The Great Cover-Up: Why Cats Hide Their Poop

Kitten in Litter Box

PrettyLitter's special formula makes cleaning your cat’s box a breeze: All that’s left for you to do is scoop the poop! By no longer having to deal with stinky, dusty, heavy litter, you may have instead started to focus on how well your fur babies cover up their poops. How fastidious are your cats about taking care of their feces? We’ve put together a few categories to help you evaluate your feline friends.

Many of our cat’s behaviors -- including covering their poops - are rooted in instinct. But being the wonderfully complex and creative individual they are, they bring their own flair to even this most basic activity. To help you identify your cat’s post-poop process, the PrettyLitter team conducted hours of painstaking observational research and developed a list of the most common approaches.

But before we delve into our findings, we need to start with a bigger question: Why do cats worry so much about covering up?

Kittens In Litter Box

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Wild cats hold a complicated position in their environment, as both predators and prey. Giant cats such as lions and tigers often leave their excrement out in the open, a signal they are competing for new territory or exerting their dominance over an existing domain. Cats that contend with threats like coyotes must cover up anything that gives away their location, and this means meticulously burying their feces.

But how does this explain the actions of the house cat, who often leaves the job half done? House cats face few predators -- except for an occasional vacuum cleaner --  and don’t have to worry about the consequences of showing off a bit.

Some argue that our fur babies hide their feces in deference to us, their human pet parent, who they view as the dominant "cats" in the home. This theory is rejected by many experts but would be particularly ironic, given that it’s us cat parents who end up scooping the poop!

Others have simpler explanations. While evolution explains our cats’ instinctive need to cover their poops, education explains why some are more adept than others at actually getting the job done. When a kitten is separated from its family too young, and misses out on these lessons from mom, they may have to improvise.

The Post-Poop Process

Kitten in Litter Box

PrettyLitter’s research revealed a number of common approaches, from Diligent Diggers to  Careless Kittens:

The Diligent Digger

These cats don’t give up until the job is done, and done right. After taking care of their business, these poop professionals cover the area with a neat layer of litter, working as long as needed to perfect their work. They do expect praise and respect for their efforts.

The Creative Cat

Some cats bring post-poop pizzazz to the task, dramatically scratching at the sides of the litter box, the walls, and even the air. These cats often have little to show for their efforts -- except for the amused or baffled looks on the faces of their pet parent, who appreciate their fur baby’s attitude, while usually overlooking their lack of skill.

The Team Player

These cats know that more paws make for easier working, and they coordinate with their fellow felines to take care of business fast and efficiently.

The Careless Kitten

Some cats, especially the young, simply don’t have the time or patience to worry about covering poops. They have better thingss to do! These kittens may give the litter a quick swipe as they head out of the box at a high speed, ready to join into whatever activity they were missing.

The Happy Hunter

Your cat views the litter scooping process as a game, with you as the hunter and the treasure as the poop. Every day, the “prize” is carefully placed in a different part of the box, and as you search around, your cat looks on with pride!


Tell Us

Here at PrettyLitter, we take our cats' elimination experience very seriously. Please let us know if we missed any crucial poop-covering categories. We’d also love to hear or see a video of your fur baby’s unique technique. In addition, how would you score your cat in terms of success, efficiency, and creativity?




Christine Whitt
Christine Whitt

Author



25 Responses

Tiff
Tiff

October 02, 2018

My cat was really weird. She started out using the litter box and her sister refused. Her sister would use the bathtub instead. After the sister was adopted by another family my cat seemed lonely and we got a kitten. It was all good for a while then we ended up with another kitten. It was like my cat decided there was too many cats pooing in her box so she started using the bathtub to poo and pee directly down the drain. I moved out after a few years leaving my ex and only taking my original cat with me due to housing constraints. Now she uses the litter box again no problem.

Jill Daviscurtis
Jill Daviscurtis

October 01, 2018

Here’s one for you. When we first got our baby Bengal, he was very sick & I had to keep snagging his poop as soon as he dropped it for test after test to be done. He, in fact, would go to the litter box & call me, so he could poop right in the poop scoop, bypassing the litter entirely. As he has gotten older (5 years old now), he still calls me to let me know he is pooping & if I move toward the box too soon, he will bounce out of the box whether the poop is covered or not. HIs beckoning poop call is very specific and totally different from any other of his verbal calls. …. very cute ….

Mel
Mel

October 01, 2018

My kitty Luna is very good at covering her poops, but she spends so much time digging around that she sometimes kicks it onto the floor. Pretty Litter saves the day though, because the poops are usually dried up by the time they hit the floor. Silly kitty!
Ps – Joyce, I think your kitty might have worms

Sabina A Tibold
Sabina A Tibold

October 01, 2018

We have two adapted cat and a rescues Bengal breed cat. They are pure love, and joy, except for the Bengal’s litter habbit. He urinates in the litter, but refuse to poop in the litter, no matter what I do. He goes in the litter box, does the scratching routine, then jumps out, and poops next to the box, covering it up, or tries to, with the little sand on the floor. I just changed to Pretty Litter, they all like it, I had high hopes for the Bengal to change his pattern, but the same routine continues. Our vet can’t figure it out, I don’t think even Jaxon Galaxy could fix this problem LOL I gave up, just clean it up as it comes :)

Sandy
Sandy

October 01, 2018

Our kitten, 5 months old and absolutely positive she is #1 in everything, gets so involved in covering up her poop that litter ends up everywhere. There are piles and drifts of litter next to the box, behind the box, in front of the box, and little mountains of littler in three corners of the box with a complete lack of littler in the fourth corner. The actual poop, happy to say, is usually pretty well covered.

