Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (2023)

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (1)

Have you ever wondered what rituals our cats use when they go to the bathroom at home? If you're a cat owner, you're probably familiar with your cat's scratching and digging in its litter box.

quick glance


The main reason cats rummage through the litter box is to cover their feces to keep themselves clean and mask the smell.


Other common reasons cats dig in the litter box include releasing pheromones or playing with the sand.


Excessive digging in the litter box can indicate a problem such as gastrointestinal upset, urinary problems, stress or conflict with other cats in the house.

It may sound strange (and complicated), but there are actually many good reasons why cats do this. Some of the reasons are totally normal and part of your routine based on your instincts. Some of the reasons could mean that your cat is stressed or upset about something, or that it has a health problem.

Finding out why your cat is digging in his litter box and whether you need to do something about it is very important. This article looks at possible explanations and what you, the owner, can do to help your beloved cat.

1. Natural instincts

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (2)

(Video) Why Do Cats Use the Litter Box | The Cat Butler

In the wild, cats bury their feces to hide their scent so that predators cannot track them.

Some of the reasons cats dig are perfectly normal and are simply because your cat is exhibiting habitual feline behavior driven by its instincts.

Some cats dig to cover their droppings. They dig a little before going to the bathroom to make a place to lay them down and then they dig to cover up what they've done.

Historically, this served to keep them clean and also to mask their scent so that predators and competitors of their prey could not track them. In pets, this is not so important, but the instinct is still there.

Read too:Why is my cat scratching and digging around her food?

2. Communication

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (3)

When cats scratch and dig in the litter box, they release pheromones.

Cats in a multi-cat household will often scratch and dig in the litter box to let other cats know they are using or have used the litter box. When cats itch, it triggers special chemical messengers.pheromonebe freedscent glands on your feet.

Shedding these pheromones is another way to communicate with other cats. It sends a signal that the sandbox is busy and is a waymark your territory.

This is normal natural behavior. However, it is important to note that if cats claim the litter box as their own and other cats need to use it, you may need to place a few extra bowls in different locations to avoid competition and confrontation. The litter box policy can cause major problems for families with multiple cats.

Read too:How many litter boxes should you have per cat?

3. Spielen

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (4)

Some cats develop the habit of playing in the litter box as kittens and continue this behavior into adulthood.

Some cats love to play with your kitty's litter. They see it as a kind of enrichment in their environment. Some cats consider the litter box to be their "happy place". Sometimes it's a habit they picked up when they were kittens - they just enjoy it and it's something they do out of habit like adult cats.

Another reason could be that they dig and roll to spread their scent around the litter box and try to increase the area they consider their territory with litter.

Cleaning isn't much fun and it's obviously not the most hygienic place for them to play. Then you can try to attract them with a toy or remove them and give them some attention if you don't want them to play there. 🇧🇷

(Video) Why is My Cat Constantly Digging In Litter Box??

Read too:Do my cats play or fight?

4. Stress

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (5)

Digging in the litter box is normal, but excessive digging by cats can mean they are feeling stressed.

Cats are very complicated animals and are sensitive to even the smallest changes in their environment. If he suddenly starts scratching or digging excessively in the litter box, it could be a sign of stress.

If your cat feels stressed or threatened by another new family member (feline or human), he may try to bury his food and/or feces as part of an innate survival instinct. In the wild, this prevents predators from chasing you. In a domestic cat, this can manifest as excessive rooting in its litter box.

Sometimes it could be another cat using the litter box mentioned above. If that's the case, or if one of your cats starts making a mess elsewhere in the house, you might benefit from having a few more litter boxes spread out in different rooms.

Read too:My cat won't stop pooping in the litter box: is this normal?

5. Trash box logistics

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (6)

If cats are not happy with the size of the litter box or the depth of the litter, they may scratch and dig excessively to try and get it to work.

The size and shape of the litter box may not be right for your cat. Some cats like a very deep litter box, and if it doesn't adequately cover the litter box, they may start digging to try and bury their droppings.

