Why Do Cats Not Bury Their Poop?

Why Do Cats Not Bury Their Poop?

It is a common stereotype that cats instinctively bury their poop, so their humans think there is automatically something wrong when they don’t. While it might make your home smell and you don’t like it, it is normal behavior for your cat.

Why doesn’t your cat bury its poop after using the litter box?

Burying their poop is a learned behavior that kittens learn from their mothers. Cats also stop burying their poop if they feel threatened by another cat or stressed over something. They also might have a medical issue that prevents them from taking care of their “business.”

While this behavior is disturbing to you, it is normal cat behavior. Read on for more about this dirty topic.

Cats Might Not Have Learned the Behavior From Their Mamas

Kittens that are separated from their mothers too soon, either by well-meaning cat parents giving away the kittens too soon or by a fatal accident in the wild, did not learn how to bury their poop.

Mother cats teach their kittens everything there is to know about cat life, including covering up their fecal matter.

If you want your cat to learn how to bury their poop, there are ways to teach them how to do it.

  1. After your cat poops in the litter box, gently take their paw and use a burying motion to cover their poop.
  2. If your cat understands the teaching and gets the message, reward your cat with a treat.
  3. Your cat might not like their litter’s feel on their paws, so try getting a different type of litter that they like better.
  4. Use a clicker training technique to create a positive association with the right behavior and the clicker.

Just because your cat doesn’t know how to bury their poop, it doesn’t mean it can’t be trained to do so. It takes patience and a firm and gentle hand to help your kitty learn this behavior. And because your cat wants to please you, it will try to get the message you are trying to teach.

Cats Are Marking Their Territory

Poop is a highly individual smell, unique to every cat. Cats use their poop sometimes to create their space that other cats avoid. They are very territorial and may want to keep other cats away from their space. If a cat doesn’t feel welcome in your home yet, they will leave their poop unburied, or they will poop outside the litter box to let you know they are home. Or, they will do it to make themselves feel welcome.

Why Do Cats Not Bury Their Poop?

One way to discourage them from this behavior is to provide one litter box for each cat you have and get the kind of litter they want to use.

Give your new cat plenty of attention and make sure they have something they can put their scent on to help them feel like they have their territory.

They May Have a Medical Issue

If a cat has arthritis in its paws or they have trouble urinating or defecating, they won’t want to spend more time in the litter box than they do already.

When their paws are sore, it might be too much for them to pull enough litter with their paws to bury their poop. Or if they were recently declawed, they will forego burying their poop.

But if you think they are having difficulty going in the litter box or taking a long time to pass their poop, you might want to call your vet to make an appointment for a checkup.

Urinary infections might also cause your cat not to want to go in their litter box, as they might associate pain with the litter box.

They might not bury their poop or go in their box if they don’t have their litter box.

The Litter Box Might Not Have Enough Litter

Sometimes, when a litter box needs to be thoroughly cleaned, there might not be enough litter for the cat to bury its poop. If this happens too many times, your cat will get out of the habit of covering its leavings. While you may not like the sight of your cat’s poop, it doesn’t bother your cat to leave it out in the open.

To keep your cat from getting lazy about covering its poop, make sure the litter box is scooped out daily, and that enough fresh litter gets replaced so that your cat has enough litter to bury the poop. Cats are very clean creatures and prefer clean litter boxes with enough clean litter to bury their poop.

You also might consider thoroughly cleaning your cat’s litter box at least once every two to three weeks to get the extra ammonia from the urine out of it.

Dispose of the used litter completely, then use dish soap and water and scrub the box clean. Completely rinse the box and wipe dry. Place new litter in the box. By replacing the litter every few weeks, you create an environment where your cat is ready and willing to bury their poop.

Your Cat May Not Like the Litter Used In Their Box

Your cat might not like the type of litter used in their box because it is too hard to move with their paws. Clay litter might not be so easy to move, especially if your cat has been declawed. Or, you might have changed the brand of the litter recently.

Cats don’t like abrupt changes and will refuse to use the litter box at the very least or refuse to bury their poop. Most cats like a fine particle type of litter that is sandy and easy to move.

The Behavior is Not Abnormal For Cats

Cats normally leave their poop out to be able to eliminate in their area. Feral cats and outdoor cats will leave everything out in the open to tell other animals and cats to stay away from their area. Since it is a cat’s instinct to leave it out in the open, not covering it is not necessarily negative.

Big cats in the wild will cover their “tracks,” so to speak, to keep other predators from finding their location.

While it may seem abnormal for cats to not cover their poop, it is as normal as covering it. Cats go both ways in this behavior.

Contact Your Vet If You Think Your Cat Is Sick

Sometimes, cats are too sick to bother with burying their poop. If your cat normally buries it, then suddenly stops, there might be a medical reason, as mentioned previously.

Your cat will give you signs if they are ill, such as losing appetite or excessive sleeping. You know your cat best, and if your cat seems a bit “off,” then your instinct could be correct. Contact your vet if you suspect your cat is sick.


Burying their poop or not burying their poop isn’t an issue for cats because they aren’t bothered by it either way. Wild cats do it because they want to stay hidden from predators by covering the smell. Outdoor cats don’t do it because they are setting up their territory.

If you want to teach your cat how to bury its poop, try using a clicker as mentioned earlier to train your cat to bury its poop. Or, use hand-over paw instruction, and reward your cat if they get it correct.

Keep the litter box clean with fresh litter, and your cat should have no excuse not to bury its poop.