How to Keep Dogs Out of the Litter Box

Yesterday, a blog subscriber asked me how to keep her dog out of the cat’s litter box.  Since this is such a common problem, I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to preventing coprophagia (eating feces).  There are two basic methods for treating this problem:

1)  Use a coprophagia deterrent
    Cat feces contain a lot of protein which is what makes them so attractive to dogs.  Since cats are strict carnivores, the protein in their diet cannot be changed.  You can make it taste bad though.  One method is to place Tabasco sauce or something similar on the feces.  The problem with this approach is that some dogs actually like spicy foods and some cats refuse to use the litter box with the new aroma.    
    To correct this problem, products like PRN Pharmacal’s CoproBan were developed.  The product is fed to the cat which makes their feces less attractive to dogs.  I have had much better luck with these types of products than the Tabasco sauce.  Problems with this approach stem from the cat refusing to ingest the product and some determined dogs will still eat the feces albeit with a sour look on their face.  Make sure your cat does not have any food allergies before using this type of product.

2)  Prevent access to the litter box
    One way to prevent access for large dogs is by using a covered litter box.  Place the cover on the box and then orient the opening towards a wall or corner.  Give the cat just enough room to comfortably get into the box.  If the opening is oriented towards the room, dogs will get down on their elbows and stick their heads in the box.  I recommend this position even if the cover has a swing door.  A word of caution, do not use covered boxes for cats with asthma, bronchitis, allergies or other lung conditions.  Also, avoid dusty litter .
    The other option is to place the litter box in a closet or room and then limit access by chaining the door.  Use a rope or security chain that allows enough space for the cat to pass but not the dog.  Make sure the dog cannot force its head through the opening.  I don’t want anyone getting stuck.
    Working with small dogs is much easier.  As long as the cat can jump normally, elevate the box by placing it on a table or counter.             

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.