View Full Version : Why does my cat scratch endlessly in his kitty litter?

Bob Scene
11-27-2001, 02:52 PM
My cat has spent eleven years as a mostly outdoor cat, hardly ever using kitty litter, even though it was there if he needed it. A few months ago I moved into a new place and started keeping him inside all the time, and now he spends a lot of time compulsively scratching in his litterbox. He especially likes to do it when I'm trying to sleep, even though he knows it pisses me off.

So, what's the problem? Is it just because of the well-documented fact that he's a spaz, or is it just a normal cat thing, or is this a sign of some kind of a problem that I could do something about (other than feeding him Prozac)?

I do keep his litter box clean, by the way, and he always makes a point out of going and scratching in it for a long time right after I clean it.

11-27-2001, 03:21 PM
Sounds to me like he's marking territory. One of my cats does this around the food dish (he's rubbing the scent glands in his pads on the floor, I think) esp after the floors have been mopped. However, we are a multi-cat household, so the dynamics are likely different.

P.S: Hope you got him a scratch post. :D

11-27-2001, 03:26 PM
Cats always scratch where they go to the bathroom. He did it outside too but you just didn't notice it. They scratch beforehand (to make sure there's stuff to scratch) and afterward (so they can cover it).

In fact, that's how you get a kitten to use a litterbox: put her in it, hold her little forepaws, and make scratching motions with them in the sand. She will know what to do. Momma cats train their kittens to do this and it seems to be instinctual. I think that being hunters, they need to hide their scent in order to not tip off their prey.

11-27-2001, 03:32 PM
Once again, I cite from Desmond Morris's Cat Watching books (a semi-reputable source).

Cats bury their scat unless they are the dominant cat in the neighborhood in which case they leave it around for anyone to enjoy. As your pet, the cat regards you as a bigger more dominant cat. So it buries its stuff. Maybe you intimidate it so it is trying to do a real good job in burying it.

A couple of suggestions. Change the kind of litter or increase the amount in the box. Get a covered litterbox so that the noise will be somewhat muffled.

11-27-2001, 03:32 PM
Different cats do this to different extents. One of my cats doesn't scratch at all. He does his business and runs out of the box as if someone was about to get him. One of my other cats digs as if he is on some sort of archaeological expidition, meticulously manuvering each grain of litter into its required position. My third cat is normal.

NP: Amorphis - Elegy

11-27-2001, 03:38 PM
There's no telling how cat-brains work.

Mine are like Opengrave's cats One and Two. Lillian scratches around in the litter box like she's excavating the Temple of Dendur. Dorothy never 'flushes," just does her business and flies out of there like she's been shot from a cannon.

11-27-2001, 03:42 PM
Perhaps your cat has cat-scratch fever.

11-27-2001, 03:45 PM
Who else but Eve would name her cats after the Gish sisters? Let's cuddle up and watch Orphans of the Storm sometime.

My cat also scratches in her litter like she was Sir Flinders Petrie, usually waking me up in the dead of night. I'm glad to know it's normal behavior.

11-27-2001, 03:50 PM
Gobear—Lillian Gish actually had a framed photo of my cats on her bedside table! Had they been Siamese cats, I'd have named them Daisy and Violet (and who gets THAT?).

Bob—Make sure your cat is actually GOING. If he's constantly scratching away and not doing anything, he may have a bladder infection.

Bob Scene
11-27-2001, 03:51 PM
Thank you all for answering. (And big thanks in advance to the moderator who moves this to GQ for me! Even though I called my cat a spaz, I didn't mean for this to be in the Pit!)

Anyway, if he's just trying to bury his excreta, is it normal for him to spend 10 minutes doing it, or to spend 10 minutes doing it when he didn't just go?

11-27-2001, 03:51 PM
This is a total WAG, but it seems like our cat scratches more when her litter is dirty. I think maybe she's trying to cover, still smells the doody (or rather, the smell of the dirty litter), and she figures (not being big on visual confirmation) that it needs more coverin'.

You could try a cat litter with a deodorizer, though I'd recommend against it because 1) they smell ghastly IMHO and 2) they can cause health problems in cats. Better option is to just keep the litter cleaner--if indeed the smell is the problem.

11-27-2001, 03:55 PM
I'd have named them Daisy and Violet (and who gets THAT?).

The Hilton sisters. I saw them in Freaks and I loved the musical about them, Sideshow. How many brownie points do I get? P.S. I am so ordering your Kay Kendall book from Amazon.

Bob Scene
11-27-2001, 03:58 PM
Originally posted by Eve
Bob—Make sure your cat is actually GOING. If he's constantly scratching away and not doing anything, he may have a bladder infection.

There ya go! Kitty's even had bladder problems before. I'm going to call my half-ass Aggie vet now and see what he thinks.

11-27-2001, 04:05 PM
Not necessarily. Gypsy goes in the other litter boxes and scratches around-covering up the messes the other cats leave if she doesn't think it's neat enough. She's the strangest cat.

Once, the dog had a dingleberry on her, and it fell on teh floor. Gypsy went and tried to bury that. She's such a little neat freak.

(Of course, if he has a history of bladder infections, yeah, you should get it checked out. I'm just sayin, is all.)

11-27-2001, 05:35 PM
Fluffy's column has answered this question.


FOCD (Feline obsessive compulsive disorder). Sounds like your cat needs some Purrzac!

Cat Whisperer
11-27-2001, 05:43 PM
I gave my cat a couple of beans from my homemade chili once, and she tried to bury THAT! Little food critic...
(and I'll have you know I make excellent chili). My fiance's cat is the "archeologist" type - when he cleans the litter, it all has to be moved to one side of the litter box again. NOW. My cat is the "shot out of a cannon" type - she scratches sometimes, but she always scratches the sides of the litter box and the walls beside it. And takes off like a shot when the stinkies aren't covered.

11-27-2001, 05:49 PM
Actually, cats try to bury their food by instinct-it's an old survival instinct-they're saving it for later.

fish in the sky
11-27-2001, 06:02 PM
Originally posted by Opengrave
My third cat is normal.

:confused: There's such a thing as a normal cat?

One of my parent's cat has some digestive issues. Usually he's okay about litterbox duty, but stress or bad food can trigger one of his patented Big Stinky ShitsTM which tend to be deposited on the floor, sometimes just a few feet from the litterbox, cos I guess the bastard knows they're gonna be rank & doesn't want to stink up his bathroom. If he does go in the box, he never covers them up. I guess I can't really blame him; if I just took a Big Stinky ShitTM I probably wouldn't want to stick around long enough to bury it either.

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