Scratching at sides instead of covering in litter box - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-28-2010, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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Scratching at sides instead of covering in litter box

I have three litter boxes in the house for our two cats and one is in the bathtub of the spare bedroom upstairs. Bella has taken to scratching at the sides of the tub rather than scratching to cover her waste. In fact she rarely successfully covers the waste.
I have heard of this happening with covered litter boxes. None of mine are covered.
Anyone else have a cat that does this? It's a pretty minor deal other than she doesn't end up covering despite all her scratching and it's loud when she uses the box; especially in the middle of the night.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-28-2010, 12:42 PM
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There can be various reasons why your cat might be doing that, one of which is she just happens to like doing it! Other (more logical) potential reasons include: the box is too small; she doesn't like the feel of the litter; the litter isn't deep enough; or she gets litter stuck in her paws when scratching the litter and then scratches the side of the tub to free the litter from her paws.

My Muffin often has funny scratching habits, which include sometimes scratching the side of the box, and sometimes putting her two front paws outside of the box and scratching the floor. At other times, her aim needs adjusting, such as when the poo is to the left and she's scratching to the right! Since there's neither rhyme nor reason to her scratching, I've decided to chalk her behavior up to the fact that she just has funny scratching habits.

Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-28-2010, 02:11 PM
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Nebbie scratches at the top rim of the box. She almost never covers her stuff, either.
Paizly never scratches at all... she goes in, does her business and goes back out again... no digging a hole or covering up.

Cats at the shelter I volunteer at have HUGE litter boxes (those big black kind for mixing cement in, bought at the hardware store). Some cats scratch at the wall, or the rim of the box, or on the floor. I guess it's just the cat's preference?

This isn't to do with scratching, but rather going ...I always thought it was funny when cats put ALL four legs up on the rim of the box, with their behinds hanging over the litter. A kitten did that the other day, and he was wobbling as he tried to balance and poop at the same time! LOL
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-28-2010, 02:19 PM
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Well, it sounds like she is exhibiting a very strong burying instinct.
The problem appears to be a mis-fire in the signals telling her to scratch/bury ... because she is scratch/burying the wrong thing ... but she IS scratch/burying, so her instinct is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, we can sometimes modify instinctual behaviors but we can never completely eliminate or change them. You may be stuck with her wall scratching and not effectively covering her waste.
I've heard of cats scratching air, walls, floors and even walking down the hall away from the litterbox area and stopping every few steps to scratch/bury at the walls in the hallway ... when their l'box/waste are 10' behind them! Instincts are funny things.


In our multi-cat home we built a LitterChest that is huge and vented outside so most dust and odor go out of our home, whether the waste is buried or not. Sometimes other cats coming into the L'Chest will bury an uncovered poop if it is still fresh/stinky, but if it has begun drying, they just avoid it. My kitty who doesn't cover her waste either scratches at the walls or does absolutely nothing when she has finished other than to rocket at top-speed out of the L'Chest, down the hall and into the livingroom to mock-attack whatever cat she sees into playing with her.
Kitties seem to get strange ideas into their heads, but those ideas never seem strange to them. Just us.
Best of luck!
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-28-2010, 02:56 PM
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Mow is a borderline OCD scratcher. He usually does it for a very extended period but sometimes it'll go on so long (even in a clean litter box) that I eventually go in and shoo him out of the room.

He was starting to wear the carpet in front of the litter box so I laid a flattened cardboard box on the ground in front of his litter box. Then I heard him scratching on the walls (it's not a covered litter box) so I got a giant cardboard box, laid it on it's side with the flaps taped open and put the the litter box inside it.

He still scratches for a LONG time after he's done but at least it's not destructive.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-28-2010, 08:30 PM
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Booger does this as well. When he was just a kitten his sister (my girlfriend's cat, at the time) lived with us. Booger would never end up covering his waste because he'd just scratch the sides of the litter box or outside of it. Fortunately, his sister would jump in after he was finished and cover it for him. After my girlfriend and I broke up and Booger's sister moved out it took him a good several years to finally start successfully covering his waste. He still scratches the sides of the box and the tile outside of the box, but he does so after covering up.

So there's definitely the potential for progress!
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-30-2010, 08:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for all the replies!

I just moved the box slightly so it is in the center of the tub as opposed to the end. She wouldn't have quite as much tub space to scritch at that way. Next time I am out I will probably get a bigger box.

Bailey is a champion pee/poop cover-er and she will often help her sister out and cover hers as well.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-01-2010, 01:00 PM
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Bella scratches at the litterbox before she gets in and after she's all done. She does cover though as well.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-01-2010, 02:30 PM
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Miu does the exact same thing. She'll go in the litterbox, but then she'll either half heartedly bury it or she'll scratch just outside the box beside the pee. She won't cover up her poops.

Although weirdly enough, she'll try and scratch/bury my dog's pee when he does it in his indoor doggy litterbox. So when we hear a scratching noise, we know Rocky the dog went pee pee. LOL!

She'll also scratch around Jack's food bowl sometimes. Or if water is spilt a bit outside the water dish, she'll scratch around that bowl too. Positively weird.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-01-2010, 02:44 PM
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Well, she is a cat. *HERS* obviously doesn't stink.
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