Many people believe that cats covering their poop is a completely normal behavior, however, this is not always the case. Undomesticated cats will tend to cover their poop for one of two reasons: Either they are attempting to hide their excrement from potential predators, or they are making a show of submitting to more dominant cats that may occupy the same territory. In contrast, cats that are more dominant have a tendency to leave their poop uncovered and to even ‘place’ their excrement in elevated areas to ensure that their dominance is prominently displayed.
From these simple facts, we can draw the conclusion that a domesticated cat would only choose to cover their excrement if they felt threatened or if there was another, more dominant cat in the house. Yet, this practice of burying feces is incredibly common, so what other reasons could there be for your cat not burying their poop?
Over many generations, humans have made a point of breeding specific tendencies into our pets. One of these tendencies in cats is the natural desire to bury their feces and thereby remain ‘clean’. However, cats that do not bury their poop are not strange or abnormal, they are simply being cats.
If your cat has always had a habit of covering their feces in their litter box but has recently begun leaving their excrement uncovered, it may be due to a change in their environment. Cats can choose to do this if they feel that they must indicate to another cat within the house or even a stray hanging around outside that this territory has already been claimed.
In territories that are disputed, dominant cats will not bury their feces as a way of claiming the territory as their own. Even big cats like jaguars, tigers, lions, and leopards tend to adhere to these poop burying rules. If your domesticated cat does not bury their poop, it may be because they do not feel as though your house is their own and they have decided to lay claim to their territory, communicating to other cats, and even to their owners, that this place is now theirs.
Depending on what your cat learned from their mother, they may have never been taught to bury their feces. In this case, not burying their poop is simply a behavior that they have always done.
As an example of this phenomenon, a study was conducted that followed a number of domesticated female cats out of the house to view their behavior. Out of 58 times that the females pooped the cats only tried to cover their waste twice,
Litter Box Issues
Cats have a tendency to be very picky about a number of things, litter boxes included. If the box is too small for your cat, then they may not be able to comfortably turn around to cover their poop. They may also dislike the feel of their litter or may feel like the litter box is too dirty and may want to leave it as soon as possible. If the box is the issue then a simple upgrade should resolve this tendency. On the other hand, if the litter is what is causing your cat to leave their excrement on display, try out a different brand and you may get different results.
Cats may choose to avoid burying their excrement if they are in pain. This can be a pain in their paws, pain during their bowel movements, or it could just be generalized pain that comes with age. Pain or irritation could also be caused by recent surgery, especially declawing. So, while there are not any specific medical issues that would impact a cat’s ability or tendency to bury their poop, there could be underlying factors that detract from their desire to spend any extra time in their litter box.