Dog Behavior: Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?

Strange Dog Behavior

My furkids exhibit strange dog behavior. It never fails…as soon as my two Great Danes hit the yard, they begin their search. Eagerly sniffing the sand, the pine straw, and under leaves. What are they so ardently searching for? Could it be some doggy treat I left for them? Or perhaps some tidbit of cookie or candy one of the grandkids accidentally dropped? Nope – they’re looking for cat poopie. It’s like a veritable canine Easter egg hunt whenever they go outside! This dog behavior is pretty gross!

This action is called “coprophagia.” I’ve owned and trained many dogs, of several different breeds, and most of them would consume feline feces if given the chance. Some were worse than others. I think the top poop hound was my Golden Retriever, Rascal. Not only would he gobble up all the cat poop he could find, he’d actually follow the family cats around waiting for them to relieve themselves. Yep, ol’ Rascal did love him some of those “kitty tootsie rolls.”

Why do we see this dog behavior? From all the information I can gather from veterinarians, no one is exactly sure. One theory is that cat feces is high in protein and vitamins produced by the intestinal tract, and by consuming the droppings, the dogs benefit from these nutrients.

Another theory is that the practice is a learned dog behavior. Mother dogs lick the bottoms of their puppies in order to stimulate urination and defecation. Once the pups “go,” the bitch consumes the urine and feces. Why? It’s a holdover from when dogs lived in the wild. The mother did this in an effort to remove the smell that might alert predators to the location of her litter. Maybe adult dogs learned to eat poop from their moms.

Yet another widely held belief is that it’s just part of the dog’s scavenger mentality. Cats aren’t very effective at absorbing nutrients from their food, so their feces can be viewed as a food source for dogs. Even after the cat's food makes its way through the digestive tract, there are still some nutrients left. Even though your dog is well fed, his instincts tell him to take advantage of any available “food finds.”

Cat poop isn’t the only feces dogs will consume. When I lived on a farm-ranch, I often saw my dogs eating the droppings of horses and cows. I assume they’ll eat just about any feces.

Dogs aren’t the only mammals that eat feces, either. Cats will do it occasionally, and rodents do it frequently. It’s believed that animals like rabbits eat their poop to get more nutrients from the high-fiber foods in their diet. In a way, ruminants like cows do it, too. They chew partially digested food from one of their stomachs in an effort to more fully digest it – called “chewing their cud.”

Is it harmful for your dog to eat cat poop? Most veterinarians agree that for a canine that is up to date on vaccinations and parasite prevention, eating the poop is probably harmless. The one instance where it could be dangerous is when the dog is eating the “tootsie rolls” from a litter box. Then, it’s not the poop that’s the problem – it’s the litter that comes with it. The “crunchy coating” itself can cause digestive problems for the dog, not to mention the chemicals that might have been added to the kitty litter.

It’s often difficult to break a pooch of this natural dog behavior, especially an adult dog. There are substances you can add to your cat’s feces to make it less palatable to your dog. Also, it’s important to keep any litter boxes in a place that the dog cannot access. Furthermore, you might want to keep a good supply of breath mints on hand if your dog's behavior gets too smelly.

Read more about dogs and dog behavior by clinking on the article links below:

Hamlet and Grendel love a nice kitty tootsie roll!
Hamlet and Grendel love a nice kitty tootsie roll!

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Comments 32 comments

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Well, at least he doesn't give them bad breath.

Actually, I thought Russ was the tootsie roll!?


sabrebIade profile image

sabrebIade 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

We constantly fight to keep our dogs from doing that and I always wondered why.

Thanks!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you, Sabreblade. It's a nasty habit, for sure!


Sarra Garrett 6 years ago

Yes, dogs eat cat poop because it is high in protein which is what dogs need in their diet. You may want to change their diet to a high in protein food as the dog food in the grocery stores are of poor quality.

Also, if your dog eats his own feces, sprinkle meat tenderizer in their dog food. This will make their own feces unappealing and they will stop eating it.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks! My boys don't eat their own - just the cats'. Is Eukanuba high in protein?


Vanne Way 6 years ago

When my cousin Drew was just a toddler he would would crawl around putting anything he found in his mouth. His favorite appetizer? Cat Poop! Many times someone could be heard to yell "Drew, leave the cat crunchies alone!" I have to admit that I am a devout dog kisser and yes, I know that at some point that they have had to lick their privates. I can't help it. I love my dogs more than I love most people.


