Dogs are inquisitive, fun-loving animals that make wonderful companions. However, their curiosity can sometimes get them into trouble! Dogs love to explore, which is part of what makes them so endearing. But what do you do when your canine companion keeps getting into your cat’s litter box and making a mess? Read on to find out.
So, how can you keep a dog out of the litter box? You can keep your dog away from the cat’s litter box by placing it in a room that’s off-limits to the dog. Alternatively, you can train your dog to leave it alone with positive reinforcement. If your dog is prone to digging in the litter box, try creating a digging area in your garden or redirect the behavior with chew toys and extra walks.
Before we delve into these solutions in much greater detail, let us first look at why a dog would even want to mess around in a litter box anyway.
Besides, we all know that the best solutions address the root cause.
So let’s start there, shall we?
Why Does Your Dog Keep Going In The Litter Box?
Your dog could be getting into the cat’s litter box for several reasons. One of the main ones is boredom. If your dog isn’t getting enough mental and physical stimulation, they may decide that the litter box is a fun toy to play with.
What’s better for a dog than digging around in substrate? Especially when they are bored or not much is going on.
To combat this issue, you need to make sure you’re offering plenty of play opportunities, including regular walks, playing catch in the garden, or a good old-fashioned game of chase.
If you are out at work all day, a dog walker can be your best friend, and your dog will love the extra attention.
Bear in mind that a dog should never be left alone for longer than 8-10 hours.
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety or bladder issues may need to be checked in on more often.
You can also keep your dog stimulated by offering Kong toys or interactive feeders to keep their minds busy.
There are hundreds of products on the market to choose from, including puzzle balls and interactive plush toys.
So, think about your dog’s personality before deciding on the best interactive toys to offer.
Remember to spend some time introducing your dog to his new toy to show him how it works!
Attractive Place To Dig
Aside from boredom, some dogs will be attracted to the litter tray because it looks like a good digging spot.
Certain breeds have a natural instinct to dig because they were originally used as fox hunters or rat catchers.
These include pinschers, terriers, and beagles. Heavy-coated spitz-like breeds such as Chow Chows and huskies are also natural diggers because they used to dig holes in the earth to keep themselves cool in hot weather.
All of these breeds are more likely to be fascinated by your cat’s litter tray!
However, because digging is a natural instinct, it can be hard to tame.
Instead, try redirecting the behavior by offering more chew toys or maintaining an area in your garden for your dog to have fun in!
The other reason your dog may be digging in your cat’s litter tray is a little ickier – coprophagy.
Dogs are scavengers, so they will eat almost anything, including poop! The reason they are attracted to cat poop is that cats have a shorter digestive tract, meaning more nutrients are retained in their feces.
Cats also live on a high protein diet, so their poop simply tastes good to your canine! This may sound disgusting, but it’s a perfectly normal doggy behavior.
Your dog could also be suffering from a nutritional deficiency that can cause him to start searching for much-needed vitamins in your cat’s litter tray.
The most crucial vitamins dogs need in their diets are vitamins A, D, B, and E2 (Riboflavin).
Most commercial dog foods contain limited amounts of these nutrients, but you may also need to add supplements to ensure they get enough.
A deficiency can show as lethargy, excessive thirst, and weight loss. It can also cause joint problems, particularly in older dogs.
Why You Need To Keep Your Dog Out Of the Litter Box
Your dog needs to be kept out of the cat’s litter box because felines carry diseases that can be harmful to canines. This is especially important if you own an outdoor cat because they are more likely to pick up unwanted parasites and bacteria.
Cat poop may contain salmonella, worms, and toxoplasmosis, which can all be passed onto humans too.
It may also contain campylobacter and clostridia, which can both cause severe diarrhea in dogs.
Even if your dog isn’t eating poop, he can still get ill from ingesting too much litter because it can cause intestinal blockages.
So, if your dog’s poop is starting to look abnormal, it’s best to get them to a vet.
All cat litter, whether clumping or non-clumping, has liquid-absorbing properties that can cause irritation as it passes through your dog’s digestive tract. This can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal distention (also known as ‘bloat’)
A lot of litter brands also add perfumes and deodorizers to mask unpleasant smells.
These can cause toxicity in dogs if too much is ingested. In addition, some dogs may have allergic reactions to some of the ingredients in cat litter.
So, what if your dog is not ingesting anything and simply flinging litter around just for fun?
Well, this still needs to be discouraged and not just because it makes a mess!
Cats are territorial animals that like their own space. Have you ever seen your cat rubbing his face on your leg or the sofa?
By doing this, they are releasing unique pheromones from specific facial glands. In the wild, cats would use these glands to leave their scent on trees and other items to mark their territory.
To your cat, the litter tray is part of their territory. So, if there is constantly a dog scent on it, your cat may refuse to use it all together!
How To Keep Your Dog Out Of The Litter Box
There are numerous ways you can keep your dog out of the litter box, depending on your situation.
