Ask Giz: How Does My Cat Know to Use its Litter Box?

Ask Giz: How Does My Cat Know to Use its Litter Box?
Apple cat face emoji. Image compiled by Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

It’s time for another Ask Giz, where we answer your reader-submitted questions from all around the Giz-sphere, be it tech, science, health or gaming-related.

Which reminds me: if you’ve got a burning question that you’d like us to answer, please submit it! You can send through your question here.

Today’s question comes from Sarah in Canberra. Sarah wants to know: Why does my cat just know to pee on litter?

Great question, Sarah! We at Gizmodo Australia are massive cat fans, with Asha giving the title of “deputy editor” to her beloved little man Boston.

cat litter
Deputy editor Boston. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

But how do these funky lil’ animals know just where to pee? Well, we’re going to be going into a bit of pet health here, along with some talk about domestication.

How do cats know to use the litter box?

So from the research that we’re doing on the topic, we’re coming up a bit short.

For the most part, cats seem to have an innate need to use the litter box, which they learn from a young age with their mothers. According to Petkeen, cats are naturally tuned to cover up their waste, and in an indoor environment, a box covered in scattered litter is typically the best place to do it.

In the wild, cats thwart being tracked by predators by covering up their waste, which removes evidence of them being there and keeps predators off their tails. This applies to feral cats, too. This survival instinct now helps in their cozy home lifestyles.

Keep in mind though that this is, largely, just an agreed-upon consensus of our feline friends. That means we don’t actually know why cats do this, as pointed out by Hepper and Healthy Solutions for Pets. Simply put, experts tend to agree that it’s part of a survival instinct and that the granules of a litter box tend to mimic the feeling of dirt and sand in the wild.

Additionally, cats may leave their poop uncovered in the litter box as a social status thing, as indicated by PetMeds.

Leave it to your cat

While you should be introducing the litter box to your cat from day one, everything will most likely be fine. If your cat isn’t using the litter box, it could have a neurological disorder and is probably worth discussing with your vet, but for the most part, you should be fine.

Change the litter box regularly and let your cat do the rest.

Ask Giz is a fortnightly series where we answer your questions, be it tech, science, gadget, health or gaming related. This is a reader-involved series where we rely on Gizmodo Australia’s audience to submit questions. If you have a question for Giz, you can submit it here. Or check out the answer to our last Ask Giz: What Actually Happens When You Swallow Gum?