As a pet owner, there’s something I’ve mused about for awhile.
Somehow, even though I grew up with a dog, there was something I never noticed this until I adopted a dog after I already had two cats. I would clean the cat litter pan, and notice that miraculously, there was no cat poop.
How could this be?
I got my answer when I surprised Simon one night and found out he was raiding the cat pans for kitty treats — gross! I temporarily put a stop to it by relocating the cat pans, and installing a cat door. Problem solved.
But then we moved to Nederland, the poop eating began again with abandon. The great outdoors presented a smorgasbord of poop. One of the most disgusting things I saw Simon do was on a hike near Aspen, Colorado to Lost Lake. As we finished the trail, Simon had this weird look on his face, like his mouth was full. He opened his mouth, and out popped a horse turd. What kind of animal does that?
Being a diligent dog owner, I researched this perverse habit on the internet. Turns out he was not unique among dogs. But more importantly, how to stop it? Everything I read seemed to indicate it had something to do with a lack of nutritious diet, and if you fed your dogs the right food, they wouldn’t feel the need to eat poop. So I bought the super-expensive, $60/bag dog food — no luck, still going after poop. I tried canned food, raw food, all kinds of food, and still the incessant interest in poop.
In Simon’s case, I chalked it up to the fact that he is literally a canine garbage disposal who will eat anything. We referred to him as our furry Hoover vacuum, because anything that fell on the floor in the kitchen was immediately sucked up like an anteater eating ants. He even eats vegetables — radishes, carrots, green beans, lettuce — crunching them up in seconds like they are some sort of delicacy.
But our other dog, Shawnee, is much more discerning and doesn’t really like a lot of people food — a very picky dog eater. Despite this, she’s out in the woods, lapping up piles of pellets like they are filet mignon. We have so many wild animals that make their home in our neighborhood — coyote, fox, rabbits, elk, deer — that the two acres surrounding our house are buffet of scat. Her latest obsession is rabbit poop. We take her out for the evening walk, and she immediately wants to burrow her nose into a pile of scat.
Why do they eat poop? The theory that seems most logical to me is dogs’ evolution from wolves, and carrying with them the wild pack mentality. Wolves and other wild canines eat as much as they can when they can. They never know when and where they will find their next meal. So poop eating is their way of padding their diet, just in case the apocalypse strikes and they won’t get any yummy dog food for awhile. The weird thing is, in spite of the poop diet, they seem more than healthy.
At this point, since I can’t exactly rid the woods of any and all poop, I’ve accepted this is what dogs do. It’s so prevalent, there is even a scientific name for it — coprophagia.