My four-year-old male cat, Max, has developed an unusual habit. While he always uses the litter box, he no longer bothers to cover his poop with litter. Have you heard of this before and do you have any thoughts as to why this might be happening?
— Martha, Long Beach, New York
Cats usually cover their waste, and don’t need their owners help. But it’s not uncommon for a cat, especially a male cat, to suddenly stop covering their poop in a litter box. It’s likely just one thing, but it can happen for many reasons.
While there are no medical conditions related to this behavior, if a cat is in pain, has a painful elimination, a urinary infection, or even a tender paw, he may not feel like covering his waste.
If the litter box is too small or is located in the wrong place, a cat may be eager to get in and out of the box quickly.
If there is more than one cat or a new cat in the house, the cat may leave the feces uncovered to communicate dominancy. But the behavior could also be because the cat no longer likes the texture of the litter.
If there is no health problem, then change one thing at a time to see what works. Start with a new, slightly larger litter box to give him more space to move around. If that doesn’t work, then relocate the litter box to a place that feels more secluded. Next, try adding a second litter box or adjusting the depth of the litter. If all else fails, change the litter type, but do so slowly, mixing portions of old and new litter until you are eventually only using the new litter.
Just know a single sunbeam coming through the window and hitting the box at just the wrong angle could change your cat’s litter box habits. You will have to play detective to figure it out.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal