“I have a cat. His name is Woodrow. He’s really cute and he has claws, but he’s using them to attack the litter box! My cat keeps digging in the litter box once I put him in the box.
If I take him out, he’ll run around the house, pawing at the floor, and meow like crazy until I put him back in the box. At times I can hear my cat obsessively scratching the litter box in the middle of the night. What can I do?”…My buddy enquired.
I’ve had cats my entire life, and I’ve noticed some of them tend to scratch the litter box a lot more than others.
It’s one of those annoying things that happen from time to time.
Scratching helps them maintain their claws and stretch out their paws so it’s perfectly normal behavior.
However, you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night because the cats are scratching the litter box for a long time, do you?
I know what some of you are going to say. “It’s just a cat, she’s scratched in the past and she’ll scratch in the future.” But that could not be further from the truth.
Your cat digging in the litter box at night is troublesome, let’s agree.
It can be frustrating to return home after a long day only to find your kitty has destroyed the brand new litter box you just bought them.
This is when you start looking for information about why your cat digs excessively in the litter box.
Trust me, I’ve been there too.
What did I do to tackle this issue?
Why does my cat scratch the litter box so much?
Scratching also called clawing, is a natural and normal cat behavior usually done on vertical wooden objects or trees.
It has 4 main roles for cats:
- It sharpens the cat’s nails by pulling the old blunt covering layer of the nail.
- It leaves a cat scent due to the glands between the pads on the underside of the paw that release secretions.
- It leaves a visual sign of the cat’s presence
- Dominant cats scratch while in the presence of other cats, as a sign of controlling the territory.
Clawing although a normal cat behavior represents about 15% of feline behavior complaints from pet owners.
Indoor confined cats, result in clawing household items in the absence of suitable scratching objects.
Commonly scratched objects include:
- Hard furniture 6%
- Wicker furniture-6%
- Logs or wood-11%
- Soft furniture-30%
As daunting as the numbers are, studies show that about 24% of cat owners have not implemented any strategies to deter the behavior. A whopping 64% have not resolved the issue yet.
Once your cat has started clawing at an object, she will continue to use this specific object for clawing purposes. This may explain why your cat is obsessively scratching the litter box.
If your cat keeps digging in the litter box after elimination, it could be due to several reasons.
Most if not all cats will spend a fraction of their quality time digging through the litter just to ensure that their poop is well covered. It is one of the instincts and behaviors that cats possess.
However, your cat’s activity could get worrying when the scratching becomes excessive.
These are the top 5 reasons why your cat keeps digging in the litter box.
Why does my cat keep digging in the litter box?
1. The litter box is not spacious enough:
This could be the major reason why your cat is excessively digging in the litter box. It’s nothing personal. Kitties love lots of space and litter. He’ll always consider the litter box as one of its playing grounds and won’t hesitate to play and roll in the litter box while throwing the litter. It could be chaotic when a small litter box doesn’t give her the space she needs to play.
2. The kitty litter isn’t enough:
Why does my cat keep digging in the litter box even after you have availed an extra-large box? Proceed to check the amount of cat litter in the tray. Too little litter may result in your cat scratching the litter excessively.
You must always consider 2-3 inches of the litter as a minimum. This is adequate to cover the cat’s poop.
Otherwise, your cat enjoys digging in the litter box in the hope of unearthing more litter and burying the cat poop correctly.
3. Dirty Litter Box:
It’s a rule of the thumb that the litter inside the cat’s litter box should be scooped twice daily basis and the box washed twice monthly.
If the litter box remains dirty, your cat will keep digging in the hope of finding fresh litter. She will also suffer from the foul smell inside the box. Covered litter boxes will make this even worse.
Cats are naturally clean creatures. They wouldn’t like to experience any mess inside their spaces of operation and will operate with everything in their powers to ensure that the problem gets the most effective solution. They may result in scratching the cat litter box forever or worse, begin pooping outside the box.
4. It’s a scratching post alternative:
According to the studies I shared earlier, cat scratching is normal behavior, especially on wooden vertical objects.
If the litter box is made out of wood, and there is no other suitable scratching object in the house, your cat will settle on scratching the litter box.
Once she has formed this habit, she will continue scratching the litter box walls to sharpen her claws.
5. Marking the territory:
In a multi-cat household, your cat may want to exert dominance and show who is of a higher ranking by excessively scratching the one available litter box. Remember I told you that a cat has glands between the pads on the underside of the paw that release secretions? As a result, the cat’s scent is deposited in the litter box.
Other cats that may want to use the litter box will identify the smell and become aware that there is a dominant cat in the household.
Ways to Deal with Your Cat Scratching the Litter Box Excessively
1. Introduce a scratching post:
Trying to discourage your cat from scratching without providing a suitable substitute is almost a futile exercise.
The scratching post you introduce should be tall enough, about 12 inches, and 2-3 feet high. This will enable your cat to rest on her hind limbs and stretch out to claw on the post.
The orientation of the fabric weave should be longitudinal, to have the right texture to give your cat the best conditioning of each claw.
If your cat was an outdoor cat but you are now retraining her to become an indoor cat, ensure that the post you provide is of the same wood as the previous tree where she clawed obsessively.
Cats also prefer sisal scratching posts to carpet posts.
