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Cat Digs Excessively In Litter Box

Cat Digs Excessively In Litter Box: Why And How To Fix It

Does your cat dig excessively in the litter box?  Do not worry; you are not alone.  Many cat owners deal with their cat digging excessively in the little box, making a huge mess.  There are many causes for them to do this; some are more serious and would need your cat to see your vet, and others are behavioral issues that you can easily fix at home.  

Many times there are a few things that you can do to help teach them to stop digging at the litter box and decrease the mess that they are constantly making around their litter box.

Why does my cat dig excessively in litter boxes?

There are many reasons that your cat may display this excessive behavior. The primary causes for a cat engaging in excessive digging in litter boxes typically include the following.

They Have A Health Issue

A medical issue could be the underlying reason for your cat’s obsessive scratching in their litter box. Gastrointestinal problems are common in some cats. This would cause them to need to frequent the litter box more often.  They may be seeming like they are scratching in their box a lot, but really, they are just using the bathroom many times due to their diarrhea. 

Male cats can develop urinary tract issues and can even have a urinary obstruction causing them to need to urinate or have the feeling that they need to urinate. Read more about these urinary blockages for male cats here.  These cats will spend a lot of time in the litter box urinating.  If you notice your cat is spending a lot of time in the litter box and excessively digging, it may be time to see your vet.

They Are Stressed

Some cats will dig excessively at their litter box due to stress.  If you just got a new pet or are having big changes happen at home, this can cause stress on your cat. If you got a new cat, they could be mad that you got another cat and do not want to share the litter box.  Something as simple as moving the litter box can cause a lot of stress for your cat. They may relive this stress by digging more in their litter box. 

This Is Normal Bathroom Behavior

Digging in the litter box is normal behavior for cats.  Your cat will dig in their box before and after they use the litter box.  In the wild, cats bury their poop so that predators cannot easily track them.  This digging may not be anything to worry about and may just be normal cat bathroom behavior.

They Are Hiding Their Food

If you gave your cat a treat, they might be trying to find a place to hide this treat.  Just like dogs, cats will also hide treats.  They may be storing this treat to come to eat later or just keeping it from another cat in your house. 

They Are Marking Their Scent

A normal behavior of a cat is to dig to mark their scent. Digging allows their scent to be spread throughout the litter and box. 

Their Litter Box Is Not Big Enough

Another potential reason for excessive scratching could be the size of the litter box. With a small litter box, your cat might feel cramped and may dig or scratch more aggressively to ensure enough space to properly cover their waste. Cats typically prefer spacious litter boxes as it allows them to comfortably move around. In a small litter box, they may feel the need to dig deeper or scratch more persistently in an attempt to establish their territory and maintain cleanliness.

There Is Not Enough Litter

Some cats like to have a lot of cat litter, while others are okay with just a little bit.  Many people will try to use as little litter as possible to conserve litter and not put as much waste into landfills.  

Cats like to bury their poop and if there is not enough litter to do this you may notice them scratching the litter box excessively. Not enough litter can also cause them to pee outside the litter box.

Their Litter Box Is Not Clean

litter box full of litter

Most cats like their litter box to be clean.  If their box is dirty, they may dig around in their box for a long time to find unused litter.  

In households with multiple cats, it is very important to maintain the litter box by paying more attention and giving more persistent cleansing. Here is our post about how often you should be giving the litter box a clean.

They Do Not Like The Cover

If your cat dislikes the hooded litter box, this may lead to this behavior as well. Cats are naturally cautious animals and a covered litter box can reduce their field of vision, making them feel potentially vulnerable to ambush while they’re in a compromised position. This sense of vulnerability may make them dig or scratch more aggressively in an attempt to quickly cover their waste and exit the box. Additionally, covers can trap odors inside, which can be overwhelming for a cat’s sensitive sense of smell, leading to increased scratching as an effort to bury the unpleasant smell.

How To Prevent This Behavior?

Once you figure out the reason or reasons why your cat is digging in their litter box so much, you can usually quickly and easily find a fix.  These are a few things that you can try to do to stop your cat from doing this behavior.

Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box

One of the easiest things you can do is to clean your cat’s litter box. If you are having trouble cleaning your cat’s litter box as often as your cat would like, consider getting a litter box that automatically cleans every time your cat uses the bathroom. 

You can also get clumping litter because this will clump up urine which will mean you have to clean out the entire box less often since you can scoop out the urine.

Get A Litter Box That Is Not Covered

cat leaving a small covered litter boxIf your cat seems to not like the cover, try removing the cover or getting a box that is partially covered. 

These can trap smell within which will deter your cat from using it. Some cats like privacy and like a cover but need one with a bigger opening to be able to easily get in and out. 

Get A Bigger Litter Box

If you have a large cat like a Maine Coon, make sure that you have a very large box even if your cat is not large themselves; many cats love a lot of room when they are using the bathroom. Even if you have a kitten, it is worth getting a large litter box so as they grow it will continue to work for them.  A large litter box will allow your cat to be able to freely move around like they want to when trying to find a place to go potty.

See Your Vet

If your cat’s excessive scratching persists despite making necessary changes to the litter box, it might be time to consult with a veterinarian. Sometimes, this behavior could be a sign of underlying health issues, such as urinary tract infections, digestive problems, or skin irritation. A qualified vet can conduct a thorough examination to detect any hidden medical conditions and prescribe appropriate treatment. Remember, regular veterinary check-ups are essential to ensure your feline friend’s well-being and remove any potential health concerns.


Why do cat’s stare at the litter box?

Your cat may be staring at the litter box to let you know that there is a problem with its litter box. The box may not be big enough, there may not be enough litter, or it may be dirty.  Your cat looking at their litter box should make you start investigating what they do not like about their box.

How to stop cats from playing in the litter box?

Many times, this habit can easily be broken by getting a box for your cat to play in. All cats love boxes. They love to play and curl up and sleep in them.  Get a larger box for your cat to play and nap in and put it near their litter box.  


If you are having behavioral litter box issues, spend a little time and observe their habits.  Looking at what they are doing while in their litter box will help you figure out the reason that is causing them to constantly dig and possibly make a huge mess with their litter.

Once you pinpoint what is causing the issue, you can quickly and easily fix the situation by following a few of these tips.   If your cat continues to dig excessively or seems like they are having any problems using the bathroom, it would be best for your vet to check out your cat.