Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Does My Cat Bury Their Poop?

Mercè Garcia
By Mercè Garcia. May 7, 2024
Why Does My Cat Bury Their Poop?

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Have you ever watched your feline friend meticulously bury their feces in the litter box? This seemingly strange behavior is actually a deeply ingrained instinct with several reasons behind it. Understanding your cat's natural tendencies is key to building a strong bond and creating a harmonious home for all.

This AnimalWised article explores why cats bury their waste, diving into the evolutionary roots of this behavior. We'll also examine its role in communication and territory marking, address common concerns, and offer tips for a happy litter box routine for you and your feline friend.

You may also be interested in: Why Do Cats Run Away From Their Poop?
  1. Why do cats bury their poop?
  2. Why won't my cat cover his feces?
  3. Why doesn't my cat cover his feces anymore?

Why do cats bury their poop?

The burying behavior observed in cats is an adaptation with roots in their evolutionary past.

To truly grasp this behavior, we need to delve into the world of their wildcat ancestors. In the vast territories they roamed, feces played a crucial role in predator-prey interactions. A cat's waste could either attract predators or signal its presence to rival felines.

In response to these challenges, wildcats developed a remarkable strategy: they meticulously buried their droppings. This act effectively masked their scent, reducing the risk of detection. By mastering this skill, wildcats gained a significant advantage, minimizing their exposure to predators and competition for resources.

This innate instinct, shaped by millennia of natural selection, persists in our domestic cats today. While their surroundings may be vastly different from the wild, the urge to bury remains deeply ingrained. This seemingly mundane ritual serves multiple purposes, reflecting the survival instincts of their ancestors.

While avoiding predators was certainly a crucial factor, the reasons behind a cat's litter box behavior are multifaceted. Let's delve into each of these motivations:


For a wildcat, waste can be a beacon of danger. Predators might be drawn to the scent, while prey animals could become alerted to the cat's presence. Burying offers a two-pronged solution:

  • By burying their feces, cats significantly reduce the potent ammonia odor. This olfactory stealth makes them less detectable to potential threats, offering a layer of protection.

  • Burying also helps cats maintain stealth when hunting. Prey animals are sensitive to smells, and burying waste prevents them from being alerted to the cat's presence.


Cats are renowned for their meticulous grooming habits, and their aversion to unpleasant odors extends to their waste management. As obligate carnivores, cats have a heightened sensitivity to foul smells. Burying waste aligns with this natural inclination towards hygiene, keeping their designated territory (the litter box) clean and odor-controlled.

Domestic cats may not face the same dangers as their wild counterparts, but the instinct to bury translates to keeping their litter box clean. Burying waste helps control odors and reduces the risk of bacterial growth within the litter box.


While less prominent in single-cat households, burying can be a form of feline communication with multiple purposes. Cats are inherently territorial creatures, and burying can be a subtle way of marking their domain. Trace amounts of scent left behind after burying act as a territorial marker to other cats in the vicinity. In fact, studies have found that burying behavior increases in multi-cat households or when a new cat arrives.

Beyond territory marking, buried waste carries information for other cats. The residual scent transmits information about the cat, such as its age, sex, and health status. When encountering buried waste, other cats can assess the presence of other felines, their potential dominance, and even their mood based on the scent. This plays a crucial role in cat social dynamics, helping them establish hierarchy and navigate interactions within their multi-cat environment.

Did you know cat poop can actually tell you a lot about their health? Unlock the secrets in our other article and learn to interpret what your cat's waste is saying.

Why Does My Cat Bury Their Poop? -

Why won't my cat cover his feces?

At times, our cats may stray from their typical behavior of burying their waste, leaving us perplexed. There are many reasons why this might happen. For some cats, burying isn't the goal. They might strategically leave their waste uncovered, particularly in prominent locations like beds, sofas, or chairs. This behavior serves as a way to mark their territory, allowing the scent to spread effectively and signal ownership to other cats.

It is crucial to remember that social hierarchy can play a role in litter box habits within a household with multiple cats. The dominant cat might leave their waste unburied as a display of power and confidence. Conversely, a submissive cat might use the box quickly and avoid burying out of fear of the dominant feline.

Kittens weaned too early might not have had the opportunity to observe their mother burying waste. This essential behavior is often learned through watching and mimicking. Without this experience, kittens might simply not know how or why to bury their droppings.

Also, a dirty litter box is a major deterrent for cats. If the litter box isn't cleaned regularly to their standards, they might avoid using it altogether. Maintaining a clean litter box is crucial for encouraging proper bathroom etiquette.

In some cases, a cat's refusal to bury or use the litter box can be a sign of an underlying health issue. If your cat is exhibiting this behavior, consult a veterinarian to rule out any medical concerns that might be causing discomfort or pain.

The good news is that burying behavior can be taught! Patience and positive reinforcement are key. Try accompanying your cat to the litter box and gently showing them the scratching motion after they eliminate. With consistent practice, your cat might just pick up the burying habit.

Why would a cat choose the comfy bed over the litter box? Explore the reasons behind this perplexing behavior in our other article and discover some solutions.

Why Does My Cat Bury Their Poop? - Why won't my cat cover his feces?

Why doesn't my cat cover his feces anymore?

While the previous explanation cover common reasons why cats don't bury, sometimes a cat who previously buried their waste might abruptly stop.

A dirty litter box remains a top contender. Cats are incredibly clean creatures, and an uncleaned litter box can be a major turn-off. If your cat stops burying and starts eliminating elsewhere, this is a strong sign it's time for a thorough cleaning.

Did you recently switch litter brands or types? Cats can be particular about litter texture and scent. If your cat dislikes the new litter, they might avoid using the box altogether or stop burying in protest. Consider returning to the previous litter or trying different options until you find one your cat approves of.

As is often the case, the introduction of a new pet, especially another cat, can unsettle your existing feline companion's established routine and feeling of safety. Sometimes, a cat that previously buried its waste may cease this behavior as a means of asserting dominance over the new arrival. Offering abundant resources such as multiple litter boxes (ideally one per cat plus an additional one) can alleviate tension and promote correct litter box utilization.

As a responsible cat owner, it's crucial to maintain regular monitoring of your cat's litter box habits. If you observe any changes in behavior, it's important to investigate potential causes and seek advice from a veterinarian.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Cat Bury Their Poop?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Why Does My Cat Bury Their Poop?