from a solitary ancestor, so they
value having exclusive access to key
resources like food and beds. Sharing
litter boxes, like sharing food bowls,
does not come easy to them.”
Warming to this line of litter box
philosophizing, John added that many
cat owners become vexed when their
kitty insists on burying his food in
the litter box — a form of behavior
that’s common when there’s more
than one cat in a household. It’s a
form of caching you can see in the
wild where a feral cat might bury
some of its prey to snack on later.
“The cat is trying to hide it from a
potential rival,” John said. For a domesticated kitty, the litter box is a
potential treasure trove and, as any
smart cat knows, you always guard
That’s the litter box’s revered
status established. But what about
the quirky behavior that goes on
inside this little feline Zen garden?
Mimosa has a carefully choreographed routine: She deposits her
nuggets into the crystals while
proudly puffing her chest out of
the front of the box, then spends
the next 10 minutes bombing
around the apartment like she’s joyfully lost control of her faculties.
“The usual explanation [for the
dashing around] is a way of releasing
frustration or feelings of conflict,”
John said. The impulse can kick in
when a cat gets a peek of a neigh-
bor’s kitty or a bird swooping past
the window and wants to relieve
feelings of stress caused by being un-
able to take action against the rival
or prey. “While a cat is in the act of
using a littler box, she is vulnerable
to attack,” added John, address-
ing Mimosa’s behavior. “So if this
actually happened at some point
in the past, she might start to feel
tense when using the litter box —
a tension she dissipates by dashing
around the room.”
I adopted Mimosa when she
was 5 months old, and she was
originally found hiding under a car
in a parking lot, so it’s possible that
at one point her peaceful al fresco
pooping was rudely interrupted.
But she doesn’t generally seem
skittish — she once tried to fight
a rooster when she was living in
the shelter, so I think I veer more
toward Tracie’s thoughts on her
post-pooping crazies: “It’s just a
great release of having relieved her-
self of that load that’s inside. She’s
thinking, ‘I feel so good now!’”
That’s a sentiment that rings
true to me. Pooping is fun! It’s
not just a bodily function — it’s a
joyful pastime. It’s a little moment
of privacy and respite in a world
where we’re constantly connected
to each other at all hours of the
day. A successful performance
WE HAD TO ASK:
Does your cat have a unique behavior or
ritual when taking a poop?
One of my cats doesn’t “bury her business,” so my other cat does it for her.
After all, what are friends for?
— Shirley R Millard
I have had three cats so far, and all of them
had to do kitty sprints after taking a poop.
— Donna Beeckman
One of my cats meows when he’s going,
then turns around in circles digging for
about 20 minutes.
— Sarah Cole
Always, before my Tazzy cat poops, I
have to play chase with him. We run
back and forth, from room to room,
hiding, then after five minutes of this,
he does his business!
— Karen Roy-James
My cat runs out of the litter box to
come get me, even in the middle of
the night, so that I can clean it out. She
then begs for a treat as if she deserves
— Pam Lookabill
My cat is a very picky eater and his
tastes frequently change. So when I
put something in his dish that he really
wants, he goes to his litter box to poop.
Is that a poop ritual or an eating ritual?
— Kim Pinkley
Tux always wakes me up in the middle of
the night with the sound of smacking the
plastic edges of his litter box. He poops
in the center, then smacks the plastic.
The poop doesn’t get covered up, but he
does successfully wake me up.
— Jeremy Scott Ringley
One of mine has all four paws lined
up, balancing on the edge of the box.
How he does it, I don’t know. One
goes into each and every box, smells
around, spins around — nope — next
box, repeat, next box, repeat, until she
finds one that she can use. My one cat
sits and meows at me until I clean the
box, then he hops in and uses it every
— Robin Fontenot
undoubtedly leaves you feeling
refreshed and ready to take on
the world. Sure, cats may seem to
act curious in their litter boxes
but, if you break down their behavior, they’re very much like us.
Now if only we could invent kitty
toilet paper …
Phillip Mlynar likes to
consider himself the
world’s foremost expert
on rappers’ cats. When
not chronicling the antics
of his own cat, Mimosa,
on Catster.com, his musings on music can be
found at NYLON, Red Bull Music Academy,
the Village Voice, and Deadspin. He tweets
at @phillip_mlynar and rues the day he utilized an underscore in his Twitter handle.