Covering poop is normal behavior for cats, right? Well not necessarily.
Wildcats that bury their droppings do so for basically two reasons: One is to keep their presence unknown from potential predators. The other is to show that they are not challenging the more dominant cats.
These more dominant cats rarely bury their feces and often leave residue in the grass to make it even more prominent.
So it seems that the only reason for a domesticated cat to bury its poop is if there is a dominant cat in the house. However, it is a very natural cat behavior. So why doesn’t your cat do it?
Humans being nice
Humans have encouraged the behavior of our pets, selectively choosing (and raising) those that are “clean.” Cats that expose their droppings for the world to admire are not abnormal, they are just cats.
If your kitty has always behaved using a litter box and suddenly makes a statement with uncovered poop, ask yourself what else has changed. This may be the cat’s way of sending a smelly signal to other cats (or even a stray dog hanging outside the window) that the territory is my property.
Declaring “It’s” Territory
In the wild, dominant cats (including jaguars, leopards, lions, and tigers) that compete for territory do not bury their feces, sending a message that they are declaring that place as their own.
So a domesticated cat may choose not to bury its poop so that other cats – or its owner – know that “I’m here.” Even if a cat has lived in the same place for a while, it may not feel like it’s their territory.
The smell of their poop shows the presence of that particular cat.
Doing What Comes Naturally
Cats that decide not to cover or leave a deposit outside the box may simply be doing what is natural. Although burying feces is generally a mother cat modeling behavior, some cats never actually learn how to do this.
If they never observed their parents in the litter box, they may not know what to do and don’t do it.
In fact, one study followed pet cats and observed them defecate 58 times, and only twice did they try to dig a hole first, or plug it later.
The Wrong Sandbox
When it comes to litter boxes or sandboxes, size does matter. Perhaps your cat’s litter box is too small for It to physically roll over in it and bury Its poop. And, as the saying goes, cats can be fussy, maybe they don’t like the feeling of sand when the box is too dirty, preferring not to spend more time there.
If you suspect one or both might be true, try a larger litter box.