Why Cats Bury Their Poop



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If you own a cat, you’re familiar with the sound of your furry friend scratching through the sand. But why do cats feel the need to bury their poop? Read on to find out!

Why Cats Bury Their Poop. An orange tabby cat digging grass with bushes in the background.

Whether they do it in the litter box or the garden, cats always bury their poop. Burying waste is a common practice in the wild, and cats are naturally inclined to do it. Although, why do they perform this seemingly strange behavior? Let’s take a look at some possible explanations for why cats bury their poop.

Cats Marking Their Territory

In the wild, the battle for survival is fierce. Big cats must constantly fight to retain their territories and fend off attacks from rivals.

Lions, leopards, and cheetahs belong to the group of more dominant cats and don’t have any natural predators to worry about, they don’t care for hiding their poop.

A smaller domestic cat is highly vulnerable to such apex predators. To prevent sudden ambushes by other cats, they communicate their submission by burying poop. Doing so lets the dominant cats know they are not a threat and present no territorial challenge.

A mother cat often teaches its kittens how to bury their waste when they are young. It’s a matter of safety and survival for the tiny kittens. The mother cat will use her paw to dig a hole, then cover up her poop with dirt.

Cats are hard-wired to bury their waste, and this behavior is passed down through the generations.

Cats Hiding From Predators

Some wild cats, the ancestors of domestic cats, used to bury their waste to conceal their scent from predators.

Cat poop is also a method of communication. While it might smell all the same to us, the odor is unique to the cat. This allows other cats in the area to recognize each other as part of their colony.

A domesticated cat will likely recognize such behaviors, but it’s still possible for it to pick up on the scent if it’s exposed to it often enough.

Cats Showing They Aren’t a Threat

While burying poop avoids predators, it’s also a way to show other animals that they aren’t a threat.

Even in a multi-cat household, social hierarchy exists. Indoor cats will cover their poop to let the dominant cat know they aren’t a threat. The same is observed in a neighborhood populated with furry felines. Cats cover their poop to communicate their presence and their lack of hostility.

What does this mean for your house cat? If you notice your domesticated kitty covering its poop, it might be trying to show you that it’s not a threat or interested in dominance.

Cat Trying To Get Rid of Disease

Cats are clean animals and will go to great lengths to keep themselves and their environment clean.

When a cat covers its poop, it is trying to mark its territory and get rid of any disease-carrying bacteria present on the surface of its fur or feces.

While this behavior is mainly seen in wild cats, domesticated felines have also picked up on this habit. If you see your cat covering its poop, it is simply trying to keep itself healthy and free of any disease present in its feces.

What If Your Cat Doesn’t Bury Its Poop?

Even though it is the innate nature of cats, some domestic felines are not fond of following this practice. If you notice your pet is not burying its poop, it could be for several reasons.

It Doesn’t Know the Drill

Domestic cats are often spoiled and catered to by their owners, making them less likely to learn how to bury their feces. Consider investing in litter boxes and training your cat to use them.

Dirty Litter Box

A cat’s litter box should be cleaned at least once daily, preferably after each use. You might need to clean it more often if you have multiple cats.

In such cases, it’s best to invest in an automatic litter box that will clean itself. You can also use clumping cat litter, which makes it easier to clean up. Clumping litter forms solid balls when urine is added, making it easier to scoop out of the box.

Litter Boxes Placed Too Close to Each Other

If you house multiple cats and observe some of them avoiding the litter box altogether, try moving the boxes apart.

You can also try putting a litter box in an area where your cat will often spend time, such as under a table or near their bed. Some cats are just picky about where they poop. Your cat might not feel comfortable doing its business in certain areas of your home.

Your Cat Prefers a Different Kind of Litter Substrate

Some cats like soft litter, while others prefer something that feels more solid under their paws. Try switching to a different type of litter to see if it makes a difference.

If you’re using clumping clay litter, try switching to non-clumping or corn-based litter instead. Keep experimenting with different substrates until you find one that works best for your pet.

Multi-Cat Conflict

Cats have a hierarchy in their minds, and if one cat feels like it’s been pushed out of the litter box, it will retaliate by peeing outside the box or even attacking other cats.

Often dominant cats refuse access to litter boxes, and the submissive cat is forced to go elsewhere. If you believe territorialism is causing problems in your household, try relocating the litter boxes or adding more to see if that helps.

Cat Stress

If you recently moved, adopted another pet, or brought any external stimuli to your cat’s everyday routine, it can cause stress.

As cats adjust to the new routine, they occasionally refuse to use the litter box.

Cat Needs Attention

Sometimes cats go to extreme lengths to attract attention. One way they achieve this is by peeing outside the litter box or making a mess as they use it.

If there’s been a sudden change in routine, or you aren’t providing the same attention to your pet anymore, it’s recommended that you set aside a few minutes daily to play with it.

You can invest in mentally stimulating toys to keep your cat entertained.

Final Thoughts on Why Cats Bury Their Poop

It might seem strange to see your cat burying its poop, but it makes sense when you consider that they were once wild animals who needed to fend for themselves.

Before you go, you might find these articles helpful:

Why Do Cats Loaf?

Why Do Cats Headbutt

Can You Move Your Cats Litter Box

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