Why Do Cats Like To Use Litter?

If you’re a cat owner you’ll most likely be well acquainted with cat litter, in fact, there’s a good chance it’s often top of your shopping list when it comes to your four-legged friend.

cat using litter tray

It is such a common item that we rarely stop to wonder what cat litter actually is and why our cats use it.

Cats Use Litter Because Of Their Natural Instincts

When we take a look into cat behaviour and their natural instincts, we find that they have an intuitive desire to bury and cover their waste in order to hide their presence and scent from other animals in the area.

This behaviour is even seen in kittens who have not observed their mother doing the same. It’s an instinct that rarely requires teaching.

This is why most cats will know how to use the litter box straight away and will intuitively cover their waste before disappearing to another area of the house.

What is Cat Litter?

our cat whisky looks at a bag of cat litter

Cat litter is a necessity for cat owners, especially with many pet cats spending most of their time inside with no easy access to loose soil.

The cat litter offers a perfect place for pet cats to do their business as they can easily dig and feel comfortable using the area. Cats are naturally drawn to the granular consistency of cat litter as it is similar to dirt and allows them to easily bury their waste.

Most litter is clay-based, which is absorbant and has natural odor control, but there are many options available. One downside to clay cat litter is that it often gets stuck to the cat’s paws and is then tracked around the house. There are ways to stop tracking including switching cat litters.

Another cat litter type which is often seen is silica, which is made from silica gel and tends to be lighter and less dusty than clay but it is important to know that silica can be toxic if eaten by your cat (or if the dust is inadvertently inhaled by your cat).

A great alternative to these is biodegradable materials which provide a more eco-friendly approach and a far better option for cats who have a tendency to ingest the litter.

Biodegradable cat litter can be best created from recycled paper or plant-based materials such as:

  • Sawdust shavings
  • Woodchips
  • Newspapers
  • Corncobs
  • Grains
  • Wheat

All of these litter options absorb liquids and help to neutralize odours. The best cat litter for you and your cat very much depends on personal (and feline) preference.

No matter which material you choose, cat litter is known for being convenient and easy to clean.

Why Are Cats Attracted to Litter

Ultimately, the litter provides cats with a clean and safe space where they can instinctively cover their faeces.

Cats are naturally attracted to sand or soft dirt as it provides an easy substrate to dig up and move around so that is what the cat litter is recreating within your home.

A dominant feral cat will often leave their faeces uncovered as a way of marking their territory and communicating with other cats in the area.

Generally, lone cats and subordinate cats will always cover theirs as a way of effectively staying safe and surviving.

Cats Use Litter To Help Them Cover Their Tracks

Before we housed cats in the safety and warmth of our homes, something we all know cats absolutely love, they were living in the wild where predators and competition lurked.

The burying of waste, and subsequent use of litter is something that has been essential for cats to survive as it’s provided a way of covering their tracks.

Why Do Cats Need Litter Boxes?

Litter boxes provide cats with a safe place where they can satisfy their natural instinct to bury their waste. They are a convenient way for owners to essentially bring the outside in and ensure their cat has somewhere comfortable to do their business.

The litter box will quickly become part of your cat’s territory and some cats even freak out when their litter box is cleaned.

Happy Cat, Happy Owner!

So, next time you see your kitty digging in the litter or quickly running away after their business is done and buried you know it is just their natural survival instincts.

If you’re deciding on which kind of litter to use, remember the background of litter and find the one you think your cat will be most comfortable with using (natural based substrates are always excellent).

If your cat is not utilizing the litter box you can take these steps to help encourage their natural behaviours:

  • Make sure the litter box is clean.
  • Try a different type of cat litter, maybe try one that is more similar to what the cat would use if outside.
  • Move the litter box to a place that is more familiar and open, remember that your cat will want to feel safe and have quick escape routes from the area.
  • Need more options? Lay out several litter boxes with different substances so your cat can pick the preferred option. Once your cat is happy with one of the boxes you can remove the others.