Q&A: How can I get my cat to bury his poop in the litter box?

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In January, Petfinder held a live Q&A on Facebook with pet trainers Andrea Arden and Mychelle Blake. We’ve been posting some of our favorite questions
and answers here on the blog.
Read all our FurKeeps Q&As here.

adoptable cat litter box photo

Q: My cat won’t bury his waste in the litter box. It ends up smelling very bad, and sometimes, when he gets out of the box, he steps in it and tracks it around the house. I’ve noticed that he makes the motions of burying after he has left the litter box. How can I teach him to bury it in the litter box?

A: Cats usually learn to do this when they’re kittens, so it could be your cat didn’t learn correct social skills during his time in the litter with mom. Another possibility is that he’s doing a form of marking, using feces instead of urine.

Finally, sometimes cats won’t cover their feces because they don’t like the texture of the litter on their paws; this often happens with declawed cats because scratching at litter is uncomfortable for them.

Here are some things you can try:

Teach him how to do it
Sit quietly with your cat when he is using the box and, after he eliminates, gently take his front paws and try to show him what to do by moving them over the litter. Reward him with a treat if he “gets” the behavior.

Try clicker training
You can use a clicker to create a positive association with the behavior you want. Go to www.clickertraining.com and check out the cat-training section. You’ll have to work on “capturing” the behavior (rewarding it with a treat and a click) when he does it outside the box, which might take a while.


Try a different type of cat litter

Try a softer litter, such as clay litter, to see if that makes a difference. Some cats develop a preference for one type of substrate for reasons unknown to us (hey, they’re cats, they’re picky!) and sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the one he likes. (You can figure out which litter your cat likes best by setting up a “litter cafeteria.”)

Mychelle Blake, CDBC
Pet trainer and deputy director, APDT
Las Vegas, NV

Learn more about Petfinder’s Train FurKeeps program.


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How do I stop my cat from jumping on the table?

How do I stop my dog from jumping?

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