Why Does a Cat Bury its Feces?

Why does a cat bury its feces? Well the answer is that they don’t always bury their feces. The question was posed by the well known zoologist Desmond Morris because by and large most domestic cats do bury their feces in the litter box. Mine doesn’t, however, neither does any wild cat that patrols its home range.

cat in toilet

“..OK, OK I’m just figuring out how I’m goin’ to bury it….”

Wild cats use scent marking as a sign that the place marked is part of their home range, their territory. They use all manner of ways to convey this to other cats and that includes brut force sometimes. Urine spraying is another method that we all know about. It is all about scent as cats have a great sense of smell and depend on it much more than we do. One small to medium sized wild cat, the Ocelot, creates toilet areas where it does its business more than once. This maximises the scent. There are probably other wild cats that do likewise.

In fact tom cats will do the same sort of thing. My cat always sits in the same place in the garden. The grass is browner there as visible proof. The ground will carry her scent. A tom cat regularly deposits feces right bang in the middle of this area. It is almost a visual slap in the face saying clear off! The level of scent, due to the age of the scat (scientific name for it) also tells other cats when the cat had been there, which allows for overlapping ranges while avoiding each other.

Cats that do not bury feces wish it to be smelled, to give the signal and to make themselves visible even when they can’t be seen. Cats that bury it want to hide the smell, to reduce their impact on the area, to in fact become less visible and therefore less threatening.

Domestic cats do this because we, the cat’s “owner” (keeper is a better word) are the boss cat and the sole provider of food (usually). We dominate our cats by our sheer presence (one reason why we need to always be gentle and non-threatening). In burying its feces the scent is much reduced presenting less of a threat to the boss cat – us!

Now, my cat does not bury hers because she is the boss! She knows that I don’t threaten her and that we are equal. This comes through in her behaviour with me as created by my behaviour towards her. A cat that is less in awe of its human companion is likely to be more expressive in other areas too.

See Wild Cat Species. Each cat is covered and means of communication is dealt with in these pages.

From Why does a cat bury its feces to Why Do Cats

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Why Does a Cat Bury its Feces?

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Jan 11, 2012
bury your poop
by: Anonymous

if cats in the wild dont bury poop,then why do do demesticated ones bury , drumroll and my answer is , we feed them food is not a look find and kill its a question of is the bowl filled with food ,so cats in the wild rely on finding food so this means lots of roaming so when a cat is feeding from its mom it needs to be close to the utter know problem at home but in the wild mom is always hunting for dinner so when a lttle one needs to go he must stop poop then run to get back with mom there you have it a left over action not needed anymor since domestication so as a result the kitty merley acts it out by association foot motion what we see as bury poop when realy it means hes finding his mom sort of sorry for the long drawn out explanation

Nov 15, 2010
Still mystified
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

Monty always buries his, and the stinkier the poop, the more litter he will pile on top of it. Although caught as a feral kitten, he will not go outside at all– he always, only uses his litter box. Wouldn’t he be more prone to leave feces unburied and to go outside, having been feral? Or is it a nod to me that he has made his choice to be with me instead of being a wild animal?

One night I had him outside on his leash toward evening when a storm was coming up. I was having a hard time getting him to come in and he even hissed at me. Every time I stood near him he would start growling. So I just backed off and let him do what he wanted– and suddenly he changed completely from a hissing, growling wild animal to a docile cat. He just ran toward the house and I followed the best I could. Once inside he made a beeline for where his food is kept (I didn’t even have time to get him out of his harness) and he just sat there looking up at the cupboard. It’s like the darkness and the storm brought out the wild animal in him, but suddenly he remembered me, remembered what he is now, and chose that. I suppose he chose that mainly because when he was wild he was hungry and I feed him well– but it did seem like a very quick and odd about face.

I have noticed (and Monty always notices too) that the feral cats who come into our yard just leave their droppings in the middle of the yard on the grass. But I’ve seen outdoor cats bury their feces also. My friend Bob and I were at a junk yard once looking for a part for my classic car and he spotted a cat squatting on the edge of the dirt road. He laughed, but when we got out of the car he noticed the cat was burying it and he just couldn’t believe it. He kept saying, “He covered it up!” Bob is a dog person, so I restrained myself from using the incident as an excuse to tell him how cats are superior.

But now I question why that cat covered it up? He’s a junk yard cat, so probably pretty wild– kind of like a barn cat, kept around to keep the rodent population down. Yet he covered it. Maybe he wasn’t the dominant cat or perhaps he had a greater bond to the humans there than I thought.

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