Cats are known to take cleanliness very seriously. Not only are they responsible for grooming their bodies and keeping their fur free of knots, but they also know where and how to “go to the bathroom” from a young age. Have you ever wondered why do cats use litter boxes? How do cats know to use a litter box? How are they born knowing how to use the sandbox?
In this article, we will see what is behind such behavior, and we will answer many of your questions in our basic guide of “cat and litter boxes” for owners.
Why do cats use litter boxes?
Simply put, cats instinctively use the litter box. All animals have instinctive behaviors, including domestic cats. The use of the sandbox is known to be a behavior ingrained in their DNA, and that it once played an important role in the survival of their ancestors.
The ancestors of the modern cat had to cover their tracks to avoid being attacked and eaten by predators. At some point, they realized that they needed to hide their waste to mask the smell. Little by little, these animals developed a preference for soft earth or sand, since the granular consistency facilitated the process of burying the droppings.
Later, this behavior was passed from generation to generation. That is the reason why cats like sand.
A cat will always be drawn to the sensation of sand and will know what to do once it has it under its paws. It is an instinctive behavior inherited from their ancestors, who learned to hide debris under the sand so as not to leave traces.
This explains why pet cats know how to use the litter box. Both the texture and consistency of most commercial cat litters make it easier to cover their droppings.
Even young kittens know how to use it, instinct prompting them to bury their waste in this type of sandy soil. Female cats rarely need to teach their young how to use the litter box at home. Around the fourth week of age, kittens begin to “use their toilet” without ever having seen the mother do it.
Provided he has a clean litter box, located in an open and familiar area, the little feline will learn to use the box with little or no training.
Did you know…?
Researchers have observed that in a group of feral cats, the dominant cat leaves its droppings uncovered to mark territory. Instead, subordinate cats cover up their waste as an act of submission.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that in a multi-cat household, there is one cat that does not bury its waste in the litter box.
Are there cats that never learn to use the litter box?
According to experts, this can happen, but it is very rare. The natural instinct of the cat, even a stray cat, always leads it to bury its droppings to cover the smell.
When the cat does not learn to use the litter box, it is important to consult the vet or a trainer to determine if there are any health or behavioral problems that need to be addressed.
Why don’t some cats always use the litter box?
It may be the case that a cat uses the litter box normally, but sometimes it stops doing so. That does not mean that the pet has forgotten how to use the litter box. Most likely, you prefer to relieve yourself outside for one or more of the following reasons:
- The litter box is too small, too big, too high, etc.
- It is located in a difficult-to-access area or a very crowded area of the home.
- The sand is already very dirty.
- Consider that cats are very clean animals, hence avoid the litter box if it is not emptied regularly.
Now, if you have already cleaned the litter box, tried a different box, moved it to another area of the house and the cat still does not use it correctly, then it is recommended to consult the vet. It is important to make sure that there is no health problem.
In general, not using the litter box is a change in a behavior whereby the pet tries to communicate something to you.