DEAR DIDI: We absolutely adore our Aussie. Her name is Precious. Unfortunately, Precious has a not so precious habit. She likes to eat cat poop from the kitty litter. She has become quite sneaky about it, in fact. She stalks the cat when she thinks he is heading for the litter box! Why does she do this and how do we stop it? -Frustrated Mom
DEAR FRUSTRATED MOM: This is certainly one of the most common frustrations in households that have both canine and feline family members. Cat diets are much richer than dog diets resulting in excrement that smells yummy…to a dog. Many dogs have an instinct to clean up poop that is in their immediate living area. No one wants poop where they sleep, eat, and play. This is not only grosses us out it also can be a health risk. Eating the feces from another species can pose some bacterial and parasitic risks, not to mention the dangers of ingesting the actual kitty litter itself! Need we even mention stinky breath issues?! Let’s explore some methods to put a halt to this nasty habit:
Let me assure you that no amount of training, punishment or positive reinforcement will work. This is a matter of management and environmental controls. Prevention is imperative! You have a much larger dog than your cat so take a look around your home and be creative. At one point, I had a full walk in shower in my downstairs bathroom despite not having any bedrooms downstairs. Since the shower was never used I put the kitty litter in there and then devised a method to keep the sliding doors from opening more than a few inches. This allowed my cat to slip in and use the facilities but the dogs could do no more than stick their noses in to smell. The secondary benefit to this method was in making kitty litter clean up so much easier because I could wash the entire shower stall easily!
The next option is to purchase an automated kitty litter. I tried the ones that have rakes that comb through and deposit the mess into a box at one end of the apparatus. The dogs quickly learned how to lift the lid and help themselves. The unit frequently jammed or broke, and the investment in plastic refuse containers was annoying. Then I discovered the Litter Robot. It is AMAZING! It has a sensor that detects when a cat leaves the globe and rotates completely around sifting literally everything and dropping it down into a drawer. The smell is completely eliminated and simple plastic trash bags can be used in the drawer for fast clean up. With three cats I only cleaned the drawer once a week. All mess is contained within the globe and the globe was in that downstairs shower for added security. It is a major investment initially but lasted me 5 years. The Litter Robot and a good clumping litter made cohabitation with animals a breeze!
Then I came up with low budget, DIY solution. Visit second hand furniture stores and look for a sofa end table that has double doors and is the right size for a kitty litter box to be placed inside of it. I found a fairly ugly one for $25. I cut an entry hole on one side of the end table with a jigsaw. Be sure that the hole is just big enough for the cat to squish in. They actually enjoy the tight fit and your dog won’t be able to get her head into it unless you have a gigantic kitty! I then quickly sanded the table just enough to rough up the surface. A couple cans of spray paint on the inside and outside made is visually presentable in my home and somewhat water resistant for internal clean up duties. You can add additional security by positioning your new kitty litter box entry hole close to a wall. Cats can pull off yoga moves to get in, but dogs can’t stick their heads in. Clean up is easy by opening the front double doors to remove the litter box and vacuum out dust. Smell is greatly reduced or, at least, contained with this system.
If you have a dog that is the same size as a cat you may experience more challenging issues with keeping the dog out of the litter. Creative use of baby gates is often necessary. Most small dogs can’t or won’t jump the gates but the cat will be happy to do so in order to gain access to the room that contains the litter box. Baby gates are not always convenient to live with so think carefully about where you position the litter in this manner.
-email your questions to email@example.com Didi offers lectures on various topics for organized groups.