Cat Scratching Litter Box Excessively

Cat Scratching Litter Box Excessively
Image: / ablokhin

A cat excessive digging in litter box is unusual and you may be wondering why she is doing that, especially during the night time. Aside from the annoying scratching sounds, a good amount of litter gets scattered everywhere.

As discussed below in more detail your cat may be scratching the litter box excessively due to stress, health issues like gastrointestinal disorder, or as a manifestation of her instincts.  She may also be doing it because there is not enough litter or the litter box is not big enough for her. 

Reasons why cat scratching litter box excessively 

These are the probable reasons why your cat is excessively scratching her litter box:

Your cat may be experiencing health issues.

If your cat is excessively scratching the litter box, she may be having some health issues. Some of the common culprits include diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues. Your cat tends to stay longer in her litter box if she has these health concerns. However, if your cat constantly urinates or is often constipated, consult your vet right away as it may already be signs of kidney failure. 

She may be stressed and anxious.

Changes in your home or the cat’s daily routines could trigger stress and anxiety.  The reason why your cat may be excessively scratching and digging her litter box was because of disruption in her usual routines. It could be as trivial as new furniture or you may have a new pet or new family member hanging around in your home.  

Make sure to identify what’s making her stressed and help your cat cope by creating safe hiding places. Spend time with your cat and engage with her in playtime for at least a few minutes each day. Most importantly, respect her “me time”  and allow her to interact with you in her terms. 

She may be stressed and anxious
Image: / Gia Gusrianto

Other signs and symptoms that your cat is stressed:

Physical symptoms:  lethargic, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, bald patches, sudden weight loss or gain, eating non-food items, and poor coat condition.

Behavioral symptoms: urine spraying, not using the litter box, excessive meowing, frequent hiding, reluctant to play, excessive grooming, jumpy and nervous.

It is rooted in their instincts. 

Cats have an inherent survival instinct where they bury their food and their waste so that enemies and predators won’t be able to track them.  This may be the reason why your cat tends to scratch her litter box excessively.  This may potentially mean she is threatened.  

As a way to mark their scent. 

Your cat may also be digging the litter box excessively as a way to mark her territory. Cats are territorial animals and they tend to be possessive of their territory.  The excessive digging may be a cat’s way to rub and mark her scent as an indication of her domain. 

The litter box may not be big enough. 

The litter box is a cat’s comfort zone and they consider it as their playground where they can kick, roll, and scatter litter when they want it. This tendency to play in their litter box and widen their playground may be the reason for the excessive digging. Consider getting your cat a bigger litter box like Petmate Litter Pan

There is not enough litter. 

You may not be putting the right amount of litter in her box that is why your cat is excessively digging. The recommended amount of litter should be three inches although cat experts agree that a maximum of four inches may be ideal especially if your cat is a deep scratcher. Check out our article on how much cat litter per month for more information on this. 

As an extension of her scratching post activity.

Cats love to scratch on just about anything that is why they love scratching posts. They scratch to wear away old husks so the new nails will grow.  This may explain why your cat tends to dig excessively in her litter box. Also, your cat may be attempting to remove clumping litter stuck in her paws. 

Make sure to check your cat’s paws if you suspect that this might be the case, and consider changing the type of litter to avoid any further problems. 

Ways to deal with a cat scratching litter box excessively 

Ways to deal with a cat scratching litter box excessively 
Image: / Nils Jacobi

Cats are very particular with scents and smells. This speaks true not only when it comes to their sleeping and eating area but their private area as well. Once they detect unusual odors in their litter box they will excessively scratch or may also avoid using it. So, make sure that the litter box is always clean. Check out our post on 13 litter box hacks for some great tips. 

You may also try another type of litter for the litter box.  There are a lot of options to choose from but try to stay away from scented types. You may also opt for eco-friendly options.  Our article on Tidy Cats Breeze pellet alternative can give you helpful tips on litter types. 

An uncovered litter box like Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Box may also work wonders and curb the excessive digging of your cat.  While a covered litter box is a good option,  some cats are repelled by the enclosed space and this may trigger the digging behavior.  What you can do is to place the box in a private and secluded area. 

Living in a small apartment? No problem! There are good spots for your kitty’s box. Read more about this in our article, Where to put a cat litter box in a small apartment?


Cats adore their litter boxes as it is their private hideaway. However, if they notice something off like unusual odors or there is inadequate litter,  they tend to scratch or dig excessively. Whatever the reason is, be vigilant of your cat’s unusual behavior and try to identify what triggered it. You should make her litter box a desirable place for her by keeping it clean. You may also consider getting a bigger box and changing the litter type.