How to Dog-Proof a Litter Box

posted: 05/15/12
Read more Read less
How to Dog-Proof a Litter Box
More CatsCat Breed Selector, Feline Fact Puzzles, Match the Cats, Kitten's First Year, Ginger's Hidden Adventure Game

Just like some humans, cats can be persnickety creatures, and one thing they value is their privacy. So imagine your cat's dismay when he makes his way over to "do his business" and discovers the family's 80-pound dog in his litter box. Of all the nerve.

There's plenty of open space in the back yard for your pooch to take advantage of. So why do you constantly catch him red-handed in the litter box? Barbara L. Sherman, D.V.M. and director of Animal Behavior Service at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, says that they get hundreds of reports from cat and dog owners who complain about their dog's litter box fetish. She says there's only one reason why your pooch is attracted to his feline friend's litter box: He likes eating cat poop. This can be a result of a condition known as coprophagy, which is sometimes caused by a lack of nutrients in dogs' diets.

No matter the cause, cats find it disturbing to be followed to their litter box by the family dog. In fact, it can stress them out and make them anxious -- maybe even enough to find another place in the house to relieve themselves.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to keep your dog from hounding litter boxes. For example, Chuck Miller, D.V.M. and owner of Triangle Veterinarian Hospital in Durham, N.C., recommends making some logistical changes, such as placing the litter box on a raised surface so the dog can't reach it. You could also position the opening of a covered litter box so your dog can't get inside. If that doesn't work, other options include invisible fencing and putting the litter box in a room that has a cat door, so that only the cat can squeeze through when the main door is closed.

According to Sherman, some other effective tactics include moving the litter box to a closet, laundry room, half-bath or other restricted space and putting a baby gate in the doorway with a cat-size opening cut out of it — or with the gate raised just high enough for only the cat to easily slip under. This keeps the dog out of the litter box and allows the cat to use the box in peace — a moment of solitude your feline friend will appreciate.


Gruen, Margaret, D.V.M. Clinical assistant professor, North Carolina State University Animal Welfare, Ethics and Public Policy Program, Raleigh, N.C. Personal interview; conducted March 14, 2011.

McCaw, Michael C., D.V.M. Veazie Veterinary Clinic, Veazie, Maine. Personal interview; conducted March 16, 2011.

Miller, Chuck, D.V.M. Triangle Veterinarian Hospital, Durham, N.C. Personal Interview; conducted March 15, 2011.

Pampered Pets. "Love That Litter." (March 16, 2011)!.htm

Sherman, Barbara L., D.V.M. Director of Animal Behavior Service at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Raleigh, N.C. Personal interview; conducted March 14, 2011.

More on