Likewise, excess litter in the box can cause them to dig and scrape to make a hole to go to the bathroom. If the litter box is too small, your cat may feel like it doesn't have enough space and will dig to make room. If you have a large cat, you may need to purchase a special-sized litter box. It's always best to test and make sure they can move around the box with ease.

Another thing that may bother your cat is that if the litter box hasn't been emptied and she has to do it again when she gets to a dirty litter box, she may start digging to bury what's already there, before to sit with the cat. tray.

Cats can also become stressed if they have an uncovered litter box or if the litter box is not in a quiet, peaceful location where they feel they have some privacy. A covered litter box is often a good solution for this, or moving your litter box to a more secluded and private location.

Read too:The 6 best automatic self-cleaning litter boxes

6. Gastrointestinal problems

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(Video) 10 REASONS CATS POOP OUT OF THEIR LITTER BOX l (With Voice-Over Narration) l V-18

Cats with an upset stomach may frequent the litter box and dig more than usual.

If you notice your cat using the litter box more often and digging in it, it could be an indication of intestinal problems. You might notice something obvious likeDiarrheaÖblood in your poop🇧🇷 However, it could be something more subtle, like B. simply visiting the tray more or less often than usual.

Many intestinal problems can cause cats to rummage through the litter box. If the stool is too loose or too hard, they may dig excessively to try and cover it up. If your stool has a different smell, if there is blood or if you have a parasitic infection.

All of this can cause your cat a lot of discomfort and stress, causing him to frantically vomit up his litter. If you are unsure or have any concerns, do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian for advice.

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7. Harnprobleme

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (8)

Cats suffering from various urinary problems may frequently return to the litter box, digging and scratching when urinating in very small or large amounts.

A common problem in cats is urinary tract disease. If they dig into the tray, it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or inflammation that leads to a bladder infection. If they go to the tray to urinate too often, or if they urinate abnormally, this is also an indicator of an illness, such as a heart attack. B. Kidney failure.

There are other health issues that can lead to changes in urinary habits. If you are concerned about your cat's health, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately so he can be checked out and rested.

A very important point to keep in mind, if your cat is frantically digging in his trough and is unable to urinate, this could mean he has a blocked bladder. If this is the case, you should go straight to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic to have it examined, as this is a medical emergency. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

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8. Paw Patrol

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (9)

The cat may scratch and dig its litter to tear off the paw pads.

Your cat's paws can sometimes feel rough and dry, if your cat is an outdoor cat they may have calluses. Some cats like the feeling of rubbing their paws in the sand to scratch dry pads. They may also itch if you place piles of rubbish between your toes and try to remove them. It's always a good idea to patrol these paws and check them regularly.

Read too:The 5 Best Scratch Repellents for Cats

final thoughts

Why do cats dig in the litter box? - All about cats (10)

Anytime your cat's litter box habits change, including an increase in digging or scratching, it's best to see your vet for an evaluation.

(Video) Are You Setting Up The Litter Box Wrong? (10 Biggest Mistakes)

Our cat's behavior can be confusing at best. There are many reasons why they might start to rummage excessively in their litter box. The most important thing is to find out why they dig. Once you get to the bottom of this, you can decide if it's a real problem for your cat or just normal instinctual behavior.

If it occurs as a sudden change in behavior, it's a good idea to go to the vet for an exam to rule out any medical issues. It might just be your cat's adorable quirk, in which case you might want to let him dig his heart out.

Read too:Why is my cat so annoying? Attention seeking behavior in cats explained

common questions

How do I get my cat to stop messing around in the litter box?

Once you've determined the underlying cause of the cupping, you can stop your cat if necessary. If a problem needs to be fixed, e.g. B. If the litter box is too small or there is competition between cats, you can easily do this by replacing the litter box with a larger one or adding more litter boxes.

If your cat is fine and it's just an instinct, you can try to distract him or provide activity toys and scratching posts around him.

How often should I change my cat's litter?

Litter boxes should be removed whenever your cat defecates in them. How often you change litter depends on the number of cats you have and each cat's habits.

A general guideline for standard clumped litter is to change it 2-3 times a week. However, you may need to do this every day if you start noticing smells sooner. If your cat doesn't use it before a thorough cleaning, you may need to replace it with fresh litter more often.

