Why Do Cats Scratch The Side Of The Litter Box? Possible Reasons And Solutions

Why Do Cats Scratch The Side Of The Litter box

Why do cats scratch the side of the litter box? I asked myself this question the first time I saw my cat scratching her claws into the side of her litter box. After doing research, I realized that it was just her way of marking her territory.

In this blog post, I’ll share what I’ve learned about cats scratching the sides of the litter box, and what you can do to help prevent it.

Before we dive in, we all know that cats are unique creatures, and they usually dislike even small changes in their routine, such as their food, sleeping spots, litter box, etc. Additionally, Cats’ behaviors can sometimes be puzzling, such as when they love to scratch things– furniture, carpets, your legs… 

We shouldn’t punish cats for scratching. Instead, we should provide them with acceptable objects to scratch, for example, a scratching post.

But why do they scratch the litter box? Here’s the answer.

What Causes My Cat Digging And Scratching The Litter Box After Using It?

One thing all cats agree on is the need to do a little bit of digging and scratching after using the litter box.

So, what causes this behavior? It’s just a natural feline instinctive behavior, according to the pet journal. After they do their business, they want to make sure it’s properly buried. Digging and scratching help them to do this.

 In the wild, this behaviour helps them to avoid being challenged by other dominant cats. Unlike most people, who believe that all cat feces smells the same, there’s a difference between each cat’s waste smell, which is something that cats can tell. 

Therefore the cat’s feces and urine are considered a cat’s way of marking territory. When cats are digging and hiding their waste, they are trying to create a sense of peace and calm.

This method also helps cats to stay safe and avoid being discovered by predators. When they bury their feces or urine, they cover their scent and make it harder for predators to track them. This is just one of the many ways that cats use their instincts to survive in the wild.

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Why Do Cats Scratch The Side Of The Litter Box?

cat scratches the side of the litter box excessively

If your cat is scratching the sides of the litter box, it could be for a few reasons. One possibility is that there isn’t enough litter, and your cat is having a hard time covering up its waste. Another possibility behind this odd behavior is that your cat is trying to remove any dirt off her paws.

It could also be the cat’s way of stretching her back and legs after being cooped up in the box. It could also be a way of sharpening her claws on the plastic, similar to how she would be on a scratching post.

Additionally, the litter box may be too dirty, so they’re scratching the side to let you know they aren’t feeling well. Cats are known for their love of cleanliness, and they always keep their litter box clean. 

 We made a survey and asked cat parents, “Why do your cats scratch the sides of the litter box?” We found the most likely reason your cat is scratching around the litter box is to mark her scent. 

This technique is especially common in multi-cat households, where cats want to mark their scent. By scratching the sides of the box, she’s leaving behind her unique scent, thanks to the scent glands on her paw pads. This scent will serve as a reminder to the other cats’ mates to know who’s in charge.

Another possibility is that cats scratch the sides of the litter box because they are displeased with its size. If it’s too cramped, your cat may not be able to move around comfortably, resulting in a less-than-pleasurable experience.

Many veterinarians also believe that when cats scratch the sides of the litter box, it could be a sign of territory marking. This is typically seen in unspayed feral cats or in cats that live in communal settings with other cats and share their litter box.

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If Your Cat Is Scratching The Sides Of The Litter Box Excessively, What Should You Do?

If your cat suddenly starts scratching the sides of its litter box excessively, it’s important to take a closer look at the litter box itself to see if any changes need to be made. By doing so, you can help your cat have a more positive experience and avoid any future frustration.

In other words, the litter box can be a source of frustration for cats for many reasons.

Here are some causes why cat digs excessively in litter box:

#1 The Litter Box Isn’t Clean

If your cat is scratching the sides of its litter box excessively, it could be a sign that she is not satisfied with the cleanliness of their space. Some cats are more tolerant of a messy litter box than others, but if your cat started scratching the sides of the box, they may be trying to tell you that they prefer a cleaner space. So, If your cat’s litter box is on the dirty side, try scooping it out more frequently to see if that makes a difference.

#2 Recently Switched Litter Brands  

Some cats may have a preference for the litter they use. In the case that you have switched litter brands recently, and your cat is scratching the litter box, it may be trying to tell you that they don’t like the new brand you are using. Try using the old brand again or try a different type of litter. 

#3 You Are Using A Litter Box That’s Too Small For Your Cat

If your cat is having trouble using its litter box, it may be because the box is the wrong size. If it’s too small, your cat may struggle to bury their waste. This can lead to them scratching at the side of the box, which can be frustrating for both of you. Instead, try switching to a different size litter box, and see if that results in better behavior.

#4 Recently Switched To Hooded Litter Box 

If your cat is using a hooded litter box and scratching the sides, it’s likely due to frustration. Hooded boxes can be confining for cats and make it difficult to see what’s going on inside. If your cat is new to a hooded box, try giving them some time to adjust. One way to solve this problem is to try a litter box with a clear lid so your cat can see inside.

Why Do Cats Scratch The Side Of The Litter Box Excessively?

There are many potential causes for cats scratching the side of the litter box excessively. To fix this problem, we should first take a closer look at the area around the box to see what’s causing the problem.

Maybe the location of the litter box is not ideal. 

The location of your cat’s litter box can have a big impact on its ability to use it properly. So, what’s the best location for a litter box?

Ideally, you want to find a spot that is private, quiet, peaceful, and away from busy areas. This way, your cat can do their business in privacy and won’t be disturbed.

To meet these specifications, the best place is the bathroom. However, you need to ensure that your cat can access it at all times. If it’s blocked off for long periods, your cat is likely to start using an alternate spot in your house as a toilet.

Maybe they want to Play

If you notice your cat scratching the side of the litter box excessively, it may be because they want to play. Kittens often play in fresh litter, so this behavior may carry over into adulthood. If you think your cat is just trying to have some fun, provide them with a small toy to play with in the litter box. This will help satisfy their need to scratch and dig and will prevent them from making a mess of your clean litter while also being playful.

It’s not uncommon for kittens to scratch the sides of their litter box, as it is a safe space that is covered in their scent. However, some adult cats will also engage in this behavior if they’re feeling extra playful. In this case, you might want to provide them with a scratching post to satisfy their digging instinct.

Maybe the litter amount has overfilled the box 

Looking to keep your cat’s litter box clean and free of scratches? Make sure you’re using the right amount of litter! Cats typically prefer a depth of 3 inches, so if the box is too full, they may choose not to use it.

If you believe, as I do, that increasing the amount of litter in the litter box will help solve cats’ scratching behavior, you may be wrong. On the contrary, cats prefer to scratch and dig around in non-crowded litter boxes.

The Litter Box Isn’t Clean Enough For Them.

Kitty is very picky about cleanliness. They spend hours licking and grooming their coats to keep them looking pristine. And they’re not content to just clean themselves – they will avoid using their litter box if it’s too dirty. This can lead to them scratching the sides of the box.

So, it’s important to scoop and clean the box regularly, at least one time every day, and more often in a multi-cat household.

It is also important to provide each cat with its litter box plus one additional box. This will ensure that each cat has a clean place to go.

Wrong-sized litter box 

The Important thing is to make sure that your cat has enough room to move around and turn around without feeling cramped. If it’s too small, your cat may end up doing a lot of unwanted scratching. A general rule of thumb is that the litter box should be about 1.5 times the length of your cat. 

A good litter box size for an average-sized cat is 18”x18”x6”. If you have a large cat, you may need to go up to 24”x24x8“. If you have a very small cat, you can get away with a smaller box, such as 15”x15x5“.

If you can’t find anything that causes your cat to scratch the litter box instead of litter, it’s highly recommended to consult with your veterinarian to check for any medical causes.

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How Can I Get My Cat To Stop Scratching The Side Of The Litter Box?

Stop scratching the sides of the litter box

To stop your cat from scratching the side of its litter box, there are a few things can help. Firstly, make sure that the litter box is completely meeting your cat’s preferences. Secondly, try to clean out the litter box and remove any debris. If there is anything stuck to the sides of the box, your cat may be trying to remove it.

On the other hand, some cats don’t seem to understand the concept of digging a hole and covering their waste, and this will often result in excessive scratching at the sides of the litter box without covering their poop. If you want them to be more professional when it comes to using the litter box, it will be easy if they are kittens. If they are already adults, it will be more difficult.

