Why Cats Bury Their Poop
Dogs bury bones; cats bury poop. Hiding waste is a natural feline instinct, but it’s not just because cats are obsessed with cleanliness. Here are several reasons why cats bury their poop.
Dominance and Submission
Cats are tidy creatures, but that’s not the only reason they cover up their feces. In the wild, dominant cats do not bury their poop. Leaving their droppings out in the open signals that they wish to claim the territory. More submissive cats, on the other hand, do bury their poop as a way of ensuring that the dominant cats in the area don’t feel threatened.
Covering Their Tracks
Wild cats also bury their poop to avoid drawing the attention of predators to themselves and their kittens. The instinct to cover their tracks remains strong in domestic cats. All cat poop smells pretty much the same to humans, but not to cats. They can distinguish between their droppings and those of other cats thanks to pheromones. Because their poop contains unique scents that identify one another, it’s important to cats to bury their droppings so that potential predators cannot track them.
What if Your Cat Doesn’t Bury Their Poop?
There are several reasons domestic cats may choose not to bury their poop
- Your cat may claim territory, as his dominant wild ancestors mentioned above. (This behavior is generally more common among male cats, but not always.)
- It may not come naturally to them to bury their poop. Some cats didn’t see their mother model this behavior, so they never learned to bury their poop. It may not occur to them to bury their poop, and there’s nothing wrong with this behavior (other than stinkiness).
- Some cats may find something displeasing about their litter box. Make sure your cat’s litter box is big enough that she has enough room to turn around and bury her poop — a small litter box may deter her. Additionally, if she doesn’t like the feel of the litter or determines it’s too dirty, she may elect not to spend any extra time there. If you suspect any of these to be true, consider changing to a different or larger litter box brand.
- There aren’t any specific diagnoses that would cause your cat to not bury their poop, but if your cat is experiencing some pain—whether in their paws, while going to the bathroom, or just in general—that could deter them from spending more time in the litter box. Also, cats who have been declawed recently could choose to skip the burying process
Now that you know that it is completely normal for cats to bury their poop, it can also be normal for them not to bury their poop. However, if your cat has been burying their poop but then suddenly stops it is time to take a closer look. Is the litter box big enough and clean? If so, it might be time for a vet visit to rule out any medical issues.
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