Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box? Reasons and Solutions

cat with sharp claws

Clawing represents approximately 15% of feline behavior complaints by cat owners. Indoor confined cats will use household items for clawing if there is nothing else to scratch.

Outstanding objects and areas are key targets, including soft furniture (30%), carpet (25%), logs or wood (11%), wicker furniture (6%), and hard furniture (6%). 1

Cats are known to scratch at objects, to get a feeling of security by marking their territory, and to sharpen their claws. In addition, they rub their bodies against objects such as walls, chairs, tables, and carpets.

Scratching may also occur when a cat feels anxious or uncomfortable or it may be an instinctive behavior that occurs when the cat feels threatened.

Cats have unevenly shaped claws, with the inner side of the claw being curved and sharp while the outer side has a blunt edge.

Cats use their claws not only for scratching themselves and objects but also for hunting, climbing, and stretching themselves up to reach higher places on trees, poles, and other objects.

Reasons why your cat scratches the sides of the litter box

1.    To sharpen their claws:

One of the aims of your cat scratching is to sharpen her claws. This occurs by pulling the blunt layer of the old nail off and revealing a new sharp claw.

This is an important feature to equip your cat for hunting.

Cats love the texture of wood since they can dig deep into the wood and pull downwards.

2.    Territory marking:

Cats have scent glands on their feet near the tip of the claws. Also, they have scent glands at the base of their tails in which they leave scent marks to mark territory.

That is why cats scratch areas around the sides of the litter box to mark their territory since it has an odor and this signals to other cats in a multi-cat household that the territory has an occupant.

This will keep other cats away from the litter box and exert dominance as a result.

3.    To remove clumping litter from the cat’s paws:

Clumping litter is ideal in most cat boxes. However, it has the potential to get stuck on your cat’s paws.

As a consequence, they may scratch the sides of the dirty litter box to remove the stuck litter clumps from in between their paws.

How to prevent your cat from scratching the sides of the litter box

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, and you can’t teach a cat, not to scratch.

However, there are several ways you can reduce the scratching or redirect the scratching to appropriate places.

1.    Get a scratching post:

Some cat owners have introduced a scratching post in an attempt to coax the cat into redirecting the scratching behavior to an acceptable area.

A good cat scratching post should be tall and sturdy to allow your cat to exercise its natural scratching behavior.

Kittens tend to develop preferences for specific scratching objects like a scratching post. Once your kitten has started using the post, maintain the same post even in adulthood.

While scratching, cats eliminate the dead outer covering of each claw, allowing the nail beneath to develop and stay healthy. Cats leave a fragrance mark as well as a visual mark.

Cats also need to stretch out their complete body length, which they may do with the scratching post.

They stretch their entire spine by anchoring their front claws up above them and pulling down.

 The post is frequently depicted as a tall, substantial tree that enables such an action.

The scratching post must have a firm, hefty base; it cannot tip or jitter because it is too light or weak.

The height of the scraping post must be at least 32 inches.

If it is a very strong scratch post, 32 inches is fine for a kitten, but the kitten will outgrow it quickly.

Therefore, from the beginning, invest in the tallest and strongest pillar you can afford instead of replacing it with a taller one a few months later.

Place the scratching post next to the sofa or chair, somewhere in the house where you and your kitten like to hang out.

If your cat is already scratching furniture, place the column next to the furniture you like to stretch and scratch. This will encourage her to scratch on acceptable furniture, your scratch post, rather than on your sofa or chair.

Cat at a scratching post

2.    Replace a wooden litter box with a plastic litter box:

By replacing it with a plastic cat box, it will reduce unacceptable behavior.

Proceed to place the scratching post in a favorable location where scratching can occur, as you hang out.

Remember: Every successful effort to scratch the old object reinforces the unacceptable trait.

3.    Behavior modification:

Litter box scratching by kittens should be consistently discouraged so that it does not continue into adulthood.

If you are unable to prevent litter box damage by scratching, you can use behavior modification to retrain the cat.

Every time your cat scratches the sides of the litter box:

  • Speak out “NO”
  • Place her on the scratching post.
  • Proceed to manipulate her legs as if she was scratching the post.

You can also induce remote punishment by having a location associated with the punishment.

This tactic is advantageous since it ensures that you won’t punish every occurrence and won’t have any physical contact with your cat.

You can implement this by using a two-sided sticky tape or activating a fan or hairdryer.

 Place a motion-detecting device near the undesirable scratching litter box location.

The greatest benefit to this remote punishment method is that your cat won’t develop an aversion to you.

4.    Claw Covers and Clipping Claws:

You can clip the cat’s claws to prevent her from scratching the cat’s litter box.

This won’t prevent the excessive scratching behavior in itself but it will reduce the damage caused to the litter box. Routine nail clipping is important for most cats that are house cats,

You can even use plastic claw covers as a last resort should your cat refuse to use the scratching post and continue damaging the litter box.

5.    Declawing:

Some pet owners prefer to prevent litter box and furniture scratching or human injuries by having their cats declawed.

Research shows that between 24.4% and 52.3% of cats have had this surgery.

For veterinarians, about 86% of the cats are presented for declawing because of household damage. 29% of felines are brought in for declawing to prevent human injuries. 1

The outcome of the procedure is usually satisfactory for indoor cats.

If you are convinced that declawing is the only option you have on the table, have a sit down with your veterinarian and discuss the pros and cons of the surgical procedure.

Watch this 2-minute video on the merits and demerits of declawing:

If you have an outdoor cat, he can relearn aspects like hunting, climbing, and even defense, especially if the rear claws remain.

If your cat relies on its claws as weapons for hunting and climbing purposes, it may be traumatized upon the realization that they no longer have claws. Be aware of this and introduce your outdoor cat gradually to the outdoor environment.

Veterinarians estimate that 50% of cat owners would have gotten rid of their pets if they didn’t undergo declawing surgery.

70% to 90% of declawed cat keepers report a rise in their relationship with their cats.

Currently, no studies are showing any long-term physical or behavioral problems with cats due to declawing, but there remains a moral controversy about the surgery. 1

Why does my cat scratch the wall after she poops?

Your cat scratches the wall after she poops to remove any stuck clumping cat litter stuck in between her paws.


Cat scratching is an expression of normal behavior and constitutes 15% of feline complaints by cat owners. From cat scratching the litter box to furniture to carpets, cat clawing is a real issue that needs to be addressed.

Cats will scratch the cat litter boxes for various reasons as outlined:

  • Claw sharpening
  • Territory marking
  • Removing stuck clumping litter from paws

Discouraging your cat from scratching the litter box won’t be successful without providing an acceptable substitute.

If you attempt to punish your cat, you will simply teach him to run away from you rather than stop the excessive scratching.

By implementing the outlined ways to prevent your cat from excessive litter box scratching, you will solve this issue almost decisively.

Is cat clawing the litter box affecting your relationship with your cat? Implement these solutions and see the change.