Of all the disgusting things dogs do, making a meal out of kitty litter is probably one of the worst, especially when it's used litter. Eating clean litter isn't too much of a problem, but if feces are present, the chances of your pup getting sick increase.
Used litter boxes aren't the most pleasant places for your dog to be stuffing his head into. But aside from being a bit smelly and foul-tasting, they're also potentially harmful. Plenty of parasites, from roundworms to giardia, keep on keeping on in your kitty's feces. So when your happy-go-lucky pup comes bouncing in for a litter treat, he can easily infect himself with parasites. Parasites can lead to a variety of symptoms, from upset stomachs and diarrhea to overeating or severe weight loss.
If your cat's litter box is free of feces, then your pup is probably free from the most alarming effects of litter dining, but he's not out of the woods yet. If he decides to eat just litter itself, or litter with urine, he's at risk of getting an upset tummy or a bout of diarrhea. In rare cases, he may develop a blockage in his intestines, but not only is that uncommon, it usually requires him to eat a ton of litter. As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes to alleviate the fears of pet owners, scoopable cat litter contains bentonite clay or silica, which cause little to no harm to your canine if ingested.
While it may sound disgusting, your pup might eat cat litter because it's something he enjoys doing or because he's bored out of his mind. The latter is something that usually happens when he's left alone. In other cases, litter eating is something puppies sometimes do and usually outgrow. If your little guy is sick to the point he is taking in very few nutrients or none at all, he might chow down on litter and cat feces, especially if he's really hungry because of the lack of nutrients. So a trip to the vet is always a good idea to rule out any medical conditions.
Stopping the Behavior
While putting a cone on your pup's head will thwart his attempts at eating cat litter, that's embarrassing and kind of over the line. Better to go with a different strategy, like putting a hood on the litter box, or buying a litter box where your kitty can enter from the top but your dog has no way to get to the tasty litter inside. Another option is to put the litter in a closed-off room or behind a gate. If you see your pup go to the litter, distract him by calling him. Make sure your little guy is crated when you leave or is left with plenty of toys and treat dispensers to choose from. Booby-trapping the area with something like aluminum cans isn't a good idea, because the traps might freak your cat out, and nobody wants to deal with urine and feces on the carpet.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Cat Litter
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Cat Litter: What to Choose When Cat Litter is On Your Shopping List
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Giardia in Cats
- University of California School of Veterinary Medicine: Coprophagy in Dogs
- Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images