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6 Tips to Get Your Cats to Cover Their Poop

Stephanie Dube Dwilson
Cat doesn't cover poop in litter box.

If your cat doesn't cover her poop, what can you do? It can be frustrating (and a little smelly) if you find uncovered poop waiting in the litter box. Just remember: your cat isn't doing this to be mean. If she's not covering her poop, it could be because of nervousness, competition with other cats, health issues, or other reasons. You can encourage your cat to cover her poop by trying different litter and litter boxes, calming products, and decreasing the stress in her life.

1. Teach Your Cat to Bury

If your cat has never buried her poop, it might be because she never learned from mamma kitty.1 Try sitting with her while she uses the litter box and then gently use her paws to cover the litter when she's done. Give her treats when she does cover it. You can also use clicker training to "capture" the right movements and slowly encourage her over time.2

2. Add More Litter Boxes in Different Locations

If a cat's not covering his poop, it might be because the litter box is in a location your cat doesn't like. Or maybe you don't have enough boxes. It's a good rule of thumb to provide at least one litter box per cat.

Put the litter boxes in different locations. Make sure that some are away from loud noises like washing machines or heavy foot traffic. A cat who gets distracted by noise might forget to cover his poop.

3. Reduce Stress

Sometimes stress can cause cats to leave their poop uncovered. In the wild, cats may cover their poop to hide their scent so predators don't know they're around.3 Or they might be trying to show that they're not a threat to an "alpha" cat in the area. So a cat who isn't covering his poop might be in competition with another cat and is trying to show dominance. Other stress triggers, like other cats wandering outside the house, might leave her feeling insecure. Even having visitors over or moving to a new house might trigger your cat to feel stressed.

If you've got a stressed-out kitty, reducing stress can help her feel more confident about covering her poop. Try a calming diffuser. These release a drug-free, odorless vapor that mimics the pheromones a cat uses to indicate an area is safe. You could also try a calming collar, which releases those same vapors wherever your cat goes.

Setting up cat trees so your cats aren't all stuck on the floor together can help. Playing with your cat to expend some of that nervous energy can help too.

4. Test Different Kinds and Levels of Litter

A cat may not cover his poop because the litter hurts his paws or he just doesn't like the smell or feel. So try a variety of litter, from pine to shavings to granules. You can also try fragrance-free litter.

Long-haired cats might get litter granules caught in the fur that sticks out from their paws. Try "crystal" litter designed for long-haired felines. Long-haired cats can also get mats on their bums, so check for this too.

You might even try different levels of litter and cleaning it more frequently. Some cats won't cover their poop if the litter is too shallow or too deep. Others won't cover if it's too dirty.

5. Give a Low-Sided or Larger Box a Try

Try a low-sided box. Some elderly cats or cats with hip dysplasia might feel pain when they try to step into the litter box. This can cause them to want to leave the box fast, or they might start pooping outside the box instead. If you use a low-sided box (or cut out one of the sides), your cat might warm up to the litter box over time.

A larger box might also help. If the box is too small, your cat might not feel comfortable moving around and burying his poop. A covered box often restricts the space your cat has to move around in. But some cats feel more comfortable in a covered box, so experiment with different types.

6. Talk to a Veterinarian

It's always a good idea to chat with your veterinarian if your cat has a sudden change in behavior. If she's been covering her poop and suddenly stops, she might have a new health issue. Get her a checkup to make sure she's okay.

Remember: if a cat's not covering his poop, he's not trying to be mean or show that he's mad at you. A cat typically doesn't cover his poop because of stress, pain, or litter box problems. So go easy on your little fur baby and try some of these solutions to see if they help.

1. Harrell, Jane. "Q&A: How Can I Get My Cat to Bury His Poop in the Litter Box?" PetFinder, https://www.petfinder.com/blog/2011/05/train_furkeeps_qa_how_can_i_ge.

2. Driver, Nancy. "Ask a Trainer: Cat Soiling the Carpet." Karen Pryor Clicker Training, 9 June 2015, https://www.clickertraining.com/node/4868.

3. Shojai, Amy. "Why Cats Don't Always Cover Their Poop." The Spruce Pets, 22 October 2019, https://www.thesprucepets.com/cat-behavior-covering-poop-553937.

Category: Cat Behavior | Comfort Zone