Geoff Berner
Geoff Berner

September 28, 2018

We keep 9 cats in the house (feral and domestic). Over the years we have found there are two types of cats using the litter boxes, Those that don’t cover and those that do cover. Of those that cover there are two types, those gently cover and those that kick wildly in the general direction, and I get the broom out.

Tanya L
Tanya L

September 28, 2018

My Luna is a Creative Cat. She has scratch marks all over the inside of her litter box house. She even paws the air in an effort to cover it up.

June Ford
June Ford

September 28, 2018

I have an Abyssinian and she poops inside her box but doesn’t cover it,

This is my second Abyssinian cat and she poops on top of the Pretty Litter and doesn’t believe in covering it and I think it’s her way of getting rid of it right away because it’s smelly. I feel like I’m her maid!

Elaine Fitzpatrick
Elaine Fitzpatrick

September 28, 2018

I have had many cars ; 2 male were diggers, One female covered. Most of my female left uncovered, in plain sight and always in the back of the litter box. I love cats and all I have loved were different in personality, habits and playfulness. Some are timid and shy, some are independent and bossy. some are just lovable, and some are just who they are which truly makes having them delightful for you never know what you are going to get and enjoy for years. Makes life fun.

Jan Jansen
Jan Jansen

September 28, 2018

I have had my cat for 4 Years. In all of that time she has pooped in her box,maybe 4 times. She poops beside her box.
Pretty close in the same spot. She is 16 years old, and I doubt if I can change her habit now.

Carolyn M Hart
Carolyn M Hart

September 28, 2018

Love the article! But I highly suggest it be proofread!

Jerdis
Jerdis

September 28, 2018

My cat has had to make an adjustment to his new litter. He seems to be either bewildered or fascinated with his feces just sitting there and then just looks at it for awhile. I LOVE the easy removal and I have adjusted to the new ritual much faster.

Barbara Short
Barbara Short

September 28, 2018

My cats, I have two, neither cover their poops! Which leaves an unpleasant Oder which tells me the litter box needs attention. While their poor bathroom habit is annoying I love them dearly. They don’t even try to cover they deposit and just walk away. I get the feeling they are telling me they are healthy and now I should check it and clean it and clean it up!

Cheri Wager
Cheri Wager

September 28, 2018

I have (1) Diligent, (2) Creative & (1) Careless, she is 16yrs old & is dying.

Diana Ortiz
Diana Ortiz

September 28, 2018

My cat sucks at digging! he just digs till half of the litter box is on the floor & its so bad to the point where we had to buy two litter boxes, cut out the bottom of one, flip it upsidedown & glue it onto the other just to create a sheild so not as much litter flies out. It doesnt even matter if the poop is covered or not! Sometimes he even goes in there just to dig & nothing else. He just digs & makes the biggest mess & leaves! its infuriating!!! i love him tho & pretty litter is amazing regardless of how much he wastes.

Chasity
Chasity

September 28, 2018

My kitty tries to scoop his own poop! He kicks it out the box for me!

EnolaGrey
EnolaGrey

September 28, 2018

I definitely have a Creative Cat. He scratches the sides of the box; the paint off the wall; the mat under the box; anyplace. My favorite is when he carefully digs a hole goes to the other end and poops, and goes back and fills in the empty hold. He spent his first year in the orphanage — did he learn it there? Who knows — he’ll be 7 on Oct. 4th. Fortunately, with Pretty Litter, the poops are all dried out and have very little smell. I’ve given up trying to teach him, but when he keeps up the scratching too long, I do “help” him cover it up. Then he sniff and and leaves.

Judy Greene
Judy Greene

September 28, 2018

Why would a dominant cat in a household of two cats, persistently poop outside of the litter box?

Joyce
Joyce

September 28, 2018

You missed “Conscientious Butt Wiper”! I have one 3 year old female that drags herself across the carpet like dogs do after she poops. I have to wash the carpet every week

Jacqui
Jacqui

September 28, 2018

Senior Careless Kitten:. Anticipating the next thing…at 1/3 speed

Patty Oneill
Patty Oneill

September 28, 2018

My cat is pretty neat when she covers her poop, but occasionally she will make a mess. She is not self conscious about going in front of me either like our other cats were.

Cindy Thomas
Cindy Thomas

September 28, 2018

Our cat covers her poop with a thin layer of litter. But this is my question: our cat paws the floor around her food dish.
I don’t know why.

Mary
Mary

September 28, 2018

Not sure how it dries up the poop and gets rid of iron smell but it really works and now I can leave town a couple days with no worry and the kids will scoop because it’s not as gross and combersome

Jim
Jim

September 28, 2018

My cat has a friend. A teacup Chihuahua named Munchkin. The chihuahua poops on a ‘pee pee pad’ and within a very short period of time Cat will scratch the ‘pee pee pad’ until the poop is covered. Guess he doesn’t want predators (vacuum cleaner) getting his friend.

Danielle Ingves
Danielle Ingves

September 28, 2018

One of our four cats insists on pooping just outside the box almost every day. One of our other cats, always tries to cover the poop left on the floor. My husband usually does the boxes daily and the cat poops on the floor almost daily. It is a little game. When my husband is away, the cat seems to poop on the floor less. The cat in question clearly considers my husband his favorite so why he poops on the floor for him is the strangest thing.

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