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Home > Cats > Cat Scratching Litter Box Excessively? 5 Reasons Why & How to Help

Cat Scratching Litter Box Excessively? 5 Reasons Why & How to Help


Litter boxes are unpleasant as it is, and if your cat is excessively scratching their box and spilling litter (and whatever else goes with it!) everywhere, it can be frustrating, to say the least. Scratching is a normal part of your cat’s litter box habit, as they instinctively prefer to bury their poop in the litter for hygienic reasons, but it can get out of hand at times. Why does your cat scratch

If your cat is scratching their litter box excessively, you may be wondering why this is. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s take a look at five potential reasons that cats scratch their litter box and how you can stop it.divider-cat

The 5 Reasons Cats Scratch Their Litter Box

1. Instincts

cats paws in crystal litter
Image By: Natalia Hrynovets, Shutterstock

In the wild, it’s a part of your cat’s natural instincts to properly bury and cover up their waste to avoid predators knowing that they’re around. Some cats are more thorough than others and may take this job more seriously than others, leaving a mess for you to clean up!

Since this is instinctive in your feline, it can be difficult behavior to stop. One method is to make sure that there is plenty of litter in the litter box so your cat can confidently cover up their poop, rather than trying to scratch more litter up from the sides.

2. Play

owner cleaning her cat's litter tray
Image Credit: Yuliya Alekseeva, Shutterstock

Some cats love to dig, and if your feline is excessively scratching their litter box, it could simply be that they see it as a great place to exercise their digging instincts! This is especially common in kittens, and they’ll usually outgrow the behavior as they reach adulthood. Litter and the way that it moves may just be too enticing for them. Once they’ve buried their poop, it may seem like a fun game to simply dig it up again!

While most kittens will outgrow this habit, it can be difficult to stop in adult cats. You’ll need to catch your cat while they’re using their litter box, and as soon as they’re done, use a treat or toy as a distraction to stop them from playing with their litter.

3. Litter Box Issues

tabby cat sitting beside crystal cat litter in the bathroom
Image By: Alexandra Morosanu, Shutterstock

One of the most common reasons for your cat excessively scratching their litter box is due to a litter box problem of some kind. The litter box may be too dirty for their liking and they’re trying to find a clean space to do their business, the litter box may not be big enough, or there may not be enough litter in their box. The litter box may also be in a location that is causing your cat discomfort, or the type of litter may a problem.

It’s important to replace your cat’s litter every couple of weeks and scoop waste daily to prevent the litter from getting too dirty, especially if you have multiple cats using it. If the litter box is too small, you can simply purchase a larger, deeper box for your feline. A good general rule of thumb is to have your cat’s litter at least 3 inches deep, with an extra inch or two if more than one cat is using it.

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4. Paw maintenance

Paw Pads
Image Credit: Aldair-Pho, Pixabay

Especially for outdoor cats, your feline’s paws can become calloused at times and cause them discomfort. As you can imagine, the rough texture of litter can be a relief for them, acting as an exfoliant to rub the old, rough skin away and soothe and scratch any itchiness. Some clumping litters can get stuck to your cat’s paws, which can also be uncomfortable, and they may be scratching their litter in an attempt to try to rub it off. This may also be true if your cat scratches the side of their litter box.

If this is an issue for your feline, make sure they have scratching posts around the home, so they can soothe themselves on a post rather than the litter box!

Also, you may need to try a gentler litter type, like paper or fine pellet litter.

5. Territory

Image By: Leoniek-van-der-Vliet, Shutterstock

If you have more than one cat in your home, the excessive scratching may simply be due to territorial behavior in your feline. Cats often use the pheromones on their paws to mark their territory and leave their scent behind to indicate to other cats that this is their turf! It may be that one cat is claiming the litter box as their own or that they’re simply letting other cats know that they have been there.

A simple solution to this problem is to add more litter boxes to your home. A good rule of thumb is one litter box per cat plus one. So, if you have three cats at home, you’ll need four litter boxes. If you are having territorial issues, it may help to add an extra box.


Final Thoughts

Most of the time, stopping your cat from scratching their litter box excessively is relatively simple. It usually has to do with a litter box issue of some kind (too little litter, a dirty litter box, a small litter box, etc.) or it may be a territorial issue, in which case, adding an extra box will usually solve the problem. Hopefully, we’ve helped you find the source of your cat’s excessive scratching so you can get it solved as soon as possible!

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Featured Image Credit: Tanya-Plotnikova, Shutterstock

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