If your cat is repeatedly scratching the side of her litter box may seems odd, but is usually not something to worry about.
Cat scratches side of litter box: The common reasons
These are common reasons why your cat is scratching the side of her litter box:
1. She may be marking her territory.
Your cat may be scratching the side of her litter box as a way of marking her territory. Cats’ paws have scent glands that leave a particular scent when rubbed against surfaces, things and people. By scratching the side of her litter box, your cat may be claiming it as her property or domain.
2. To keep her claws healthy.
She may be keeping her claws in tip-top condition by wearing away the outside husks, thus, the scratching. Make sure to trim your cat’s nails at least every 10 days to two weeks to curb her need for scratching things. Also, provide a scratching post at accessible places inside your home for your kitty to scratch on.
3. She may be leaving her scent as a way to communicate with other cats.
If your household has two or more cats, the scratching may be an indication that your cat is trying to communicate with her feline buddies. The tendency to scratch the sides or wall of the box may be your cat’s way of distributing her scent and to warn her housemates that it is an “off-limits zone”.
4. Your cat may be trying to cover her waste as dictated by instincts.
As you may know, cats bury their waste since instinct dictates them to do so to avoid being detected by perceived enemies and predators and scratching the litter box may be an extension of this instinct.
5. Your box may contain inadequate litter.
Another reason why your cat is scratching the sides of the box may be due to inadequate litter. Make sure to refill with litter each time you remove waste. Your cat’s litter box should always have three to four-inch layers of litter or more if your cat is a happy-go-lucky scratcher and digger.
6. There may be litter stuck in her paws.
Your cat may be scratching the litter box due to stuck litter clinging in her paws. This usually happens when you use clumping litter since it tends to get stuck easily on paws. If this repeatedly annoys your cat, consider switching to another litter type.
7. The litter box may be dirty.
Your cat may be calling your attention to her box because it is dirty. The scratching may be your cat’s way of telling you she is unhappy because you forgot to clean it! Be sure to scoop out the clumps twice daily and replace it with fresh litter at least twice or once a week.
Also, make sure to wash the litter box thoroughly with warm water and vinegar at least once a week. Check our earlier article on 13 litter box hacks for more helpful tips on how to keep the litter box odor-free.
8. As an expression of your cat’s individuality.
Some cats are just extra playful and energetic than others and the scratching may just be part of her unique behavior.
9. Your cat may be experiencing health issues.
Another possible reason why your kitty is scratching the sides of the litter box may be due to health issues like diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. She may not be feeling okay, tends to stay longer and may scratch the sides and wall of the box. Bring her to the vet if the odd behavior is also accompanied with constipation and frequent urination.
10. Your cat may be stressed and anxious.
Your furry friend may be scratching the sides of the litter box because she is stressed due to sudden disruptions in her routine. You may have brought home a new pet dog or additional housemate or you recently bought new furniture. Abrupt changes in a cat’s routine could be overwhelming, thus, it may result in behavioral changes like scratching, urine spraying, excessive grooming and hiding or running away.
What to do if your cat scratches side of litter box?
While it may be considered normal feline behavior to scratch the sides of a litter box, unless health-related, it can become annoying especially if your cat habitually scratches during the night time.
Here are some things that you can do to resolve it:
Swap her old litter box with a larger and deeper one
This may resolve the issue especially if your cat is a deep digger since a larger and deeper litter box can hold more amount of litter. When you introduce changes like a new litter box, calmly show the change to your cat and once you see her using the new box, reward her good behavior by giving her treats or catnip. Scoop and remove the waste at once so she will be encouraged to use the box again.
Place enough litter boxes for your cats
If you have two or more cats in your household, make sure that there are enough litter boxes for them. Your cat may be scratching the sides of the box because she is agitated or in conflict with the other cats in your home. Each cat should have their litter box and have an extra one nearby.
If your home has multiple levels, make sure there are litter boxes on each floor or level. Also, see to it that they are positioned in quiet and secluded areas where there is good ventilation.
Change the litter type
Changing the litter type may help if your cat is scratching the sides of her box due to stuck litter clumps in your cat’s paws. Try to observe your cat each time she scratches the side of her box and if you notice litter dropping from her paws or litter clumps getting stuck to her paws often, a change of litter may be in order.
Add the new litter in small amounts at a time so your cat won’t be able to detect any changes.
The sound of your cat scratching the side of her litter box may annoy you but other than this, there is usually no need for concern. Your cat may be doing it to mark her territory, leave her scent or keep her claws healthy. However, the scratching may also be due to stress and anxiety and if it is accompanied by signs like weakness and frequent urination, bring your cat to the vet for a thorough check-up.