Why is my cat digging in the litter box?

If you’re a cat owner, you’re probably familiar with the tell-tale sounds that mean it’s your kitty’s toilet time. But the seemingly endless digging and scuffling, combined with their ability to send a tidal wave of cat litter flying across the room, can be frustrating and embarrassing, especially if you have guests. So why do cats dig in their litter box? Is it normal? And can anything be done to reduce it?

When is it normal for cats to dig in their litter box?

A cat digging in their litter tray can often be considered normal behavior. Cats will tend to dig a little before they go to the toilet, and then do the majority of digging afterward to cover their urine or stool. They do this not just because they like to be clean, but also because they don’t want the scent of their stool to attract rival animals or predators.

Sometimes, scratching, rolling, and digging in the litter box can become a bit of a game. Young cats and kittens in particular can seem to go in their litter box to play, rather than to pass urine or feces. Each time your cat rolls and scratches in their litter tray, they are leaving their scent, so this playtime can also serve an additional purpose of marking their territory.

When the digging becomes excessive

If your cat suddenly starts scratching and digging excessively in their litter box, it could mean that they have a health issue, or that they are unhappy with the current litter box setup!


The bladder wall can become inflamed due to stress, bladder stones, or infection. If your cat is doing a lot of digging around but not passing much urine, it’s time to take them to the veterinarian.

If your cat is repeatedly visiting the box and producing no urine at all, this is an emergency and you should contact the nearest open veterinary center immediately for advice.


If your cat has diarrhea and you’re not able to ramp up your litter box cleaning regime, you might find they dig excessively. This is because they’re looking for a clean spot and are struggling to find one.

Territory marking

If you have more than one cat that uses a litter box, the competition for territory might encourage them to spend extra time scratching, digging, or rolling, to leave their scent and mark their territory.

Not enough cat litter

If your cat doesn’t feel like they have enough litter in the litter box to really go to town burying their stools, it may cause them to dig and scratch excessively, looking for extra litter.

Not enough space

If your cat doesn’t have ample space in the litter box to be comfortable doing their business, they’ll probably dig around a lot trying to make the place more satisfactory!

So, what can I do to try to stop my cat from excessively digging in their litter box?

First of all, it’s important to recognize that this is normal kitty behavior. You’ll never put an end to it altogether. Remember, that if your cat suddenly starts spending extra time in their litterbox it might be a sign of cystitis, diarrhea, stress, or another health condition, so speak to your veterinarian if you’re concerned.

However, there are steps you can take to make sure your kitty is as efficient as possible in their litter box. You should make sure that you have enough litter boxes – the ideal is one tray more than the number of cats you have.

You should also make sure that your cat’s litter box is large enough, contains enough cat litter, and that you use their preferred litter material. And don’t forget to clean it regularly! If you follow these steps, at least you’ll know that the time your cat spends scratching and digging around is absolutely necessary!


Cats dig in their litter tray to bury their pee and poop, and sometimes to play or mark their territory. It’s normal, but be aware for changes in your cat’s litter box routine that might suggest a medical problem.

One comment

  1. I adopted a cat from the shelter.
    She is very shy and afraid but is moving around the house and warmin up I’m able to pet her occasionally when she lets me.
    But, since I brought her 1 week and a half ago she has this obsessive ehavior of scratching the litter endlessly.
    At first I thought maybe she was constipated.
    But when I clean the litter I see normal pee and poop and also she is drinking water and eating.
    It looks like something behavirola but I’m not a vet.
    I changed the kitter to a covered litter because the mess was unbelievable, but I do get worried with her maniac way of scratching the litter. She does it mostly at night when I go to bed.
    Durong the day she likes to spend it in the windows where she can look outside.
    I’m disoriented, what to do.

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