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Pet Health

Here’s Why Pets Can Be Gross

Val Cairney April 14, 2023 75

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Pets can be gross

That’s it for gross pictures. For the rest of this article they only be cute pics of cats and dogs. I promise!

Hi everyone and thank you for joining me on this episode of Val Talk’s Pets.  Pet owners are a different breed.  A real lover of pets will put up with paw prints on the floor, hair and fur everywhere, drool, puke, cat litter tracked around, things getting broken, you name it.  But, we love them with their gross habits and all.  Sooo talking about gross habits, sometimes our animals do things that the average non-pet person would really cringe over but us seasoned pet owners just shake our heads and carry on.  So let’s take a look at some of these things our pets do and see if I can’t find some answers as to why.

Let’s start with cats. 

Why do so many cats puke?  Cat owners all know the 3 am sound of huk huk and splat.  We are only just hoping it isn’t on the bed.  Just recently we heard the familiar, I’m going to puke sound and I knew Rory was on the bed, so completely dazed I started kicking under the covers to get him to jump off before the fall out.  And why do cats have to make an effort to puke on a rug or bed?  Why can’t they do it on the floor where it is easier to clean up? 

So the first thing to determine is whether the cat is vomiting or regurgitating.  According to, with vomiting you will see your cat’s belly heaving and there may be some drooling.  In regurgitation there is “no abdominal press because the food hasn’t actually made it to the stomach”.  So why would a cat vomit or regurgitate?  If the cat has regurgitated it could be something as simple as the shape of the kibble.  If you look at all the kibble available for cats, you will see that they come in all kinds of different shapes; triangle, circles, rosettes.  These formulas are designed for that reason, to give cats different shapes for preference and for digestion.  If your cat regurgitates right after eating, the first thing to do is to try a different shaped kibble.  The other thing to consider is that the cat may have eaten some of the kibble but senses a familiar distaste and for that reason they regurgitate the food.  Changing the protein is one way to start figuring out why the cat regurgitates. 

When it comes to vomiting, the cat has had the food reach its stomach fluids where the food has expanded.  In this case the food looks partially digested and we often will see what looks like un-chewed kibble.  Some of the causes of vomiting according to, are “hairballs, sensitive stomach and eating too fast”.  A cat that eats too fast and doesn’t chew their food well, increases their chance of throwing up.  If you have two cats, trying to separate their food bowls may help or you could try a slow feeder bowl.  Most pet specialty stores will have these so just ask.  If hairballs are an issue, the cat’s stomach may have an excessive amount of hair in their stomach and of course the stomach will then reject the food.  Long hair cats have a real issue with this, so looking to add some hairball aids is a good idea.  There are gels that a cat can ingest that will help the hairball come out as opposed to come up and there are also treats and special food specific for hairballs that is higher in fiber for again, pushing the hairballs through.  Also, brushing the cat regularly will help. 

Now, according to, stress and anxiety can contribute to a cat throwing up.  This is a great tip, because we all know how stress can upset the tummy.  Moving house, or bringing in a new human or pet can really upset a cat.  Other cats in the house could also be aggressive so one cat may feel bullies which again creates stress.  If you suspect stress may be a cause there are some great calming products for cats that can really help.  As you know I am a fan of Rescue Remedy, but there are calming treats, pheromone infusers and even sprays, that could be the answer.  As cuteness points out, there could also be an allergy that could be causing the vomiting.  Grains can definitely cause allergies and certain proteins as well.  Best thing to do is start with eliminating any grains, as we know cats are carnivores so why not?  Then if there are still vomiting issues, change proteins.  And I would say, if you can get a probiotic into the cat, do it!  And of course you should always rule out any serious medical conditions that could be causing the vomiting.  

Okay, now that we may know why the cat may be vomiting, why on earth do they always have to do it on a carpet?  Well as we know, cats will bury their business and vomit is no exception.  Their instinct is to bury their vomit so for them, choosing to throw up on the floor means they can’t bury it and the closest thing to mimicking burying is to throw up on a carpet or your bed. The squishy surface gives the cat a tactile sensation closer to what they would feel if they were to dig in dirt.  And unfortunately, when a cat has that retching begin, it is unpleasant and nasty as all these muscles are engaged, so in some ways, it’s kind of where they are at the time, meaning your bed.  But, as we know, they will often run into the other room where there is a rug away from the floor, so they are going to where they know the surface is more pleasant for them.  Bottom line, keep a good pet carpet cleaner on hand and feel for kitty when this happens.  It’s just as unpleasant for them as it is for us. 

