Why u no bury poop?
January 13, 2013 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Almost a month ago, my BF and I adopted two beautiful shelter kitties. Overall, they're great cats, but we're somewhat befuddled that (at least one of) the cats refuse to bury their poop when using the litter box. Is this something we should be concerned about? Details and pictures within!

So this is Heath (5 y.o.), and this big dude is Dexter, aka Mini Panther (13 mo.). Both male, neutered, and have been pretty companionable with each other thus far. They had been previously litter-trained, and happily there have been zero accidents so far. It just seems odd to both me and BF that they'll poop in the box and then just leave it there? We use unscented litter, and the box is scooped out religiously every day, completely changed probably every 4-5 days. Is this a sign that the box needs to be scooped/cleaned even more? Or are they just not terribly concerned with...flushing, I suppose?

I know on the scale of things, this is probably (I HOPE) a minor issue with what are otherwise very sweet and affectionate little guys. I was just hoping to get some insights to see if this may be a sign of something we should be concerned about. Thanks very much!
posted by deep thought sunstar to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is it causing odor problems? If not, I would say who cares. Cats are weird.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Scooping once a day is great even for two cats. I've had a dozen or so foster cats now and they all have their weird litter quirks that never seem to be a problem. The current one flings litter everywhere in the room, as if to make his surroundings smell more like him. It's just what cats do.

(They're adorable and thanks for adopting!)
posted by artifarce at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

i know a cat who never ever buries - she has a clean bill of health and is far less troublesome than our always burying little man. cats are weird.
posted by nadawi at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2013

My middle-aged cat almost never covers hers unless we are traveling. I interpret it as her being comfortable enough at home to not have to cover and being a little nervous when we're on the road, where she decides it's more important to cover her tracks.

At home, she often just turns around and goes through the motions of covering without actually doing any actual covering or gets out of the box and makes that covering motion on the tile floor nearby for no good reason. No health problems, just cat weirdness.
posted by BlooPen at 10:53 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience, many cats who use litter boxes aren't keen to bury output. Whether it's because the box traps odors and they just want the heck out of there, or because they know their human servants will be along shortly for clean up. Outdoor cats seem more likely to bury to, I dunno, not leave tracks for their predators to find? No worries in the case of your cats -- "normal" cat behavior.
posted by vers at 10:55 AM on January 13, 2013

My adorable cat doesn't bury hers either. There's nothing wrong with her.
posted by DorothySmith at 11:00 AM on January 13, 2013

My cat usually doesn't bury his poop either. I just figure it's a personality thing and scoop it out whenever I see it.
posted by anaximander at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2013

Another vote here for cats are weird: mine do not bury their output either!
posted by royalsong at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

four cats here, I estimate poop disposal as follows:

50% buried in litter box
48% not buried, but in litter box
1% in locations to piss me off because I've done something wrong in the cat world
1% will never be found during my lifetime

In other words...as said above, don't worry about it...
posted by HuronBob at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2013 [15 favorites]

I have a non-burier that I adopted from an animal hospital. It's kinda funny, really, as he has the instinct to make burying motions, but he doesn't seem to know why. He swipes the rim of the litter box, the wall, the floor, and everything else around him until his urge to swipe is satisfied. And then he meows loudly, announcing the event.

I trace this back to his kittenhood. He and his brothers were found at an extremely young age and they spent their first few months of life in a cage in the lobby of the pet hospital, not knowing their mother. There was a small box with a tiny amount of litter in it, and as soon as they pooped the front desk clerk would come to remove it so that the odor wouldn't linger in the lobby.

So they learned that burying was not only unnecessary, but impossible, and that the proper course of action upon pooping was to summon aid. Moving in with a burier has not retrained him.
posted by rlk at 11:03 AM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Cats vary widely in their attention to cleanliness, and it all falls within the realm of "normal" unless they're displaying other signs of illness or distress.

For instance, we currently have three cats, all perfectly healthy, who have differing levels of fastidiousness regarding their litter habits. One doesn't cover her poop at all, one spends an inordinate amount of time obsessively covering and re-covering everything that happens to be in the box when she does her business whether its her own poop or not, and one who makes a half-hearted effort at shuffling litter around, then slowly emerges from the box, glancing back several times with a look of disgust on his face.
posted by amyms at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've read elsewhere that cats refusing to bury their poop can be a dominance thing. They're trying to show that they're better than/not afraid of either the other cat or of you.

I can't seem to find a link to this information, though, so take it with a grain of salt.

