getting out, provide cats privacy and, more importantly, keep dogs out.
Most of them come with a small opening that’s only big enough for a cat to enter. Good models will have a charcoal filter that absorbs odors so the inside stays fresh, too.
For those looking for an upgrade, there are even litter box enclosure or furniture pieces that can house a kitty litter box inside, totally well protected.
Elevated the Litter Box
One of my favorite tips for keeping dogs out of the litter box is to simply elevate it out of their reach. Cats are much better climbers than most dogs. That’s why elevating the litter box can be an effective solution.
You can place it on a stable piece of furniture where your cat can comfortably access it but your dog can’t. Just remember not to set it too high – we don’t want any acrobatic accidents.
Also, keep in mind that safety is key here. Make sure the structure is sturdy enough to handle your pet’s weight without tipping over.
Utilizing Pet Gates to Block Dog Access
A pet gate or baby gate is a lifesaver. They’re perfect for creating boundaries within your home especially around the litter box. Most cats are master jumpers and climbers that will easily scale over a gate, unlike dogs.
- Tip: Choose a pet gate that’s easy to step over for humans so you won’t have any trouble with it on a daily basis.
Below are some best practices:
First, location is key. Make sure you’re placing these where they’ll be most effective. For instance, if the litter box is in a specific room, put up a fence at the entrance so your dog can’t get in there.
Secondly, ensure that the size of the gate or barrier matches with your dog’s size. If it’s too low, your dog might jump over it; if it’s too small in width, he might squeeze past it. So take measurements before purchasing!
Here are few more points worth remembering:
- Always keep an eye on your pet initially to see if they are managing to bypass these fences or barriers.
- Remember to provide enough space for your cat (the legitimate user of the litter box!) to easily slip through, of needed.
Install a Cat Door
Sometimes, the easiest way to dog proof a litter box is by putting up a barrier. Now, I’m not talking about some fortress-type situation here. A simple cat door will do the trick.
Why a cat door, you ask? Well, it’s all in their build. Cats are generally more nimble and flexible than dogs. They can easily jump and squeeze through spaces that most dogs can’t – unless we’re talking about breeds like Chihuahuas or Dachshunds.
But if your pooch is on the larger side, a strategically placed cat door could be your ticket to freedom from this messy problem.
Consider installing a small pet door into an existing closet or room where you can place the litter box. This allows kitty to have her privacy while keeping Fido at bay.
Use a Dog-Proof Door Latch
One effective method is using a dog-proof chain or latch. These useful devices add an extra layer of security for dogs that won’t stay out of the litter box.
A dog-proof chain or latch works by adding an obstacle that only your cat can easily overcome. Cats are generally more agile and able to navigate such barriers with ease, whereas dogs… well, they’ll usually give up after a few failed attempts.
Now let’s talk installation. Most chains or latches can be easily attached to the door of the room where you keep the litter box. You’ll want to position it in such a way that leaves just enough space for your cat to slip through but not enough for Lucky (except small dogs),
Here are some benefits of using these tools:
- They’re affordable: Most chains and latches won’t break your bank.
- Easy installation: Even if you’re all thumbs, you should be able to install one without much hassle.
- Durable: They’re generally made from sturdy materials designed to withstand even determined chewers.
Ensure Your Dog is Mentally Stimulated
Here’s another crucial method to keep that curious canine out of the cat’s litter box – mental stimulation. When boredom strikes, dogs often resort to undesirable behaviors, which can include rummaging through a litter box.
How to tell if your pet pal needs more mental exercise? Some signs could be excessive barking or whining, destructive behavior, and restlessness. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it’s time to step up their mental workout schedule.
Interactive play and puzzle toys serve as great tools—they challenge Fido’s mind while also offering rewards. For example, Kong toys filled with treats can keep dogs occupied for hours!
Training sessions are another excellent way—teaching new commands or tricks keeps their brain active and builds a stronger bond between you both.
Another effective tactic I’ve tried is changing walking routes frequently. Dogs love exploring new environments—it gives them fresh scents and sights to investigate! This simple switch-up can do wonders in satisfying their natural curiosity.
Use a Muzzle
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting anything harsh here. Using a muzzle can actually be an effective method to keep your dog out of the litter box. But remember, it’s all about choosing the right kind and using it correctly.
But, let’s make sure we’re clear on something – muzzles are not cruel when used properly. They don’t cause pain or discomfort to your furry friend. In fact, they can often help prevent them from getting into mischief! And in this case, that mischief is your cat’s litter box.
So how should you go about it? Start by selecting a basket muzzle for your pooch. Here’s why:
- They allow dogs to pant, drink and take treats.
- They don’t restrict breathing.
- Dogs generally tolerate them well.
Once you’ve got your hands on one, introduce it slowly to your dog. Let him sniff around and get comfortable with it first before putting it on him. Make sure he associates the muzzle with positive experiences like treats or playtime.
However, keep in mind that this isn’t a long-term solution – just something temporary while you train him to stay away from the litter box entirely.
Train Your Dog Around the Litter Box
It’s crucial to make your dog understand that the litter box is not their territory.
Now you might be wondering how exactly do you achieve this? Well, through consistent commands and supervision. Every time you catch Fido sniffing around near the litter box, firmly say “No” or “Leave it.” Just remember – patience is key!
Distraction techniques work wonders when we’re trying to keep our dogs away from places they shouldn’t venture into. The goal here isn’t just getting them out of the area but also redirecting their interest elsewhere.
So next time Buddy starts inching towards the forbidden zone (aka the litter box), draw his attention with an exciting new toy or maybe some delicious treats he can’t resist! This will help him associate avoiding the litter box with positive experiences.
Lastly, let me introduce you all to my go-to method – reward-based training. It’s a simple yet effective way of teaching dogs desired behaviors using positive reinforcement.
In this context, every time Max ignores or walks away from the litter box on his own accord – shower him with praises and give him his favorite treat as a reward! Over time, he’ll start associating staying away from the litter box with receiving treats and praises.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.