Let’s turn to dogs now for one of their unpleasant habits. 

Why do dogs eat poop? Not all dogs eat poop, but it is something that many do.  Some dogs eat their own poop and some eat other dog’s poop and some eat wildlife poop.  Those that live in an area where lots of rabbits roam, they will often find that their dogs love rabbit poo.  Let’s see if we can find out why?  So the eating of one’s own poop is called Coprophagia.  According to, dogs may engage in poop eating because they are natural scavengers and will eat just about anything they find on the ground.  “Ancestral dogs used to get and recycle needed nutrients to maintain good health.” 

Now, here is a very interesting fact about why a dog may eat its own poop.  According to, “The feelings of shame in a dog can begin during the house-training period of a young puppy.  This is particularly true for dogs that have been trained not to poop in the house by having their nose rubbed in the mess.  Veterinarians have observed that the feeling of shame and fear of disapproval from their owners is one reason why some dogs will clean up their mess orally after they have made it.” Lesson learned here if you hear of someone doing this archaic training method. 

Stress and environment can also cause a dog to eat poop.  Some dogs do not do well being left alone and this can contribute to being a poop eater.  Critterculture also points out that sometimes a dog may eat poop to see what your reaction is.  For some reason they think doing this may excite you.  And there is also the “studies (that) have shown that younger dogs will often eat the poop of an elderly or sick dog.  Scientists think this is because the dogs learned to eat the poop to eliminate the scent predators can follow.” 

Other reasons a dog may eat poop is, poor diet, malabsorption syndrome and overuse of antibiotics.  Poor diet and overuse of antibiotics speak for themselves, but malabsorption is “when damage is done to the intestinal tract due to sickness, injury, chronic diseases and infections.”  Similar to this is when a pet parent feeds really good food but the dog still eats poop.  It has been found that adding vitamins despite the good food actually stops the poop eating.  Omega Alpha makes a vitamin supplement that some parents have found to do just this.  It’s possible that there is a malabsorption of a certain vitamin or nutrient.  It doesn’t mean the food is not good, it just means that the particular dog doesn’t absorb a certain vitamin or mineral, so they try to supplement themselves by eating poop.  Adding a vitamin tops things up and so the dog has enough of the vitamin or mineral to deter them from needing to eat poo.  

When it comes to dog’s attraction to eating rabbit poo, it could be nutritional deficiencies, or it just tastes good.  Rabbits are vegetarians so there really isn’t too much harm in a dog eating rabbit poo.  But, there could be some parasites that could cause illness, so it is best if they don’t eat it, but for those of us in the country, trying to monitor them outside eating poop is quite difficult.  It’s gross but they love it!  

And that brings up another poo source and that is the litter box. 

So many dogs help themselves to the kitty litter tray when their humans are not looking.  We know that dogs like to eat cat food, so for them, the poop in the litter is just an extension of this favourite treat.  Now of course there could be the lack of nutrition issue, but most often, they like the taste and it is fun to scavenge around like their instincts tell them to. So, it is best to keep the litter clean or find a way to keep the litter away from the dog.  When we first got Tundra he didn’t seem too interested in the litter that was in an open closet, so we didn’t think too much about it.  One day we came home and he was not there to greet us and we wondered where he was.  Then we found his rear end sticking out of the closet and he was so focused on digging through the litter he didn’t hear us come in.  We said, “Tundra” and he backed out of the closet so fast with a face full of litter and that look on his face like, “I wasn’t doing anything”!  The litter then went downstairs and we installed a kitty door for the cats to make it to their new litter box spot. 

And last but not least, how many times have you walked in on your cat with his leg way up in the air licking his bum?  The same question for the dog.  Dogs and cats lick their bums because it is part of their grooming.  For dogs it can help with anal gland issues and give us an indicator that there is an anal gland issue.  Cats are groomers, so a clean bum is just part of that.  Dogs sometimes are attracted to the smell of cat’s anal glands so they may try to lick a cat’s butt.  We told Tundra not to do that because cats don’t like it.  He learned that too.  Moderate licking is a good thing, it is all about grooming, but excessive licking definitely means something may be going on.  

Well I think those are probably the most off-putting habits pets do.  Regardless, we love them.  Whether we hear that retching sound in the middle of the night, or we see our dog enjoying a poopsicle in the winter, we accept this with our whole hearts, because they are an important part of the family.  But, if you feel that any of these foibles have gotten a bit too much, it may mean it’s time to do some research or head to the vet, because as I say, knowing is caring.  

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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