Cat Digs Excessively In Litter Box

Cat Digs Excessively In Litter Box

Are you always awakened by irritating scratching noises in the middle of the night? Most likely, it was your cat digging and scratching excessively in her litter box. Aside from the bothersome sounds, the mess that your cat makes from all the digging can be annoying. In this article, get to know why cats act like this and how to make your cat stop the excessive digging. 

Reasons Why Your Cat Digs Excessively in the Litter Box

Your cat may be digging excessively in the litter box for the following reasons:

1. She may have health issues. 

Your cat may be digging excessively in the litter box because she ate something that led to an upset stomach and temporary diarrhea. She may also have a parasitic infestation that could result in prolonged symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating.

2. She has behavioral issues, such as stress. 

Your cat could be digging excessively in the litter box because she is stressed or anxious. She may also run around frantically, lick herself obsessively, and act queerly. If she is acting like this, try to find out what triggered the behavior.   

Other symptoms of a stressed cat

  • Hiding more than usual and becoming more withdrawn 
  • Less tolerant of humans
  • Reluctant to use the litter box 
  • Eating and drinking less or overeating
  • Increased fear
  • Not sleeping well

If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms, take it to a cat behaviorist to assess the situation. 

3. It is instinctive for cats to dig when they do their business.

Your cat could be digging excessively in the litter box since it is rooted in her instincts to dig a hole and do her business. Regardless of breed or age, cats tend to think of soil as cat litter.  Even if the litter box is clean, they are still likely to dig excessively and make a hole where they can dispose of their waste and mask the scent by covering it again.

4. She is marking her territory. 

Cats are territorial by nature. They show this by marking certain areas with their scent. This could be the reason why your cat is digging excessively in her litter box. She may be trying to mark or rub off her scent to let the other cats know that it is her territory. 

5. She detected a scent and is trying to hunt it by digging.

Cats tend to dig in the ground as a means of hunting. They may also dig excessively if they detect a scent that piques their interest. This could be the reason why your cat is digging excessively in her litter box. Your cat may also be exercising and stretching her toes and claws by digging through the litter.

6. The litter box is not big enough. 

Cats want their bathroom to be spacious as they also see it as their playground. They tend to dig excessively to side scrape and widen the area. To remedy this, opt for a wide litter box to eliminate scratching and digging. 

7. There is insufficient litter. 

Your cat could be digging excessively in the litter box because the litter is not enough for her.  Be sure to place at least three inches of litter on the box so the cat is able to cover the poop and scent.

What to Do if Your Cat Digs Excessively in the Litter Box

These are the measures you can take if your cat digs excessively in the litter box:

Clean your cat’s litter box regularly. 

Cats have a superior sense of smell that is at least 14 times more sensitive than a human’s. They can easily detect a litter box that has not been cleaned and litter that is not scooped daily. This could lead to excessive digging or worse, not using the litter box.  To avoid this scenario, make sure to clean the litter box regularly by scooping litter daily and giving the box a general clean-up at least once a week. 

If, for whatever reason, you are too busy to keep up with a clean litter box, opt for an automatic litter box to do the cleaning for you.

How to clean the litter box:


  • Scoop out the clumps.
  • Place the waste in a sealed bag and dispose of it properly. 
  • Clean the litter scoop and place it in a plastic bag. 
  • Wash and clean the edges of the litter box with soap and water.


  • Empty the litter box and remove all the contents. Wash it with soap and water. Do not use ammonia or bleach since it is unhealthy for cats, and since they are sensitive to its smell. 
  • After cleaning the litter box, dry it out using a dry cloth. 
  • Fill the box with fresh litter.

Opt for a different litter. 

If your cat is excessively digging in her litter box, it could be that she dislikes the litter you placed in the litter box. Most cats prefer the clumping unscented type, although some cats may prefer the organic types (recycled newspaper, coconut husks and wood in pellet form).  Try to experiment with various types to determine what your cat prefers the most. 

These are the different types of cat litter:

  • Clay litter 
  • Silica gel litter 
  • Pine litter 
  • Wheat litter 
  • Grass litter 
  • Corn litter 
  • Walnut shell litter 
  • Paper litter 

Use the uncovered type of litter box.

Your cat may be digging excessively and scratching the sides of the litter box because her litter box is covered.  Cats feel trapped when they are in a covered litter box; others may feel cut off from everything else. The level of scratching may vary from one cat to another. Try to use the uncovered type of litter box as it will likely solve the digging problem. 

Although covered litter boxes provide privacy, an uncovered one can still provide seclusion if it is placed in a quiet area of your home. See to it that there is less foot traffic. Avoid placing it near appliances that emit loud noises, such as the washing machine.

We recommend the following uncovered litter boxes: 


Cats are unique creatures endowed with a powerful sense of smell. They tend to dig excessively in their litter box because they detect scents that pique their interest. It could also be due to an upset stomach or a behavioral issue like stress. However, they may also be behaving like that because they are marking their territory, there is insufficient litter, or the litter box is not big enough for them. 

Image: / MihailUlianikov