9 Reasons Why Your Cat Scratches The Sides Of The Litter Box

Cats are known for their unique behaviors and quirks, and if your feline friend is scratching the sides of her litter box, you might be wondering why. Cats are fascinating creatures, and understanding their actions can help improve your relationship and create a more harmonious living space. In this article, we will explore the nine common reasons behind this intriguing behavior.

The Significance of the Litter Box

Before we dive into the reasons behind your cat’s scratching habit, let’s emphasize the importance of the litter box in your cat’s life. Cats are renowned for their cleanliness and hygiene, making the litter box a crucial component of their daily routine. It’s essential to provide the right environment to ensure your cat’s comfort and well-being.

1. Natural Instincts

Cats have an inherent instinct to bury their waste. This behavior traces back to their wild ancestors who concealed their scent to avoid predators. Even indoor cats retain this instinct, often scratching the sides of the litter box after using it.

2. Obsessive Cleanliness

Cats are meticulous about cleanliness. If your cat is scratching the sides of the litter box, it could be because she has litter particles stuck to her paw pads. Cats have highly sensitive paws, and anything unusual can be uncomfortable for them.

3. A Need for a Clean Environment

A clean litter box is vital for your cat. If she’s constantly scratching and pawing at the sides, it might be her way of signaling that the box needs cleaning. Regular maintenance and fresh litter can help minimize this behavior.

4. Size Matters

As cats grow, they may outgrow their litter boxes. If your cat is scratching, it could be a sign that she needs more space. Providing a larger litter box can alleviate this issue.

5. Playful Distraction

Cats are known for their playful nature, and they often find unconventional ways to entertain themselves. Scratching the sides of the litter box might simply be a form of feline amusement.

6. Marking Territory

While domesticated cats don’t need to defend their territory as vigorously as their wild counterparts, they still have territorial instincts. If you have multiple cats, scratching the litter box could be a way of establishing dominance or territorial boundaries.

7. Inadequate Litter Depth

Cats may scratch at the litter box if they feel there’s not enough litter to cover their waste properly. Adding more litter can resolve this issue.

8. Location Preferences

Cats have strong preferences for where their litter box is placed. If your cat keeps having accidents in a specific area, it might be her way of signaling that she wants the litter box relocated.

9. Uncovered Freedom

Some cats may not appreciate covered litter boxes, feeling confined within them. Scratching the sides could indicate a desire for an open, more spacious bathroom environment.


Understanding your cat’s behavior is essential for a harmonious relationship. Cats are unique creatures with individual preferences and needs. If your cat is scratching the sides of the litter box, it’s crucial to consider the factors discussed above and make any necessary adjustments to create a suitable environment for your feline friend. By accommodating her needs, you’ll strengthen your bond and enjoy a cleaner, happier home with your beloved pet.


Can this behavior be a sign of a urinary tract problem in my cat?

Scratching the litter box sides can sometimes indicate discomfort related to a urinary tract issue. If you notice other signs like frequent urination, straining, or blood in the urine, consult your veterinarian promptly.

My cat is scratching the sides of the litter box but doesn’t seem to have litter stuck to her paws. What could be the reason?

Scratching behavior can also be a way for your cat to mark her territory or express dissatisfaction with the location or cleanliness of the litter box. Consider these factors as well as her need for more space.

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