Why do dogs eat cat poop?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 29, 2024

Introduction to Coprophagia in Dogs

Coprophagia, the scientific term for the act of eating feces, is a behavior observed in many animals, including dogs. While the idea of a dog eating cat poop might seem revolting to humans, it is a relatively common behavior with various underlying causes. Understanding why dogs engage in this behavior involves examining their dietary needs, instincts, environmental factors, and even psychological aspects.

Dietary Needs and Nutritional Deficiencies

One reason dogs might eat cat poop is due to dietary needs or nutritional deficiencies. Cat feces can contain undigested food particles and nutrients that are appealing to dogs. Sometimes, commercial dog food may lack certain nutrients, prompting dogs to seek alternative sources.

Protein Content

Cat food is generally higher in protein and fat compared to dog food. When cats digest their food, not all of these nutrients are fully absorbed, leaving their feces rich in protein and fat—elements that dogs find enticing. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and can easily detect these leftovers, which might prompt them to consume cat poop to fulfill their protein cravings.

Vitamins and Minerals

In some cases, dogs may be seeking out specific vitamins or minerals that are missing from their diet. If a dog's diet is deficient in certain nutrients, they might instinctively look for these nutrients elsewhere, including in cat feces. This behavior can sometimes be a sign that their current diet needs to be reevaluated and balanced.

Instinctual and Evolutionary Behaviors

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and their scavenging behaviors can be traced back to their ancestors. Wolves and other wild canids often scavenge for food, including the feces of other animals, as a survival strategy. This instinctual behavior has been retained in domestic dogs.

Scavenging Instinct

Dogs have a natural scavenging instinct, which can lead them to explore and consume feces as a potential food source. This behavior is particularly common in puppies, who are naturally curious and explore their environment using their mouths. Eating feces might be a way for them to investigate their surroundings and learn about the world.

Maternal Behavior

In the wild, mother dogs often consume the feces of their young to keep their den clean and to protect their offspring from predators. This maternal behavior might persist in domestic dogs, leading them to eat feces, including cat poop, as a way to maintain cleanliness and reduce the scent that could attract predators.

Environmental and Behavioral Factors

Certain environmental and behavioral factors can also contribute to a dog's coprophagic behavior. Understanding these factors can help pet owners address the issue more effectively.

Boredom and Attention-Seeking

Dogs that are bored or lack mental stimulation may engage in coprophagia as a way to entertain themselves. Similarly, if a dog notices that eating cat poop elicits a strong reaction from their owner, they might continue the behavior as a way to seek attention, even if it's negative.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can also lead to coprophagia. Dogs that are anxious or stressed might eat feces as a coping mechanism. This behavior can be more prevalent in dogs that experience separation anxiety or live in environments with limited social interaction.

Medical Conditions

In some cases, underlying medical conditions can cause dogs to eat cat poop. Identifying and addressing these conditions with the help of a veterinarian is crucial for the well-being of the dog.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal disorders, such as malabsorption or maldigestion, can lead to coprophagia. These conditions prevent dogs from absorbing nutrients properly, prompting them to seek additional sources of nutrition, including cat feces.


Intestinal parasites, such as worms, can also cause increased hunger and nutritional deficiencies, leading dogs to eat feces. Regular veterinary check-ups and parasite control are essential to prevent and address this issue.

Preventing and Managing Coprophagia

While coprophagia is a natural behavior, it can be managed and mitigated with proper training, environmental management, and dietary adjustments.

Improving Diet

Ensuring that a dog's diet is balanced and meets their nutritional needs is a crucial step in preventing coprophagia. Consulting with a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist can help determine if dietary adjustments are necessary.

Environmental Enrichment

Providing mental stimulation and physical exercise can reduce boredom and stress, which are common triggers for coprophagia. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and regular playtime can keep dogs engaged and less likely to eat feces.

Training and Supervision

Training dogs to avoid feces through positive reinforcement and supervision can be effective. Teaching commands such as "leave it" or "drop it" can help redirect their attention away from cat poop. Additionally, keeping litter boxes out of reach or using covered litter boxes can prevent access.

Understanding the reasons behind why dogs eat cat poop requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing dietary, instinctual, environmental, and medical perspectives. By addressing the root causes and implementing preventive measures, pet owners can mitigate this behavior and improve their dog's overall well-being.

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