Excessive Digging in the Litter Box – How To Help Your Cat

Excessive litter box digging is a common nuisance that comes with owning a cat. Every cat owner eventually deals with it, which leads to questions about how you can help or stop the digging? After some significant research, we've found a few ways to help curb this behavior. 

Stopping or helping a cat with a digging habit isn't overly complicated. It often comes down to a behavioral issue, health problem, or they don't like/feel safe in their litter box environment. The following five actions could help remove these issues rather quickly: 

  • Visiting your vet
  • Cleaning the litter box
  • Trying a different litter 
  • Switching to an uncovered litter box 
  • Placing the litter box in a different location

Of course, there's a little bit more to it than listing out actions. It's crucial to figure out why the excessive digging has begun. It'll help you decide what action would best suit your situation. Our next sections will cover these underlying issues and dive deeper into the appropriate measures.

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What's Causing the Excessive Digging?

If your cat's digging has increased, there could be several different reasons for it. Let's take a more in-depth at the potential triggers to see whether your kitty's digging could be a product of them.

Behavior Issues

Our first trigger would be your cat's suffering from behavior issues. In this case, there are two possible behavioral problems likely causing the digging: playing or stress/anxiety. 

Kittens could be using the litter box as a pent-up energy outlet and enjoy flying litter pellets all over the place. After all, kittens are curious and look to have fun everywhere they visit. 

Owners will be sad to learn this fun-seeking extends to the litter box. Kittens get overly excited about burying or unburying their waste, which leads to more digging. 

But this playing issue isn't much of a problem with adult cats. Stress or anxiety is more their thing when it comes to excessive digging. It's a typical maneuver for anxious or stressed-out cats who are trying to express their distress.

In other words, think about what has changed inside your home or their environment. Cats aren't big fans of change, and behaviors like over-the-top digging are their ways of showing their displeasure. 

Health Problems

Health issues aren't the most common cause of abnormal digging. But if a condition or disease is causing the issue, you'll need to address it immediately.

We should also note that a cat with diarrhea or gastrointestinal will spend extra time inside the litter box. It isn't a huge issue in these cases, and it'll likely pass in a short period.

But any signs of frequent constipation or urination are a severe problem and require an immediate vet visit. Both symptoms are known signs of kidney failure in cats.

Your Cat's Natural Instincts

Your cat has a survival instinct to bury their waste and food to prevent predators from tracking them. It might seem a little weird to consider, but your cat might be digging because of this reason. They could feel threatened and unprotected in the litter box's present location.

Marking Their Scent 

Marking their territory is another common reason for needless litter digging. As you know, cats are territorial animals and possessive about their spaces. Their digging is a way to rub and mark their scent over the litter box to demonstrate ownership.

Litter Box-Related Problems

If you don't think it's health or behavior problems, your cat's litter box might be the trigger. Several things could cause a cat to have a sudden issue with its litter box. For instance, their litter box might be dirtier than they'd like when doing their bathroom activities.  

Cats need a clean enough litter box where they feel at ease finding a perfect spot for their bathroom waste. These dirtier litter boxes will also produce unpleasant smells that cause your cat will hate. Due to this, they will try to eject this smell by scratching or digging at litter pellets.

Another litter box trigger would be it being too small. Your cat's digging represents their attempt to dig beyond the box's boundaries. It'll result in a significant mess building up around it and spreading disgusting odors throughout your home. 

Lastly, the clean and spacious litter box doesn't mean anything without enough litter. Your cat needs a certain amount to ensure they can dig and bury their waste properly. Otherwise, they'll end up digging at the sides and causing a significant amount of noise.

How to Deal With The Excessive Digging

An overweight constipated cat sitting on the litter box trying to poop

Since we've now looked into all the potential reasons, it's time to dive into the solutions. The following actions should ensure your cat's excessive digging soon becomes a thing of the past. Let's make sure your house isn't the victim of any more flying litter pellets. 

Visiting the Vet

Your first step would be looking for clues or signs of distress. If the digging is a new behavior, a vet visit should be the next thing on your agenda. It's a necessity for any owner who notices their cat having trouble using the litter box or their bathroom visits look different than usual.

It's also essential to know cats are somewhat secretive about when they're in pain or have a health issue. In some cases, their purring is even a sign of physical distress. It's our responsibility to pay close attention to them and act fast whenever they exhibit unhealthy or irregular behaviors. 

Cleaning the Litter Box

Cleaning your cat's litter box is one of the more obvious solutions, but still essential nonetheless. Cats aren't any different from humans when it comes to dealing with filth around their spaces. They will expect a clean litter box and act out when their owners don't meet those needs. 

Cats are known for their cleanliness. An owner who doesn't respect this need for cleanliness by scooping out the litter box will be an issue. It might even lead to your cat flat out not using the litter box altogether. 

The pungent smell of a dirty litter box doesn't help, either. Cats have a much more acute sense of smell than their owners do; if the litter box's smell is bothering you, it's bothering them.

Overall, keeping up with litter box upkeep makes both your lives a lot more comfortable. If you aren't too fond of the constant maintenance, try getting an automatic litter box. It won't eliminate all the work, but it'll reduce the litter box burden significantly.  

How Can You Prevent Litter From Getting Everywhere?

You can stop litter from getting all over your home with several different methods. Here's a quick list of various preventative measures to keep the pellets inside the litter box:

  1. Purchase a litter mat
  2. Switch to a litter box with higher walls
  3. Place the litter box on a non-carpeted surface
  4. Use quick clumping litter
  5. Keep a vacuum near the litter box for an easy cleanup
  6. Switch to a dust-free litter

Trying a Different Litter

Domestic Cat Stepping Out of Closed Litter Box in Living Room

Cats are picky about most things in their lives, which extends to types of litter. It becomes an issue for owners because there are several options available. But clay-based choices tend to be the most common choice because it's cheapest and clumps more effectively than others. 

However, we do recommend staying away from any scented litter. Most cats don't like the artificial or synthetic scent of these litter types. Plus, the smell gets even worse when it gets mixed with your cat's waste. It's just not a great idea on any scale.  

Some owners prefer natural, unscented options, as well. These litter types are much better for the environment and safer to use. Meanwhile, clay and silica-based options tend to produce dust that can cause health issues.

What Is The Best Cat Litter That Doesn't Track?

If you're looking for a litter that prevents tracking, we have a guide discussing all the best options. It'll offer you a solid starting point and provide an idea of what to expect. 

Try an Uncovered Litter Box

If you have a covered litter box, a cat might feel uncomfortable in their bathroom area. But it also might make them feel a little too comfortable and start making more noise than usual. After all, the litter box's hood gives them something else to scratch when doing their business. 

Switching to an uncovered litter box can solve this issue without much trouble. It'll remove the temptation, and those bathroom visits won't be as adventurous for your cat. 

Are Litter Boxes Better With Or Without A Lid?

In most cases, cats don't have a natural preference for covered or uncovered litter boxes. Most cats only care about whether the container is clean and not much else. If you keep it clean, they will more than not use it without much issue or trouble. 

Move the Litter Box

Our final solution would be moving the location of your cat's litter box. If the area has a lot of foot traffic, it could be making your cat uncomfortable when using the box. We recommend placing them in an area without much disturbance and giving them much-needed privacy. 

It'll make them feel a lot safer and protected within their litter box environment. You should also make sure the new location doesn't have loud appliances. The laundry area might seem like a good idea, but it'll end up scaring them half to death. 

In Closing

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If you have any more questions about your cat's digging, please let us know in our comment section. We'll make sure to answer each post as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!

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