Our cat, Fishfingers, goes outside several times a day so that he can wee and poo in the garden. When we first got him, we put a litter tray (a plastic tray filled with bits of clay or sawdust that he could use as a toilet) inside the house, just in case he needed to use it. My 6-year-old noticed that if Fishfingers did use the litter tray, he would then spend ages afterwards trying to cover up his wee/poo with the clay or sawdust.
But why does Fishfingers try to cover up his wee/poo? Let’s find out about cat behaviour to work out the answer:
Cats are social animals, which means that they don’t like to live on their own. In the wild, they live in groups with other cats from their family. Domestic or pet cats also like to live in groups, where humans and other pets become their family or social group.
Cats evolved from a family of wildcats that lived thousands of years ago. And now, there are lots of different species of cats, from lions and tigers to pet cats like Fishfingers. As all the different species have evolved, they have changed to look different and live in different habitats but kept some common types of behaviour that we can still see today, even in our pet cats.
For example, Fishfingers likes to keep his claws sharp by scratching them on the stairs carpet and he likes to chase a ribbon or a ball around the house. These are ways for him to practise his hunting skills. Sometimes he will practise in the garden and bring home a dead mouse, even though all his meals are provided by me!
Fishfingers also has a very good sense of smell and likes to rub himself on things around the house (including my legs!) to make them smell like him. This marks out our house as ‘his place’ so that other cats don’t come too near! And it is this part of his behaviour that makes him want to bury his wee and poo.
When cats live in a group, they will choose one cat to be the leader. This cat will leave his poo on the ground to mark their territory and keep other (non-family) cats away. All the other cats in the group will bury their poo so that all their poo smells don’t get confused. In our house, I am the leader because I provide all the food. Now, I would like to point out that I do not leave my poo lying around (that would be yucky!) but Fishfingers buries his poo because he’s not the leader in our social group.
So that’s why cats bury their poo!