How much bedding should I put in the bathtub?

About two to three inches is just about the right amount for the average cat. Don't worry if you're not sure, your cat will let you know if you put too much or too little, usually by doing exactly what we said, stirring the bowl! Watch them closely and you'll soon know if they have enough bedding and if they're happy with the depth of the sand.

(Video) Why Does My Cat Roll In Litter And How to Stop It


Why does my cat dig excessively in the litter box? ›

The most common reason cats dig in their litter box is to bury their urine or feces. They may dig before or after elimination. Cats may enjoy the feeling of the cat litter on their paws, so it's important to have a litter with good paw feel so those who do like to dig and bury can easily perform those behaviors.

Why does my cat keep scratching the side of the litter box? ›

It's all part of normal cat behavior, territory marking, and cleanliness. However, it's normal for cats to scratch the walls near the litter box and the sides of the litter box. This just means they're making sure they're using all the available cat litter.

Why does my cat dig in the litter box but not use it? ›

One of these behaviours is digging in the litter tray. Cats likely dig and cover their waste to hide their presence from visiting predators, who might be attracted by the scent. Covering waste may also help cats to avoid parasites.

Do cats get mad when you clean their litter box? ›

Most cats, however, don't get upset by observing a simple cleaning routine. In fact, they're more likely to get turned off by noxious litter box odor than by watching you scrub their toilet.

How often should you change cat litter? ›

How Often Should You Change the Cat Litter? If you use a clumping litter, it's best to scoop the box daily and change it out completely at least monthly. If you have more than one cat, it may be best to change the cat litter more often, every 2-3 weeks.

Do cats like their litter box in a corner? ›

Your litter box should have multiple exits.

Cats need an escape route, they don't like to feel cornered-in. If you have multiple animals in your home, and they're approached while in the litter box, they don't have a way out.

Do cats mind using the same litter box? ›

And when they are doing something as private as elimination, sharing the same litter box can be stressful for some cats. Ideally, a multi-cat household should have the same number of litter boxes as the number of cats, plus one extra box; in other words, for two cats, there should be three litter boxes.

Why do cats dig before pooping? ›

"Cats have the instinctual behavior of eliminating away from their core living area and then burying their waste so they don't alert predators to their presence," explains Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC, author and owner of Cat Behavior Associates and member of Daily Paws' Advisory Board.

How often should kitty litter box be cleaned? ›

Scoop waste daily. How often you replace the litter depends on the number of cats you have, the number of litter boxes and the type of litter you use. Twice a week is a general guideline for replacing clay litter, but depending on your circumstances, you may need to replace it every other day or only once a week.

How often should kitty litter be scooped? ›

For the most part, all experts agree…the litter box should be scooped 1-2 times each day. “Litter boxes should be scooped at least once or twice a day, and it's even better if you can get to it as soon as your cat has finished his business,” said By Dr. Stephanie Janeczko in this featured post on Petfinder.

Do cats care about dirty litter? ›

By nature, cats are fastidious animals who obsess about keeping their fur and paws clean. So the idea of using a filthy restroom is just as repulsive to them as it is to us.

Do cats like their litter box cleaned? ›

Virtually all cats like clean litter boxes, so scoop and change your cat's litter at least once a day. Rinse the litter box out completely with baking soda or unscented soap once a week.

Why does my cat get mad when I change her litter box? ›

Cats are Territorial Litter boxes are considered your cats territory. This is because it's the place where they can relieve themselves. So, it's only natural for them to watch what you're doing to their beloved litter box. In extreme cases, however, your cat might get mad or attack you for this.

Do cats hate when you change their litter? ›

Your cat will let you know his preference. Never abruptly switch litter brands or types because cats dislike change. If you're going to experiment with different litters, do it by putting out additional boxes.

Are cats afraid of self cleaning litter box? ›

It's no wonder that a self-cleaning litter box appeals to many cat owners. Unfortunately, such a device may not appeal to the cat. In fact, some cats become frightened of the automated action of a self-cleaning box and may go on a "potty strike," avoiding the box altogether.


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