Cats often leave their litter box and scratch the floor after pooping. It can be confusing for pet owners because it doesn’t appear to serve any purpose, but there is a logical explanation.
Cats scratch the floor after they’ve pooped because their litter box is too small. Cats bury their waste to disguise their presence from predators. If their litter box isn’t big enough, they don’t know where the tray ends and the floor begins. Felines think that they’re burying their waste.
Finding the right size of litter box doesn’t just involve buying the largest product in the store. You need the right shape and must line it with quality cat litter. By following the recommendations in this guide, your cat will stop scratching the floor after using the litter box as it won’t be necessary.
My Cat Leaves Their Litter Box and Scratches the Floor
When your cat eliminates, the smell is distinct and unmistakable. To animals, cat poop is potent. This means your cat will never be able to move undetected unless he hides the evidence.
Your cat will bury his poop. Cats kick their litter over any waste in their tray to mask the sight and smell. If your cat eliminates outdoors, he’ll likely do so in the soil so it can be quickly hidden.
How does this relate to a cat scratching the floor after pooping, though? It’s likely that your cat is confused where his litter tray ends and the floor begins. This could be for the following reasons:
- The designated bathroom area is too small. If your cat doesn’t have room to maneuver, he won’t stick to the litter box.
- The sides of the tray are too low so litter is spilling all over the floor. This confuses your cat as there is no distinction between smells.
- His litter tray has not been cleaned in a while. This creates an unappealing aroma, and your cat will want nothing to do with it.
How to Choose the Right Litter Box for Your Cat
Eradicating unwanted litter box behaviors starts with finding the right box in the first place. Preventative Vet offers some advice about making the right choice.
The most important thing to consider is size and shape. If your cat isn’t comfortable, he won’t enjoy a good relationship with his litter box.
Your cat will then take out his frustration on your floor. Your cat could hurt himself and/or you’ll be angry about any damage.
What is the Right Size for a Cat’s Litter Box?
When choosing a litter box, it is essential that your cat can turn around in his litter box comfortably. It’s vital that your cat never feels compressed. While felines usually enjoy tight spaces, the litter box is an exception to the rule.
Measure your cat, from the top of his nose to the bottom of his extended tail. His litter box should be at least this long and wide, ideally larger. This way, your cat will be able to move freely and avoid previous deposits. In turn, your cat can easily bury his waste without any issues.
What is the Best Shape for a Cat’s Litter Box?
Different cats have different needs and mobility restrictions.
Some senior cats sleep in their litter boxes for a variety of physical and mental reasons. An older, arthritic cat would prefer a low-sided litter tray. This will be easier to climb in and out of. Having one entry point that is at ground level would be perfect for a cat that is advancing in years.
This shape will not work if your cat is prone to kicking and spraying litter, though. If your cat digs in his litter boisterously, he’ll knock it onto the floor. If the floor smells like litter, your cat will treat it as an extension of his tray. Scratching of the floor after going to the toilet will then ensue.
If an adult cat likes to dig in his litter, you should get him a box with high sides. If this isn’t an option due to his age, be vigilant about cleaning the floor around the area to prevent problems.
Should the Litter Box be Covered or Uncovered?
Covered litter boxes minimize the risk of your cat scratching the floor. Your pet will have a designated area for elimination. The cover will also mask the aroma of his waste.
The other advantage of covered litter boxes is privacy. Some cats prefer to be alone when they eliminate. A cover provides this facility.
Some cats will reject a covered litter box, however. Felines feel extremely vulnerable while eliminating. In a covered litter box, he cannot see any threats (predators) coming.
Alternatively, you could provide a range of different litter box options. A study in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery recommends following this approach.
A range of litter boxes in different locations allows your cat to choose where he feels most comfortable. This reduces confusion and the risk of him pawing at the floor.
How Much Litter Should I Put in My Cat’s Tray?
Once you have his litter box in place, it’s ready to be filled. Just how much litter you use is vital to your cat. A rule of thumb is that your cat’s litter box should be two-thirds full. Too little and he won’t feel like his waste is appropriately buried. This will just lead to more scratching.
Too much litter is just as problematic. Your cat will fling this all over the floor and grow confused about where to dig. Scratching the floor will invariably follow.
Felines can be fussy about the type of litter that’s used. Avoid a scented brand. It may mask the smell of your cat’s waste, but your pet may be put off. Once you find a brand that your cat likes, you must stick with it. Changing litter can stress cats out as they’re very change-averse.
How Often Should a Litter Box be Cleaned?
You’ll need to scoop your pet’s litter box several times a day. It will also need to be thoroughly cleaned a couple of times a week. Using a clumping litter will make this process easier. As the name suggests, this type of cat litter clumps up when it’s wet.
You can then use a scoop to remove the litter that has been urinated on, leaving the rest to clean later. Just remember that, somewhere in that tray, your cat has buried at least one poop.
As Pet Health Network explains, failing to clean a cat’s litter box can be hazardous to his health. If your cat’s litter is dirty, your cat will smell it.
This will make your cat reluctant to use his litter box. He won’t necessarily want to eliminate outside the box either, though. As a result, your cat will hold on until he cannot wait any longer. This can cause medical problems, such as urinary tract infections and cystitis.
If you don’t, cats will clean their own litter boxes. That means lots of kicking litter out of the box onto the floor. A confused cat thinks the floor smells like litter and scratches to hide the scent.
Cats that scratch the floor after pooping are not doing so to be destructive. It’s not a behavioral problem. They are acting on instinct, which is something that no feline can ignore. Certain feline behaviors are hardwired and cannot be changed. Hiding his waste is a natural instinct.
You need to help your cat feel like he has successfully hidden his presence. This will keep your pet happy and ensure that your floor is safe from the attention of his claws.
Temper these instincts by getting or creating a hospitable litter box for your pet. If your cat’s litter box meets his needs, then he will not need to scratch the floor.