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Cat scratching outside her litter box?

January 05, 2019 3 min read

Cats are unique creatures with unusual quirks like scratching the wall or the floors after using their litter box.

If their odd behavior has you scratching your head, you should know about a few of the explanations that may shed light on why your cat finds the area surrounding his litter box an attractive place to take a few swipes. Here are some reasons why your cat might be scratching the walls, the sides of the litter box, or the floor just outside the box:

  • Your cat may be marking her territory. Cats have scent glands on their paws. Scratching the area outside of the litter box may simply be her way of laying claim on the place where she does her business.
  • Scratching hard surfaces helps your kitty keep his claws healthy and functional by wearing away the old outside husks so his new nails can emerge from underneath. You can help your cat with routine nail clipping, which could reduce his need for excessive scratching. Providing scratching posts around the house is also a good idea to prevent destructive scratching.
  • In a multi-cat home, your cat may be trying to communicate with her fellow housemates by leaving her scent around the litter box. If she’s scratching on the wall or around the sides of the litter box, she may be distributing her scent around the box to keep the other felines at bay.
  • In the wild, cats bury their waste to avoid being detected by larger predators, which instinctively use their sense of smell to pick up the trail of another animals' waste and thereby to track their victims. Your cat is behaving like its ancestors when it fiercely tries to cover its waste, sometimes to the point of reaching outside its litter box to do so.
  • Wall scratching may be a sign your litter box needs more litter. If you’re scooping once or twice a day, be sure to refill the box with litter after removing waste. Ideally, a litter box should contain a three- to four-inch layer of litter at all times. You may have to get a deeper litter box, especially if your cat enjoys digging around and demonstrates excessive scratching to cover his waste.
  • The litter is sticking to your cat’s paws. While clumping litter is great, it also tends to get stuck on a cat’s paws. If that happens, your cat may attempt to remove the clinging litter by scratching the sides of his box or swiping at the wall.
  • The litter box is dirty. Your cat’s odd scratching behavior may be his way of telling you he’s unhappy with his designated place to eliminate, especially if it’s not up to snuff. Scoop it once or twice a day and replace the litter every few weeks. Some people also give the litter box a thorough cleaning with warm water and vinegar once a week; others once a month.
  • It’s also possible your cat’s behavior is just his scratching style. If you’ve addressed all the possible scenarios that might be creating problems and your cat still scratches outside the box, you may have to accept the fact your creature of habit is just exercising its unique style of bathroom behavior.

Scratching outside the litter box is likely no cause for alarm, just a reminder that you've adopted a quirky creature you can love no matter what odd habits he develops. 

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