Either way, it is not likely a sign of ill health.
posted by asnider at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of my cats used to make a big pile and poo on top of it, like she was boasting to the whole neighbourhood what she could do. And her brother used to throw the litter everywhere with joyful abandon and was terrible at burying the actual poo.

Domestic cats are weird and silly with their cat litter, so as long as yours is pooing regularly and you clean the litter box appropriately then you're good.
posted by shelleycat at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should also mention that the pile-pooer was the lowest on the totem pole of two humans and two other cats. She was not really showing off, just kind of confused.
posted by shelleycat at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2013

My little girl occasionally leaves her poop uncovered, and I've been trying to assess what's different about the times she covers it. It's not like she doesn't know how -- she likes to go over and move around the litter sometimes too, even when she doesn't have to go. My current theory is that she only doesn't cover it when I'm sitting on the couch and not paying enough attention to her. Not paying enough attention to me? FINE. Pay attention to my POOP.

If it bothers you (odor-wise), you could try adding a litter box. Generally, you want 1 more little box than the number of cats, although plenty of cats get along okay otherwise.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have heard its a dominance thing too. one of my 2 cats routinely does not bury his poo. but he does always and only go in the box, so no big thing, right?
posted by supermedusa at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2013

My cat doesn't bury, either, and I've come to believe it's a dominance thing exacerbated by the fact that 90% of the time he'll only poop if I'm in the bathroom with him and immediately available for scoopage. So clearly, he knows who is boss in the household.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's kinda funny, really, as he has the instinct to make burying motions, but he doesn't seem to know why. He swipes the rim of the litter box, the wall, the floor, and everything else around him until his urge to swipe is satisfied. And then he meows loudly, announcing the event.

Mine does this too, except he generally buries his poop, though not always. (He didn't when I first adopted him.) I keep the box of litter next to the litter box and he paws at the box, as if he can make litter come out of it. He also tries to to sweep the litter he's flung out back into the litter box. And then races round the house like a lunatic.

I have noticed that Edmund's enthusiasm for burying pee and poop varies with how much litter is in the box--if it's below the level he seems to prefer, he stops burying. (What the 'functional' depth of litter is seems to depend on the type of litter. It probably says on the packet, but it may be wrong, or your cat(s) may want more.)
posted by hoyland at 11:52 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have three cats: one (female, youngest & newest) always buries everything; one (male, oldest) not only buries, he digs to China and scratches the walls for good measure; one (male, middle in all things) never buries anything, ever and hops out as quickly as he can. Incidentally, it's the digger who tends to have constipation/urethra issues, but I'm not sure the scratching is related.

We have two boxes (one per level of the house) and scoop daily. It's less than recommended, but we already spend a lot of time tending to cat effluvia.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2013

I have noticed that Edmund's enthusiasm for burying pee and poop varies with how much litter is in the box--if it's below the level he seems to prefer, he stops burying.

This is true for my cat, Leonidas, as well. It seems like the deeper the litter, the more likely (and the more time) he spends burying. He used to not bury at all, actually, and none of my previous cats did, either. Whether he buries or not, he makes a great effort to kick/carry as much litter out of the box as he can.
posted by sm1tten at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2013

Your kitty might not like the litter you're using. One of my kitties refused to bury her poo for years until we switched to Cat Attract litter, which supposedly has some sort of magical herbs or something in it that make cats love it. We've never had a litter problem again since we switched. You might want to experiment with different litters to see what your kitty likes.
posted by Nematoda at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

My cat (Anubis) doesn't like to cover his poop. He also does the above mentioned 'act like covering poop' motion on the toilet, the wall, the floor, etc.
posted by sperose at 12:04 PM on January 13, 2013

I had one obsessive cover-er and my Gracie only half-heartedly buries, if at all. I go with scoopable litter now, because it's easier to keep up with a non-burying kitty that way.
posted by xingcat at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2013

I have cats that differ based on their moods (though only one will put any effort if the litter isn't several inches deep; she also does the covering poop motion on everything near the litter box, like the floor and the filing cabinet). Consider it a bonus, because that way you can identify which cat is sick fairly easily based on how deep their poop is.
posted by jeather at 12:28 PM on January 13, 2013

My cat makes a few vague swats at the wall and then wanders off. He's 20, so I think it's fine.
posted by katinka-katinka at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I once had three cats with vastly different litterbox habits: Eldest female didn't bury her poops, and had a habit of balancing on the edge of the box instead of putting her feet in the actual litter. Male cat always dug to China and flung the litter around with such abandon that I had to buy a special deep-sided box or half the litter would wind up on the floor. Youngest female was extremely dainty-pawed and would only go in the finest of clumping litter; if I didn't use fine clumping litter she'd pee on a newspaper or any clothes left on the floor.

