Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop?

A ginger cat pooping in a blue litter tray

It is a natural phenomenon that dogs bury bones and cats bury poop. Hiding litter is a natural feline instinct, and we all know cats are obsessed with cleaning. But why do cats bury their poop?

Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop? Cats burying their poop is an instinct inherited from their wild ancestors. Burying poop hides smells and pheromones and therefore does not bring attention to them from their preditors or other animals. It is also a way to show submission from more dominant cats in the group. By burning the smell they are showing they are not a threat.

How Do Cats Mark Their Territory?

The process of carefully burying their poop has a long history starting from cat urine and its debris to mark its territory. Cat poop can all smell the same to us, but cats can tell their waste through unique chemical perfume markers called pheromones, which is present in their urine and faeces.

In cats, like many other mammals, urine and faeces are used as markers to transmit social and reproductive signals to other members of the same breed.

Cats are territorial by nature, and their society is formed into a dominance-controlled hierarchy governed by strict rules. They mark their area by depositing pheromones, chemicals that pass from one individual to another. They use various methods to keep their territory in this way, including scratching, rubbing against objects, and leaving their faeces uncovered.

[icon name=”info-circle” prefix=”fas fa-2x”] You may also be interested in our article on Why Do Cats Knock Things Over?

Wild Cats Vs Pet Cats Burying Their Poop

In feral cat colonies, subordinate individuals hide their poop, while the dominant stray cats (including jaguars, leopards, lions and tigers) exposed their faeces in prominent places.

Most indoor cats bury their poop, probably because they feel subordinate to their human family. However, in multicat families, the dominant cat sometimes leaves the faeces uncovered to announce its presence and status.

A pet cat may choose not to bury its poop to let other cats or their owners know  “I’m here.” Even if the cat stays in the same place for a while, it may not feel that it is its territory. The smell of his poop indicates this cat’s presence, and the exposed area means that the region has been taken.

In the wild, cats cover their poop to avoid attracting predators. Burying faeces reduces odours and can be an essential factor in the survival of a vulnerable individual who does not want to publicize their presence.

Wild cats will also hide their waste to not attract unwanted attention from predators or to their kittens’ nests. Domestic cats (Felis Catus) compete with the same strong self-defence forces. Even if there is no predator in your home, your cat may not be so sure, and only then will it bury its litter.

Safety Cleaning Cat Poop

It is advisable not to touch cat poop by hand, especially the pregnant women because cats are a biological vector in spreading Toxoplasma Gondii to humans, which cause abortion in pregnant women along with many other medical issues. This research study proves this.

There is also evidence that cat spread  Cryptosporidium  Spp. in their Feces along with Toxoplasma Gondi. So, it’s advisable to put on gloves while cleaning your cat poop.

Kittens Learn To Cover Their Poop On Their Own

Covering up their “business” is an instinct with which kittens are born, and they begin the ritual as soon as they are able. They don’t learn it by watching their mothers because mother cats never poop near the nest.

Kittens start burying their own waste and will do so even when they are orphaned. Just show a young kitten a litter box and, chances are, he’ll finish it without a hitch and then be good enough to hide that litter.

Cats make great companions. They are warm and fuzzy, loving, engaging, and fun. And the fact is that they maintain such simple bathroom habits that help us to like them more.

Other Animals Who Bury Their Poop:

Cats aren’t the only ones who bury their waste and dump hunters and settle disputes in the area. Armadillo, woodchucks, mink and some other weasels are also known to hide their faeces.

Therefore, it seems that the only reason to bury poop by a pet cat in the house is if there is a dominant cat in the house. However, burying faeces is a very natural behaviour of a cat. Then why isn’t your cat doing it?.

Reason For A Cat Not Using Their Litterbox:

A black and ginger cat smelling a pink litter box

One of the reasons your cat doesn’t use the litter box is because they think they’re overpowering you. However, this is not always the case. This seemingly rebellious behaviour may be due to an illness, a urinary tract infection, stomach upset, or simply a lack of training to properly use the litter.

The cat’s natural burial instincts have been strengthened by their mothers watching this work, so some kittens may need to be taught how to use the litter box.

Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Is Not Burying Its Poop:

To Make People Happy

Humans have encouraged our pet cats’ behaviour by choosing (and breeding) the ones that are”clean”. It’s not uncommon for cats to expose their faeces/poop to people’s admiration – they’re just cats.

If your kitty has always dug and covered the typical litter box behaviour and suddenly made a business with the exposed poop, ask yourself what else has changed?

Another way for cats to not burying their poop is to send a stink signal to neighbouring cats, to own the area or show dominance behaviour, as we discussed above.

Litter Box Problems

When it comes to litter trays or boxes, size matters, i.e., your cat’s litter box may be too small to move around inside the box to bury its poop. And, as the saying goes, cats can be dizzy – maybe they don’t like the smell of cat litter, or the box is very dirty, and they won’t spend any extra time there.

If you doubt that one or both of these things may be true, try a brand new litter tray, or upgrade to a larger litter box.

Medical Issues

There are no specific diagnoses that will prevent your cat from having to bury their poop, but only if your cat is in any kind of pain – whether in paws when going to the bathroom or in general, that could deter them from spending more time in the litter box.

Also, cats that have just been declawed recently want to leave the poop openly.

Some cats never learn to hide poop, so potty training may be an issue!

Cats that choose not to cover or leave a poop outside the litter box may be doing due to lack of potty training. Although burying faeces is usually a patterned practice by mothers, some cats have never really learned to do so.

In fact, most field veterinarians observed that cats who show dominance behaviour seldom done their business in the litter box. This behaviour is very potent, and it is tough to revert to normal. But separate litter training may prove effective in some cases.

Tip: Roaming kittens can use unburied faeces as another form of marking.


Cats bury their poop due to their instincts that they acquire from their wild ancestors. In the wild, Panthera genus such as lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars, which compete for territory, often do not bury their excrement, indicates that they want to claim a particular territory.

Smaller, weaker, or more submissive wild cats buried their faeces, making sure that dominant cats do not feel challenged.

In an uninhabited house, all domestic cats consider themselves subordinate to their human owners. Under normal circumstances, all domestic cats use litter trays or bury their faeces in the garden. So due to this, domestic cat and kitten show the same behaviour and hide their poop.


Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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