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Can Dogs Use Cat Litter? Types, Training & FAQ

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

dog using the litter box

Litter boxes and cat litter are an essential part of owning a cat. But it seems that many dogs are also quite interested in cat litter—though it’s usually less about the litter and more about what’s in it.

Still, have you ever wondered if dogs can actually use cat litter? It seems like it might be useful, especially on those days when you might not get up in time to get your dog outside.

Dogs can indeed use litter, and dog litter is available for just this purpose.

In this article, we get into the details of litter and dogs, including tips on how to litter train your pup.


What Is Dog Litter?

As you might guess, dog litter mostly only works for small dogs. Imagine how large a litter box you would need for an Irish Wolfhound! With a regular litter box, any giant breed will likely wet the entire tray in one go.

Dog litter primarily comes in the form of paper pellets, unlike cat litter, which is available in a wide variety of materials. The pellets work the same way that cat litter does by absorbing liquid and helping mask odors. There aren’t many dog litters available, but there are quite a few dog litter pans.

Chihuahua dog with training pad
Image Credit: S.I.A, Shutterstock

Why Consider Dog Litter?

If you are out of the house for longer than 8 hours most days, you should consider using something like dog litter. The average healthy adult dog can hold their pee for about 6 to 8 hours, so they will need a way to relieve themselves if they need to go before you get home.

Indoor litter pans can also come in handy if there’s extreme weather, or your dog is suffering from a health problem. Additionally, some people find it physically challenging to take their dog out for bathroom breaks frequently throughout the day, so a litter box can help.

What Do You Need to Train a Dog to Use a Litter Pan?

To start, you’ll need the right supplies, including a large and wide pan. If your dog is small enough, you can look at the variety of litter boxes available to cats.

Ensure that the box is large enough for your dog to turn around in, since this is something that they’ll likely do before they go. You might also want to invest in a pooper scooper for easier cleanup and of course, the right dog litter.

Finally, ensure that you have high-value treats that your dog absolutely loves. Training your dog to use a litter pan isn’t much different from teaching them tricks or obedience training.

dog using litter pad or training pad
Image Credit: Tikhonova Yana, Shutterstock


Litter Box Training For Your Dog

1. Introductions First

First, introduce your dog to the litter pan and litter. Have them walk on the litter, using treats if necessary, and get them excited about it.

2. When It’s Time to Go

Next, take them to the litter box whenever they show signs that they need to go, which might include:

  • Sitting next to the door
  • Scratching the door
  • Barking and whining
  • Seeming unsettled and restless
  • Trying to get your attention
  • Sniffing the floor and door
  • Walking in circles

If you notice these signs, pick up your dog and put them in the litter pan. If they are too big for you to pick them up, use treats to entice them into the pan.

If you have a puppy, you can put him in the litter pan after each time they’ve had something to eat and drink.

dog lying near door
Image Credit: Andry_S, Shutterstock

3. Enticements

This first part is a different kind of enticement. Place a paper towel or fabric with some of your dog’s urine or feces on it inside the litter pan.

This should make it easier for your dog to understand what the litter and pan are for. When they successfully use the litter box the way that it’s supposed to be used, give them a treat and plenty of praise.

4. Something to Think About

Bear in mind that not every dog should or can use a litter pan. There’s the size of the dog to consider, but male dogs might also have a hard time.

If your dog pees high, you’ll need to ensure that the litter box can contain it. Basically, the pan must be large enough to not only fit your dog but also their “business”!

Continental Toy Spaniel Papillon using litter pad or training pad
Image Credit: enchanted_fairy, Shutterstock

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What If My Dog Doesn’t Use It?

Some dogs might need extra patience and training before they understand what the litter box is for. Remember, dogs don’t have the instincts to bury their waste like cats do.

You can also place the litter box in the backyard and encourage your dog to use it while outside. This will show them what the litter box is for, so they should know how to use it when it’s inside.

Can I Use Cat Litter for My Dog?

It’s best to stick with litter made specifically for dogs. Most cats aren’t prone to eating their litter, but many dogs love to dig and eat or chew on things that they shouldn’t.

If your dog tends to be a chronic chewer of inedible items, you might want to consider using something else.

What Are Alternatives to Dog Litter?

Many new puppy owners use pee pads while housetraining their pups. The only trouble with these is that the texture can resemble other fabrics found in the home, which might confuse your dog.

There are also dog wraps, which are essentially doggy diapers, and indoor grass. This is usually artificial grass, but it can give some dogs something more familiar to use.

Additionally, you can consider hiring a dog walker or having a neighbor, friend, or family member take your dog out for a walk every day so they can do their business.

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While the idea of training your dog to use a litter box might seem odd, it’s quite doable and can provide you with a great and affordable option when you can’t get them outside in time.

It does depend on the size of your dog, and not every dog will take to a litter pan, which is fine. There are many other options available.

Bear in mind that most dogs can only hold their bladder for 6 to 8 hours, so if they don’t take to the litter, the pee pad, or artificial grass, you’ll need to consider hiring someone to give your dog a much-needed break during the day.

Featured Image Credit: Jenn_C, Shuttetstock

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