You can also consider using softwood pieces and catnip impregnated cardboard for scratching purposes.
When dealing with a kitten, the best solution to avoid clawing at the litter box is to train her early. You can do this by placing a scratching post in a prominent location such as her sleeping area. You can hide other potential scratching targets.
You can place your kitten’s favorite toy on top of the scratching post to entice her to use the post.
In addition, you can put the post in an empty room and have an older cat that knows how to use the post and train your kitten via observation.
Cats are creatures of habit so once she has gotten accustomed to that particular post, maintain the same post as she grows for cat scratching.
Discourage your kitten from using his claws to climb other objects such as curtains and furniture. This will avoid further problems down the road.
2. Behavior modification:
If you are unable to stop your cat from digging in the litter box, you can use behavior modification to retrain her.
Do this by controlling access to the litter box only when she is eliminating it.
Any other time when she scratches, tell her “no” and proceed to place her on the scratching post. Stand her up on her hind legs and manipulate her front legs as if scratching the post.
In addition, you can cover the wooden box using plastic to discourage clawing behavior.
3. Periodic confinement:
You can place your cat in rooms where scratching hasn’t been a problem for a couple of hours in between the litter box trips.
Have a scratching post in the room and cat toys for her to play with.
This will reinforce the use of the post and wean her from excessively digging in the litter box.
4. Use plastic claw covers:
Covering your cat’s claws will not reduce the frequency of scratching. However, it will reduce the amount of damage done to the litter box.
5. Use a synthetic pheromone:
Studies have shown that using a synthetic feline facial pheromone reduces the incidence of furniture clawing by 96% after 28 days when sprayed on each scratch site.
6. Fix the litter box issues:
If the litter box is tiny, invest in the extra-large type of litter box. You needn’t worry about the cost but the litter box size. Just because you want a bigger litter box doesn’t mean that you’ll part with extra dollars. Even if this is the case, your pet should come first and cats love it!
Ensure that you keep the litter box clean by adhering to twice daily scooping and cleaning the box once every two weeks. This will ensure that you provide your cat with a conducive environment for her to eliminate.
If you have more than one cat, buy additional litter boxes to tackle territorial marking and reduce the cat’s litter scratching behavior.
Provide an uncovered litter box to avoid trapping odors that a covered litter box would do.
How much litter to put in the litter boxes?
Add 2-3 inches of her favorite litter into the litter box. This provides adequate depth for your cat to bury her waste without struggle. Avoid adding too much litter.
Some cat owners may result to having their adult cats declawed. According to veterinarians, about 86% of cats are brought by their owners for declawing due to causing household damage.
Once executed, outdoor cats will relearn how to hunt, defend themselves and even climb objects especially if the rear claws remain untouched.
An outdoor cat if declawed completely can become traumatized once she discovers she no longer has her weapons of defense and climbing while out there. You will need to gradually introduce her to the outdoor environment.
Veterinarians approximate that about half of cat owners would have chosen to give away their cat if the option of declawing surgery wasn’t available.
70%-90% of the owners whose cats have been declawed have reported having an improved relationship with their cats.
However, despite all the findings and lack of evidence of any long-term physical or behavioral problems due to the surgery, declawing remains to be a moral controversial subject.
My take on Declawing:
I discourage declawing your cat, no matter how much unrest she causes you by scratching. If you follow the above methods I have outlined, you should easily retrain your cat and stop the behavior completely without the need for surgery.
Declawing is not a manicure-pedicure procedure. It involves the removal of the last toe bone. This is indeed painful even though done under general anesthesia and disfiguring for your cat.
The pain however will continue as she tries to recover making it difficult for her to scratch and bury her waste in the cat box.
During the recovery period, provide paper litter which is one of the best litters for declawed cats.
Don’t use traditional clumping litter.Warning:
All cats need their claws intact including indoor cats. They are important for balance and grasping toys.
Let’s agree, that declawing is an inhumane way to tackle excessive scratching.
Why does my cat scratch the sides of the litter box?
If this is something you are struggling with as a cat owner, I have an in-depth article on why your cat scratches the sides of the litter box.
Is it Normal for Cats to Play in Their Litter Box?
Yes. It is normal for cats to play in their litter boxes more so at a young age. Cats tend to be quirky and plain weird at times. However, this needn’t be a cause for alarm. Your cat is just playful. There’s a tendency that your cat just like the sand sound produced by the litter.
How to stop my cat from playing in his litter box
The best way to stop your cat from playing in the litter box is to find out what the cause of its behavior is.
You don’t want to discourage your cat from using her litter box, but you also don’t want her to play in it with her toys or paws.
If your cat is just playing in the litter box instead of using it for its intended purpose, click here for tips on changing this behavior and getting your cat back to using her litter box as she should be.
Kitties may use their litter boxes to express their complaints, displeasures, and excitements. You must pay extra attention whenever you notice that your cat keeps scratching litter out of the box or the surfaces of the litter box.
This blog discusses the possible causes for excessive scratching in a cat’s litter tray and provides some tips to keep it from occurring.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to figure out why your cat is scratching the litter box excessively, and how to resolve the issue.
If your cat is still scratching the litter box excessively even after applying all the tips, it may be a good idea to get the assistance of a veterinarian and a cat behaviorist.