Why do cats bury their poop?

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Burying waste is a natural behavior for cats, and one that has evolved over time. For cat owners, understanding why cats bury their poop is important in order to provide a clean and comfortable environment for their pets, as well as to address any potential issues with litter box behavior. In this article, we will explore the evolutionary and instinctual reasons for this behavior, as well as the social and environmental factors that can affect it. We will also discuss how to encourage and maintain healthy litter box habits in cats.

Evolutionary Explanation

The domestication of cats and their wild ancestors has led to the development of various instinctual behaviors, including the burying of waste. In the wild, cats bury their poop for several reasons, such as reducing the risk of detection by predators, marking their territory, and keeping their living area clean and hygienic. By burying their waste, cats also cover up their scent to avoid drawing the attention of prey or potential predators. These behaviors have been passed down to domesticated cats, making it a natural and instinctual behavior.

Instinctual Reasons for Burying Waste

Aside from the evolutionary reasons, there are several instinctual reasons why cats bury their poop. First, burying their waste reduces the risk of detection by predators, as it eliminates the scent that could attract them. In addition, burying poop serves as a way for cats to mark their territory, as the scent from their waste can signal to other cats that the area is occupied. This behavior also helps to keep their living area clean and hygienic, preventing the spread of disease and reducing the presence of pests.

Finally, covering up their scent is a way for cats to avoid drawing attention to themselves from prey or potential predators. As cats are both predators and prey, this behavior serves as a protective measure for them. By eliminating their scent, they can move around more stealthily and avoid being detected. Overall, these instinctual behaviors have become a natural part of a cat’s daily routine, and are essential to their survival and well-being.

Social Reasons for Burying Waste

Cats are social animals and have a natural desire to avoid conflict and maintain social harmony. This applies to their behavior in the litter box as well. By burying their waste, cats are showing respect for the other cats in their household or community by keeping the litter box clean and reducing any unpleasant odors.

Additionally, cats are very clean animals and prefer to have a clean living area. Burying their poop helps to maintain a clean and comfortable environment for them, reducing the likelihood of them avoiding the litter box altogether.

In multi-cat households, burying waste can also help to reduce tension and prevent dominance disputes. By covering up their scent, cats are less likely to attract the attention of other cats and compete for resources, which can ultimately reduce conflict and promote social harmony.

When Cats Don’t Bury Their Poop

While burying waste is a natural and instinctual behavior for cats, there are instances where they may not bury their poop. This can be a sign of several issues, including litter box aversion, territorial marking, and health problems.

If a cat suddenly stops burying their waste or consistently avoids the litter box, it could be a sign that they are experiencing discomfort or pain when using the litter box. They may also be stressed or anxious, which can cause them to avoid the litter box altogether. In some cases, cats may not bury their poop as a way to assert their dominance or mark their territory, which can lead to territorial disputes with other cats in the household.

Health issues can also be a factor in a cat’s litter box behavior. Digestive issues such as diarrhea or constipation can cause discomfort when using the litter box, leading to a reluctance to bury their waste. If a cat is experiencing health problems or changes in their litter box behavior, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Overall, if a cat is not burying their poop, it is important to observe their behavior and make any necessary changes to the litter box setup or seek veterinary attention if necessary.

Encouraging Burying Behavior in Cats

Encouraging burying behavior in cats is important to maintain a clean and healthy living environment for both the cat and their owner. Here are some tips to encourage burying behavior in cats:

  1. Provide the right litter box: Make sure that the litter box is the right size and shape for the cat, and that it is clean and easy to access.
  2. Use the right litter: Some cats are very particular about the type of litter they use. Try different types of litter to find the one that your cat prefers.
  3. Keep the litter box clean: Cats prefer a clean litter box, so make sure to scoop it regularly and change the litter as needed.
  4. Provide multiple litter boxes: In multi-cat households, it is recommended to provide one litter box per cat, plus one extra. This ensures that each cat has access to a clean litter box at all times.
  5. Positive reinforcement: When your cat buries their waste, praise them and give them a treat. This positive reinforcement can encourage them to continue burying their poop.

By providing the right litter box setup, keeping the litter box clean, and providing positive reinforcement, you can encourage your cat to bury their waste and maintain a clean and healthy living environment.


In conclusion, burying waste is a natural and instinctual behavior for cats that serves both evolutionary and social purposes. However, there are instances where cats may not bury their poop, which can be a sign of underlying issues such as litter box aversion, territorial marking, or health problems. By understanding the reasons why cats bury their poop and the factors that can influence their behavior, cat owners can take steps to encourage burying behavior and maintain a clean and healthy living environment for their cats.

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