cat playing in the litter box

Is Your Cat Playing in the Litter Box? We Have the Explanations!

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The cat is playing in the litter box again! Look at it, rolling in litter and kicking it out like crazy! Is that even normal?

We know where you’re coming from. You work hard to keep the litter box clean and tidy. You sweep and mop around it. And just five minutes later, it looks as if a couple of kids engaged in a sand fight.

However, in most of the cases, it is just normal cat behavior. A cat playing in the litter box is doing one of the following: covering up after elimination, grooming itself or marking its territory.

Sounds strange, right? However, cats have a very complex routine when they go to the litter box. Believe it or not, but a team of scientists actually studied how cats go to the toilet. And they identified no less than 39 different behaviors. That’s impressive…or unbelievable, but it’s a researched and recorded fact.

When Should You Worry about a Cat Playing in the Litter Box?

Alright, let us start by getting out of the way an issue you should really pay attention to as a responsible cat parent. If you believe that your cat is spending way too much time in the litter box, you may be overreacting (everyone does) or you may really be on to something.

It’s always best to err on the safe side and take your cat to the vet. Your cat may have difficulty urinating – which could be the sign of urinary tract disease.

Or it may be nothing worrisome. Which gets us back to the main point….

Why Exactly Are Cats Playing with Litter?

To understand your cat playing in the litter box, you have to consider the fact that litter looks pretty much like sand. And everybody loves to play in the sand, even felines. Or, we may say, especially felines, since they’ve evolved in Africa, where there is plenty of sand.

Small kittens use litter sand as practice area for their future hunting skills. They learn how to claw, how to scratch, how to catch that mouse in one fast swoop…It’s simply instinct, and you will soon regret that your furbaby replaced the litter with your carpet or your sofa for further training.

The Cat Is Rolling in Litter! Is Even That Normal?

The short answer to that is: yes. For the long answer, consider all the times you were looking at outdoor cats rolling in dirt. Why on earth where they doing that?

It turns out, for sanitary reasons, as strange as it may seem. When they roll in sand or dirt, cats get rid of excess fur and of some of the bacteria that makes their skin itch.

Your indoor cat does not have access to the world outside, so it has to improvise. Hence, a cat playing in the litter box is just dust bathing and trying to stay clean….with debatable results.

How About Litter Kicking? What Does It Mean?

Litter kicking is another normal cat behavior (yes, cats are quirky like that). One of the reasons it kicks litter is to cover pee or poop. In nature, all the big cats do that to cover up their own smell. It would be a dead giveaway for other animals they’re trying to hunt, or even to their own predators or rivals.

A domestic cat has the same instincts of a proud lion or a majestic puma. It will cover up after itself, even if there is no other cat in the same home.

However, if it is purposely kicking soiled litter out of the box, your cat is sending you a message: this is my territory. By spreading litter imbibed with pee or poop, the cat is really spreading out its scent and marking its territory.

So, Do You Really Have to Accept a Cat Playing in the Litter Box?

As far as your cat is not causing too much disturbance, you should not try to change its feline habits. However, you also have your own instincts about hygiene and personal territory.

So, here’s what to do:

  1. Brush your cat frequently – it will remove the itchiness, the extra fur and your cat won’t feel the need to dust bath in the litter box
  2. Use a calming diffuser – Feliway is our best recommendation – to curb the territorial instincts of your cat a little
  3. Get a bigger litter box, with a cover – you won’t stop your cat from kicking litter, but most of it will stay inside the box.

In conclusion, a cat playing in the litter box is, in most of the cases, a perfectly happy cat displaying normal feline behavior. After all, you wanted to share your home with a tiny panther!


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