Why do cats cover up their poop and pee?

One of the big advantages of cats as pets is their predisposition to burying their waste products. This is mostly put down to the fact that cats are clean animals who love to spend their spare time grooming and of course when nature calls, they like to leave no mess behind them.

But the real reason that cats bury their waste is more complex than just that. This article sets out to explore what causes this behavior and also to offer some advice on how to encourage this behavior when you have a cat that doesn’t do this.

What is the reason cats bury their waste?

Cats are territorial by nature, and like all territorial creatures, they like to mark their territories. Many species use their waste functions as a method of doing this. Both urine and feces can be used as territory markers. This seems counterintuitive when you consider cats. The very act of burying their waste would appear to be a contradiction in this respect.

Feral cats that live in groups are where we can pick up the clues as to why this should be. Cats that live in groups are controlled by strict hierarchical behavior. Like many other pack animals, this structure means that many of the animals in the group are subordinate to a pack leader. It is this pack leader that leaves the scent markers for the whole group. Other subordinate cats will bury their waste to mask the scent. This may well be the reason that most indoor cats bury their waste. It is because your feline friend accepts you as the dominant force in the household.

This trait in cats seems to be innate within them. Kittens instinctively know to bury their waste despite being unlikely to have learned from watching their mothers, as the mothers will never eliminate close to the nest. Orphaned kittens also back up this fact, they instinctively bury their waste despite the absence of a mother to teach them.

While much of the above explains the reason for this behavior in cats that live in groups, solitary cats also bury their waste in the wild.  This is believed to be a defense mechanism against predators, burying their waste can help mask their presence from predators within their territories.

For whatever reason your cat buries its waste, it can only be considered a plus for the humans in their lives. For many people, this is the swaying factor when choosing between a cat and a dog.

Unfortunately, a minority of cats seem to not follow this rule. In the next section, we discuss some techniques that you can use if you are one of the unfortunate cat owners who aren’t so pernickety about their waste products.

What can I do if my cat doesn’t cover its poop?

We now know that burying their waste products isn’t necessarily a case of the cat being hygienic. As such, the reasons that a cat may not cover her poop can be complex. It isn’t just going to be a case that your cat is lazy or dirty, it could be for a myriad of other reasons including nervousness, ill-health, stress, or simply because they consider themselves to be the boss!

Below are some tips and tricks to help get your kitty properly toilet trained.

1 Teach your cat to bury their waste

As we mentioned, normally cats know to bury their waste simply through instinct. Occasionally this doesn’t happen. This is particularly prevalent in young cats, in these instances you may have to act like a mother cat and train them to bury their poop.

This requires you to watch your pet when they go to the litter box and once she has finished her business gently use her paws to cover the poop with litter. Reward her with treats when she covers the poop herself, and she will soon catch on.

2 Try different cat litters

As all cat owners know, cats can be fussy blighters. Sometimes changing the type of cat litter, or even the level of litter in the litter tray can be all you need to do to change their behavior. It could be the smell or texture of the litter that is putting your cat off. Try a variety of litters, using different textures and scents to see if this makes the difference. Here’s the Top 5 Cat Litters..

3 Reduce your cats stress levels

Stress can play a big part in causing this type of behavior. Ultimately, this behavior is down to instinct. Whether your cat is stressed because she doesn’t know her place in the hierarchy, or is worried about predators, or more mundane reasons like a recent move to a new home, calming her down can help get those good poop habits back.

There are a variety of stress-relieving collars and even room diffusers that release odorless vapors that mimic certain pheromones that cats release when they feel secure.

4 Try a different litter box

Similar to trying different kitty litter, actually changing the box that holds the litter can make a world of difference. Cats can feel uncomfortable if the box is too small, it can restrict their movements and their ability to bury their poop. Also, older cats may have issues with boxes that have taller sides. Depending on the circumstances try getting a lower sided or larger box to see if that helps your cat do what comes naturally.

5 Check with the vet

This point is particularly relevant if your cat has suddenly stopped buying her waste. This could point towards an underlying health issue. A quick visit to the vet will set your mind at ease and may well solve the problem.


Cats have to count amongst the cleanest of pets to have around. Burying their waste is a huge part of this. It is something that is normally programmed into them, if your cat is having issues on this front, it is likely some environmental issue that is causing it. Trying some of the above solutions may be all you need to do to get them burying their poop again.


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