Purchase A Covered Litter Box
Perhaps the simplest solution is to purchase a covered litter tray for your cat.
Many litter trays now come with hoods.
So, they can only be accessed by pushing open the small front flap.
This solution gives your cat more privacy to do their business, but not all cats will accept this change.
Bigger dogs may also be able to knock the hood off and still be able to dig in the litter.
So be sure you opt for a well-designed and secure option, like this:
- KEEP LITTER IN THE BOX, NOT ON THE FLOOR: Unique, patented, clean step entrance captures litter scatter by wiping cat's paws as they step. The dome litter box is 50% larger than the average cat box, but built-in handle makes it easy to clean and move.
- MINIMIZE ODOR: A charcoal filter minimizes unwanted odors to keep your home as fresh and clean as possible, even in a multi cat household. Replacement filters and litter box liners are sold separately. Also, check out our cat litter scoop and cat litter mat selection
- MADE WITH RECYCLED MATERIALS: Petmate is not just a friend of furry family members, but the environment too. We produce eco-friendly, sustainable, recyclable products from kennels to litter boxes and many in between.
- FOR ALL PETS AND SIZES: Ideal for dog litter box, puppy litter box, rabbit litter box, ferret litter box. A must have for your pet supplies for any indoor pet that is housebreaking or potty trained. Less expensive than puppy pads.
- USE YOUR FAVORITE LITTER: Great for pine litter, crystal cat litter, pellets for cat litter box and clumping cat litter. We suggest Arm & Hammer Slide.
Here are some other options to try:
Install A ‘Doggy’ Gate
Try giving your cat a private room that’s off-limits to your dog.
Set up a small room with a litter tray, cat post, toys, food/water bowls, and a comfy bed.
Then install a baby gate to prevent your dog from entering.
This way, your cat will feel safe in his own territory, and your dog won’t be able to dig around in the litter tray.
- [Worry-Free Safety]: Keep your pet safe and contained with the MyPet Tall & Wide Wire Mesh Petgate which is made of durable American hardwood and vinyl-coated wire mesh. This 37" extra tall pet gate fits a variety of openings between 29.5" and 48" wide.
- [Convenient & Portable]: This doorway gate is easy to take down and install with simple pressure mount installation.- which means you can use it anywhere you need it! Perfect as a cat gate or dog gate for stairs, hallways, and other spaces.
- [Easy on Walls]: Thanks to the durable rubber bumpers, your gate will stay put without scuffing or scratching your walls; Plus, unlike other gates, this gate is designed to work with modern molding - up to 4".
- [Amazing Value, Simple to Install Dog Fence]: Easy pressure-mount design - simply expand the gate to fit your space and press down on the sturdy locking bar to secure it.
- [Proud USA-Owned Company]: This item is proudly assembled in the USA with American Hardwood! Our rigorously tested pet gates & yards bring peace of mind to your family. We stand for the highest of safety & quality standards.
Alternatively, you can provide access to your cat by installing a cat flap on the wall.
There are numerous companies that will do this for you if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.
Just make sure you only accept services from reputable businesses.
Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box Frequently
If your cat’s litter tray is always clean, your dog will be less attracted to it, especially if they are prone to coprophagy.
In the beginning, you may need to clean it out every time your cat uses it to deter your dog.
Then, you can move on to cleaning it out once a day or so. Nowadays, you can also buy automatic self-cleaning litter trays that take some of the stress away.
Place Your Cat’s Litter Box Out Of Reach
Cats love to be up high as it helps them to feel safe. They also love to watch the world go by from a high vantage point.
So, try placing your cat’s litter tray up on a wide shelf to keep it away from your dog.
Just make sure the shelf is sturdy, and there’s no risk of your cat pushing it off the edge!
Train Your Dog To Stay Away From The Cat’s Litter Box
Finally, you can teach your dog to stay away from the litter tray.
Use a firm command like ‘no’ or ‘leave it’ every time your dog approaches the litter tray, and be sure to offer rewards when your dog does the right thing.
Eventually, your pup will realize that good behavior equals tasty rewards.
This approach will take time, but the results will be worth it in the end!
Remember that your dog isn’t jumping in the litter tray just to annoy you.
As the owner, it’s your responsibility to work out the cause and take steps to resolve the issue.
NEVER punish a dog for performing this behavior because this is just likely to make the situation worse.
Instead, be patient and offer rewards when your dog leaves the litter tray alone.
With a little time and effort, you will soon have a harmonious household where both canine and feline can live together peacefully, with minimal mess!
If your dog has taken a keen interest in your cat’s litter box, I feel for you.
It’s not the nicest situation to find yourself in.
Trust me; I’ve been there.
Besides, owning a dog and cat comes with enough problems – then there is this!
Thankfully, with an understanding of the root causes, a few alterations, and some time and consistency, you should find that this issue will become a thing of the past.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.