I now live with three cats who are pretty good about burying their poop.

Cats are weird. And nthing Cat Attract litter or its sister product Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat. I use Precious Cat and haven't had an outside-the-box incident with any of my current ones yet (knock wood).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:00 PM on January 13, 2013

If changing litter doesn't help and the non-burying leads to an odor problem, perhaps consider one of those automatic litter boxes that rakes the litter a few minutes after the cat leaves?
posted by xedrik at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2013

Sometimes my cat buries it, sometimes he doesn't. Regardless, I scoop his box every day. It only takes a minute to do, so why not? The house smells better that way and I'm sure he prefers not to have to stand in his on crap when he's using the box. I've never thought his not-burying was a problem, though obviously I'd prefer it if he'd bury it because it can make the bathroom a bit stinky when he doesn't.
posted by Scientist at 1:26 PM on January 13, 2013

My cat shits in one litter box and buries about 50% and pees in the other litter box and never buries. I use Cat attract or Precious Cat Litter which is super clumping so it just turns in big rock things and i scoop it up easily.
posted by KogeLiz at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2013

I've had non-buriers and half-assed buriers over the years. I did have two who, when we would line the litter box with newspaper before putting a scoop of litter in, would very neatly fold down each corner, like a very neatly wrapped fecal gift. They never folded the corners over when they just peed, though.

None of the cats who didn't (and don't bury) have any health issues.
posted by wolfgirl at 1:38 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have one cat who buries and one who doesn't. The one who doesn't will go bury the unburied poop left by the other cat (she also spends a LOOOONG time burying). Both cats are healthy. As someone said upthread, cats are weird.
posted by upatree at 2:03 PM on January 13, 2013

I really need to catch some video of Moe in action. Sometimes he reaches way up the wall as high as he can to swipe pointlessly. He's a large cat and can reach really high. Lengthy cat is lengthy. He works so hard at it.
posted by rlk at 2:58 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of our excavated deeply and buries and buries and buries, and the other will scratch everything around his poop in every direction but on top of his poop, and then sniff and get an expression like he's wondering how come the poop isn't buried since he's done all that work, then he eventually gives up and goes away. He's done that since he was a kitten, which was when he acquired the nickname Mr Poopypaws because he always managed to step in it and track it everywhere.
posted by telophase at 3:55 PM on January 13, 2013

nthing that it's supposedly a "top cat" thing. prey animals bury the poop to hide their tracks, while predators leave the poop out so you know it's their territory. or so says the aspca (scroll down a ways to find the Q and A on the topic): http://www.aspca.org/aspcakids/ask-azula/cats.aspx
posted by feets at 5:47 PM on January 13, 2013

Yeah, we have one burier and one who can't be bothered. As mentioned upthread, as long as it's not causing odor problems, you're fine.

It's worth noting that cats seem to be really into their burial preferences, not unlike how some people are militant about over-the-top vs. under-the-bottom toilet paper. We have a fanatical burier, who seems to draw some sort of Zen enlightenment from spending anywhere between 10 seconds and 2 minutes (!) burying his output. The other one doesn't care, and is also a spite-pooper when her environment becomes stressful. One day, she decided to send us a message on the bathroom shower mat. It's one of those pulled-yarn numbers, with 3/4 inch threads hanging densely off it it. We only saw the aftermath of this, so I'm just guessing at what happpened, but it looks like one cat left us a present on the middle of the rug, and the fanatical-burier found it, freaked out, and tried to bury it. With the carpet. We walked in to find the carpet entirely bare, as he had ripped every single thread out of the carpet and used them to cover the offending poop. When that wasn't enough, he took the edge of the now-bald-bathmat and flipped it over on itself to cover the enormous blue pile of yarn.

So yeah, cats are weird,
posted by Mayor West at 4:36 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have had this.
There are two issues:
Stinky litter - one cat is very sensitive to use. Any use.
Fear - if she buries she is chased. So, so doesn't bury.
posted by Mezentian at 6:53 AM on January 14, 2013

If it's happening consistently then it's most likely a dominance display. If they weren't really socialized with each other before living together, and it's only been a month, that's the explanation that makes the most sense to me. They've figured out they're part of a unit, now they're hashing out hierarchy.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:43 AM on January 15, 2013

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