BookFlame 6 years ago

Welcome to the real (canine) world, girl. Dogs will eat almost anything, including, flavorful to them, poop. My dogs love to chow down on steaming hot horse poop (I have horses) better than anything, except eating the parings of the hooves the blacksmith has left strewn about after a visit. I've gotten over gagging; I just look away!

PS--eating their OWN poop, though, is a different kind of disorder and usually stems from being kept in close quarters when puppies, unable to "get out" to poop.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

My dogs have always loved the leftovers from the farrier!

Thanks for reading!


Jery profile image

Jery 6 years ago from Kennewick WA USA

They aren't opposed to the human variety either. I have a friend who when he saw his beautiful Malamute Husky come up proudly showing him his human feces prize he had found, he got rid of the dog!! I couldn't believe it! I told him the dog just thought there was still some good stuff in there.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Too funny! I don't think I could part with my boys for anything - unless they ate one of the grandkids. Little chance of that - the dogs adore the children.


Citrus000 6 years ago

I just have to tell you that I think your dogs are beautiful. The topic alone was enough me make me laugh. Thank you and take care!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks so much - they are my babies!


Vines profile image

Vines 6 years ago

I just think ewww...but then again I'm more of a cat guy, not a dog guy. Anyway, lovely dogs.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Vines. I like cats, but I loves me doggies!


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

This was very fascinating to read. My dog actually did this once. It's so gross! Now I know. Thanks for another great hub!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks for reading, Lovely!


Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

My Jack Russell does this too! makes me so mad & when she gets around horse poop she wants to roll around in it...Other than that she is pretty much perfect...Thanks for the good topic Habee!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Michael, my wolf dog used to eat horse and cow poop!


Liza 6 years ago

Seems like many here have cats and dogs living harmoniously,

please help! My daughter (the #1 cat lover in the world) just got her 1st kitten (she is 13). We have a 2 year old mini schnauzer and I think he wants to gobble her up vs. her poop. We did the entire introduction we read, keeping her locked in a room that he rarely went into so they could sniff through a door, then holding him and doing a personal intro, not working. When he hears or see's her his jaw starts chomping. When he sniffs her through the door, he starts making this pppp sound (reminds me of a horse). I do not want to keep the kitten locked up forever, and if we have to get rid of it my daughter will be devastated, however if the dog eats her, she will be traumatized. He is a very good and good trained dog. Is there anything I can do?


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Have you established yourself as pack leader? If so, show the dog that the cat is YOUR property. Hold the kitty securely, and when the dog approaches, tell him NO. If he respects you as pack leader and understands the "no" command, this should work. Be consistent! I still wouldn't leave the two pets alone together until the cat is old enough to defend itself.


furbysmama profile image

furbysmama 6 years ago

All I'll say is THANK GOD I'M NOT ALONE.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Oh, you're in good company!


Lisa 6 years ago

I experienced this same thing with my dog this morning. As soon as he was in the backyard, he's off to hunt down those elusive cat poops.. Then he wants to run up and give me a good lick! Yuck!..

Just got love our dogs..


Baileybear 5 years ago

My dog sneaks the cat poo out of the litter before it even has a chance to cool (I let it cool so doesn't smell as bad when have to scoop it). Plus he eats his own. Dirty bugger!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Lisa, we still luv 'em, don't we?!

Bailey, I have one word for that: OOOOOOOOOOHHH!


Baileybear 5 years ago

yes, we do, but there's no way I'm ever giving my dog mouth-to-mouth!(someone had a hub about dog CPR).

I remember when my dog rolled in a dead rabbit and then I touched him and then touched my face - the smell of death is just awful & every breath I could smell it! Apparently dogs can detect cancer by smell, even if no symptoms.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I've read about the cancer thing. Pretty amazing!


GlstngRosePetals profile image

GlstngRosePetals 5 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

I never could understand why dogs do this but I was always told because they lack something in there diet. Your article was very usefull and explained more about why. Thank you and look forward to reading more.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

So glad you liked my hub about this strange dog behavior!


Darleen 4 years ago

Can I give my cats those tablets for the dogs that eat their own poop? Cause my dog loves those tootsie rolls :/


Aury 4 years ago

I just cought my maltese doing that! Ughhh!! But I read your article, and I think im gonna take my baby maltese"goldy's" to the doctor's! She was eating my cat's poop... ;(( she was wobbling side to side,I think it was the litter..! aww.....she got very sick on me. Never knew it was the litter.. :((....


Dave 3 years ago

You should take a look at a product my friend Peggy Sue invented to prevent dogs from eating cat poop! http://www.woofwoofcastle.com

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