Is it a good idea to prevent your dog from eating cat litter and your child from playing it in. We will talk about ways to prevent this from happening and the reason behind why they are eager to do so.
The reason that dogs are attracted to litter boxes is quite simple. Dogs have an innate drive to keep their environment clean even if it means that they have to eat their own feces. Dogs also happen to find cat feces delicious since it is high in minerals and protein.
The top reason that people want to teach their dog not to eat cat feces is because it is disgusting. Another good reason to prevent this behavior is because it can spread intestinal parasites. Although it is rare to see parasites if your animals are routinely dewormed, it is still good practice.
Do keep in mind that any obstacle you make for your dog from the litter box should create only minimal work for your cat. Too difficult of a litter box to locate can cause a cat to eliminate in places other than the litter box.
1. Limit Access With Baby Gates
The best method of choice is to simply limit the dog from accessing the part of the house that the litter boxes are kept in. A baby gate type system can be the best way to prevent the dog from getting to the boxes.
It is ideal to have the baby gate off of the floor by about 5 inches or so. You want the baby gate off the ground enough so the cat can get under it but the dogs cannot get through the bottom or over the gate.
Healthy cats and kittens can easily jump baby gates which is not a problem. You can add a step or jumping spot for your cat if he appears to have an issue with it.
2. Install a Door Strap or Door Lock
Another option is to have a door strap so your cat can still go through. A cat will be able to get through any surface that his head can fit through so keep that in mind. A small gap is all that is required for your cat so that the baby and dog are blocked off.
A door chain might also work for this. It is somewhat similar to a cat door method except it does not require cutting the door. All you have to do is drill a hole and install any door chain that is long enough to allow your cat to enter but short enough so the dog cannot. Have the chain attached to a hook so you go in and out of the room easily.
Door Buddy is one of my favorite brands to use for door straps. Peek A Boo brand and Latch’nVent are also very good alternatives to Door Buddy for door straps.
3. Utilize a Cat Door
A cat door may work if your dog or child is not so small that they can also go through the door. This works best for households who have large dogs such as a Labrador Retriever or a Husky.
A more expensive alternative is to purchase a cat door that works on detecting a microchip that you would have placed in your cat. I highly recommend this product if you have both curious children and small dogs as other alternative might be hard to utilize. This is probably the most effective yet expensive route of doing it with minimal work. Electronic cat doors will work with your cat’s existing microchip which makes it convenient for you.
4. Use a Hooded Litter Box
A hooded litter box can be used if you need to implement one. I recommend you find one that is 1.5 times the length of the cat or more. Watch your cat use the litter box to make sure he is comfortable with it as cats often have trouble with them.
You have to be careful with hooded litter boxes because they keep smell trapped inside and can create fear or stress for the cats. Click here to see why I do not recommend hooded litter boxes for routine use.
5. Electronic Litter Box
One extreme of dealing with litter consumption is with an automatic litter box. I rarely suggest an electronic litter box because they do not allow for accurate monitoring of urination habits. Electronic litter boxes may also scare your cat which could cause them to associate fear or pain with the litter box.
6. High Sided Litter Box
This is more ideal and better for your cat than an automatic litter box or a hooded litter box would be if you can find one that works. Get a litter box with high sides that only you cat can jump into and prevents the scatter of cat litter at the same time. The best place to purchase a high sided litter box is from Amazon or Petco.
You may purchase a clear Rubbermaid tote and cut a hole with a circular saw to make your own high sided litter box if you cannot locate a properly sized box. You can cut the hole in the front which is recommended or in the top if your cat is comfortable with hooded litter boxes.
7. Elevate The Box
You may try an elevated surface to keep your litter box away from the dog. Since cats are natural climbers, they usually eliminate on the ground level so this may work for some but not for others. This is one of the tactics that you will have to experiment with for your specific cat.
8. Keep The Box Clean
Scoop the box twice daily to maintain it. This is the sure fire way to prevent a dog from eating the litter box goodies. The average cat eliminates between two to four times a day so this is usually effective. You may change your cat’s diet since food that is more dense in calories will produce a smaller amount of feces each day.
9. Teach Your Dog Not To Ingest Litter
At a minimum it would be beneficial to teach your dog the sit, leave it, and drop it commands. Leave it would be for when he wants to get the feces, drop it for when you are too late to stop him. I like to use the sit command to keep the dog waiting while I am cleaning the litter boxes which teaches him not to enter the litter box room.
You can train your dog not to ingest cat litter or you can have a behaviorist help you. The idea is to redirect your dog’s attention to an area from the litter box when he attempts to visit.
You can call him to you when he enters the room that the litter box is in and praise him when he comes to you. You can throw a bouncy ball or rope toy after you have distracted him or command him to sit down before he fully enters the room. It is also effective to redirect him to his bed.
If the dog is about to consume but responds to your voice, simply yell “No” or “Leave it” and redirect him away. Do not appear to be aggressive or mean toward him. I do not advocate punishment type training, only positive reinforcement and praise. You just want to interrupt what he is about to do and replace it with a more acceptable behavior or ignore him after he has been interrupted.
Always be consistent in training your dog since any deviance can result in the behavior coming back. Any kind of training will take time and patience in order to see the final result that you are working.
10. Physical and Mental Exercise
Keeping your dog physically and mentally exercised might help to deter ingestion of cat feces by satisfying their high energy needs. Dogs that are bored or are not being exercised as often as they should may be the biggest culprits of feces ingestion. Walk your dog at least 2-3 times a day, 15-30 minutes each time and provide a variety of activities.
Activities can include but is not limited to the following:
- Puzzle feeder toys (can be left out)
- Obstacles courses
- Scent training
- Command training
- Dog play groups
The best way is to simply limit access since you never know what your dog will get into while you are gone. Scoop the litter boxes once you return home before or after you walk your dog and let him do his business.
Scooping twice a day and keep your litter box clan will also serve you will. Combining these techniques will lead the to most favorable outcome.