Kicking the litter out of the box is a normal cat behavior-it's how they bury their waste to hide the scent in the wild from predators. It's true that sometimes it's a mess around our house, but no need to stress out. Really, some simple adjustments and management tips can help minimize the amount of litter tracked all over. Cats are doing what comes naturally to them, but by making a few changes to the setup of their litter box, that instinct can be brought under control neatly.

Natural Behaviors Leading to Litter Kicking

Cats have primitive reasons relating to their need to bury waste for concealing their scents and locations. Those natural behaviors are what cause them to be constantly kicking the litter everywhere. Understanding fully why cats do this allows us to have better control over their behaviour.

Digging to Bury Waste

Cats in the wild burrow and then bury their excrement to help prevent the smell from reaching the nostrils of predators. Our domestic cat still has that natural instinct imprinted and digs and kicks so repetitively in the litter box. They are following their natural instinct to bury their odors.

Learning from Mom

Kittens will learn how to use a litter box by observing their mother and then imitating her. If she is an enthusiastic digger and kicker in the burying process, the kittens likely will take to extreme burying behaviors, too.

Signs of Health Issues

Although litter kicking is a normal activity for most cats, a sudden or dramatic change in our cat's litter box behavior can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition. The development of urinary tract infections, kidney disease, arthritis, or other medical disorders can affect our cat's use and behavior with the litter box. If you see major changes, it might be best to consult the vet.

Siamese cat using the litter box

Reasons Cats Kick Litter Out of the Box

Although the action of kicking litter out of the box is based on natural instinctual behaviors, there are still a few special pouncing reasons, such as why some cats seem to be less able to keep the filth contained.

1. Learned Behavior

If a kitten was still a baby when it observed its mother cat carefully dig and bury her waste with great energy, then the odds are pretty high that it, too, carried on with those very energetic litter-kicking behaviors. Cats learn appropriate litter box behavior; they follow mom's lead.

2. Lack of Training

On the contrary, a cat that was weaned too early may not have learned how to be polite in using the litter box. Not having been taught by their mom on how to cover their waste well, such cats grew up to become messier and scatter more litter around.

3. Litter Box Size

A too-small litter box can also cause excessive scratching or digging and litter scatter. If a cat feels the box is too small, she may want to dig harder to ensure she gets enough space in which to adequately cover her waste, thereby slinging litter outside of the box.

4. Box Cleanliness

Cats prefer a clean and fresh-looking litter box. If it is soiled and has a strong odor, the cat will avoid using the toilet properly and is more likely to kick around the edges to find an acceptable place. Litter should be scooped daily and deep cleaned on a weekly basis.

5. Amount of Litter

Inadequate litter in the box also causes problems. Cats need ample depth (at least 2-3 inches) to effectively dig, cover their waste, and avoid kicking litter out from lack of material.

6. Playful Behavior

Some cats, especially kittens and young adults, get carried away playing and digging in fresh cool litter. This playful behavior can inadvertently kick up litter mess.

7. Territorial Marking

Cats may occasionally kick litter out of the box as a means of marking their territory by dispersing their scent through the digging and kicking motions.

8. Medical Issues

Finally, medical conditions like urinary tract infections, kidney disease, arthritis, or feline lower urinary tract disease can impact a cat's ability to use the litter box normally, leading to changed habits and more mess.

Cat standing between two litter boxes

Tips to Prevent Excessive Litter Mess

From optimizing our litter boxes to employing litter mats, these tips will help us contain the kicked litter.

1. See the Veterinarian

If there are any sudden changes in our cat's litter box habits or other concerning symptoms like straining to urinate or lethargy, et's make an appointment with our vet right away. Underlying medical issues like urinary tract infections or kidney disease could be causing the change in behavior. Our vet can rule out any health problems and provide us with guidance.

2. Use an Appropriately Sized Litter Box

One of the most important things is to make sure we have an appropriately sized litter box that gives our cat enough room to move around comfortably. A box with high sides and a large bottom area (at least 1.5 times the length of our cat) will allow our cat to dig and cover their waste without kicking litter out as easily.

3. Have Multiple Litter Boxes

The general rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in our home. So if you have two cats, you'd want three litter boxes. This helps reduce territorial issues and litter aversion behaviors that can lead to more kicking and mess. Place the boxes in different areas to give our cats plenty of options.

4. Clean Frequently

Scoop solid waste out of the litter boxes once or twice per day. Then, completely empty, wash with baking soda and unscented soap, and refresh with new litter weekly or bi-weekly. Cats prefer a fresh, clean litter environment and a dirty box will discourage proper usage. Automatic self-cleaning litter boxes are another convenient option to keep things tidy.

5. Use Litter Mats

Place large litter mats in front of the box entries to catch any litter that gets kicked out. Look for mats with a dual-layer design with a mesh top trap that traps the litter from cats' paws when they exit. We can simply shake out the mat frequently over the litter box to contain the mess.

Cat using a self-cleaning litter box

How to Select the Right Litter Box

Finding the ideal litter box setup is crucial for containing litter mess. The wrong type or size of box can actually contribute to more kicking and scattering of litter. Consider a cat's specific needs when choosing the right litter box.

1. High-Sided and Low Entry

For maximum litter containment, look for litter boxes with high sides that can contain a cat's vigorous digging and burying. However, you'll also want a lower entry point so the cat can easily step in and out, which becomes especially important as they get older. Boxes with top entry can be challenging for some cats to access.

2. Covered or Uncovered

Covered litter boxes have some advantages like containing odors and providing a sense of privacy for cats. But some cats can feel cramped in enclosed spaces, especially larger cats. An uncovered box allows better visibility and air flow which some cats prefer. Consider our cat's typical tendencies when choosing between a covered or uncovered box.

3. Ventilation and Visibility

If using a covered litter box, make sure it has ample ventilation holes or a design that prevents odor buildup. Cut-outs or a see-through side will also give cats better visibility so they don't feel trapped in an enclosed space. Feeling confined may lead to litter aversion and kick-outs.

The key is finding a litter box setup that accommodates the particular cat's preferences and needs. The right sized box with proper access can greatly minimize litter dispersal during their natural digging and burying routine. Be willing to experiment with different covered versus uncovered models to see what works best for our cat.

Accepting Litter Kicking as Natural Cat Behavior

Kicking litter out of the box is simply normal feline instinct that can be managed, not eliminated entirely. By providing an appropriately sized litter box, cleaning it frequently, and using litter mats, we can minimize the mess while allowing our cat to fulfill their natural need to dig and bury. If excessive kicking persists or there are any other changes, consult the vet to rule out medical issues. With some simple adjustments, we can coexist peacefully with our cat's litter habits.

June 29, 2024 — TeamMeowant

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