So, if you notice that your pets aren’t covering their waste (poop) properly while cleaning the litter box, you’ll need to take some time to re-train them on how to use their litter box properly and the best way to do so is by using positive reinforcement. Below are some tips on how to get your cat potty-trained from scratch:

  1. Put the litter box in an easily accessible place.
  2. Encourage your cat to use the litter box by putting some of their favorite toys or treats inside.
  3. Clean the litter box regularly to keep it fresh and inviting.
  4. Avoid negativity! Yelling, punishing, or spraying your cat with water will only serve to scare them away and jeopardize the bond you’re trying to build. 
  5. Use soft words and if your cat starts to scratch the side of the litter box, gently remove them and place them in the box. 
  6. Be patient as it may take some time for your cat to get used to the litter box and their new potty-training routine and by that time it will help to minimize the cat’s scratching of the side of the litter box.

This approach to training is beneficial for both cats and their owners, promoting a stronger bond while also helping to address behavioral issues and teaching new tricks. If you’re not sure where to start, consider seeking out some professional help to get you on the right track.

My Cat Is Scratching The Side Of The Litter Box Excessively, Does It Have A Health Issue?

Cat Is Scratching The Side Of The Litter Box

First of all, try to redirect your cat’s behavior. One option is to train your cat that scratching in other places is more acceptable. This can be done by redirecting their scratching toward objects like a cat tree or another scratching post.

By giving your cat more scratching things like a cat tree! they may be less likely to scratch the sides of their litter box. 

However, If your cat is scratching more than usual, it could be a sign of a health issue. So it is important to take your cat to the vet to rule out any health issues that could be causing the excessive scratching. They can also offer advice on how to best care for your cat to reduce the amount of scratching.

Urinary Tract Disease 

If your cat is excessively scratching the side or bottom of its litter box, it could be a sign of a urinary tract disease (FLUTD). It is seen most often in cats, especially overweight, middle-aged, mostly indoor cats, and cats that don’t get much exercise.

If your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to take her to the vet for a check-up and run tests. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome.

Gastrointestinal Issues

If you’ve noticed that your cat’s bathroom habits have changed recently, it could be a sign of gastrointestinal issues. Normal feces should be a dark brown color, and they should be relatively firm, not too soft or too hard. 

So, if your cat’s waste is watery, solid, or bloody, and they are also scratching the side of the litter box excessively, it might be a gastrointestinal issue.

Gastrointestinal issues are a common problem in cats. Factors like diet, parasites, dairy products, and allergies can contribute to these issues. Additionally, If your cat has come in contact with a poisonous plant or some spoiled food, it may be affected. Bacteria, parasites like Giardia, and roundworms are also common in cats, and all of these can cause diarrhea or constipation.

 If your cat is constipated, it may strain a lot while trying to go, and she may try to cover up its waste. If your cat is experiencing any of these issues, it’s best to take her to the vet for a check-up.

Gastrointestinal issues can be serious, so it’s significant to get a diagnosis from a professional. With proper treatment, your cat can feel better and get back to its normal toilet behaviors.

Stress Or Anxiety

If you’ve noticed that your cat has started to scratch at the side of the litter box more than usual, it could be a sign of stress or anxiety. Cats are pretty routine-oriented animals, so any change, even a small one, can cause them stress. If your cat’s scratching is due to a change in their routines, such as a lack of attention from you or a change in their diet, it’s important to try and make them feel as comfortable as possible. This may mean spending more time with them, providing them with their favorite foods, or creating a calm environment for them to relax.

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Why Do Cats Scratch Outside The Litterbox?

If your cat is suddenly scratching the wall near their litter box or outside the box, something is likely wrong with their box. 

There are a few things you can do to fix the problem. First, clean the litter box with mild soap, and to prevent your cat from stopping the use of the litter box, avoid any products with ammonia. Cats can be negatively impacted by harsh cleaning products, so it is best to avoid them.

In general, cats need to scratch! It’s not just a sign of a bored or restless kitty – scratching is essential for keeping claws healthy. When cats scratch on a hard surface, it helps to wear away the old outer husks of their nails so that new ones can emerge. This keeps their claws sharp and functional.

 So if your kitty is scratching up your furniture or carpet, don’t get mad – just provide them with a scratching post and help them keep their nails in good condition.

It’s important to remember that this is just one of many quirks that make cats so unique and lovable. If you’re concerned about your cat’s scratching behavior, be sure to talk to your vet about it. In the meantime, continue to provide them with a clean and comfortable litter box, and plenty of love and attention.



Ryan Colon started out as a freelance writer four years ago. This was a great move for me because I got to write about the topics I was passionate about and I got to connect with pet owners in a new way. My current focus is on pet-related lifestyle and home products.