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Why Is My Cat Kicking Litter Out of the Box? 7 Main Reasons (With Pictures)


Apr 13, 2023
Smelly and Messy Hard to Clean Cat Litter Box


Smelly and Messy Hard to Clean Cat Litter Box

Cat owners often think of litter boxes as a necessary evil. No one really enjoys scooping poop or having a cat toilet sitting in their house, but if you have an indoor kitty, your options are limited. However, some cats worsen the situation by constantly throwing litter out of the box when they go. If that dilemma sounds familiar, keep reading to learn seven reasons why your cat might be kicking litter out of the box, along with some solutions to decrease the behavior.


The 7 Reasons Your Cat is Kicking Litter Out the Box

1. Your Cat Is Marking Territory

In the wild, cats rely on several behaviors to communicate with each other. These territorial animals also want to ensure that other wild felines know which areas are off-limits to intruders. Cats commonly use scent marking and scratching to mark their territory.

When your cat kicks litter out of the box, it could be a deliberate attempt to spread its scent further and send a message. If the litter kicking started after a new cat entered the family, your original kitty might be trying to claim their territory before the newcomer intrudes.

Image Credit: xamnesiacx84, Shutterstock

2. Your Cat Is Checking Out the Litter

Digging and covering poop and pee is an instinctive behavior in cats. In the wild, this behavior helps hide evidence of the cat’s presence from predators and prey. If your cat digs and kicks litter excessively, they could just be checking out the litter to see if they like it.

Some cats are particular about the texture and feel of the litter they use and may spend extra time digging to ensure they’re okay with using it. Others are extra picky about choosing the right spot in the box to use, leading them to kick more litter out as they search for the perfect pee location.

3. Your Cat Learned It From Their Mama

Covering feces and urine is instinctive, but the exact way your cat goes about this business is learned. Kittens watch their mother use the litter box and copy her methods. If the mother cat is messy, the kittens are likelier to grow up as litter kickers. In addition, orphan kittens or those taken from their mother too soon may kick litter because they never had the chance to learn how to use the litter box correctly and neatly.

two kittens cats litter box
Image Credit: galsand, Shutterstock

4. Your Cat Is Playing

Some cats kick litter out of the box simply because they think it’s fun. Kittens are most likely to perform this behavior for entertainment, but older cats who are naturally playful may do so. If your cat finds your reaction to their litter kicking entertaining, you may be accidentally reinforcing them to continue doing it.

5. The Litter Box Is Too Small

Your cat may kick litter because the litter box is too small. The cat may struggle to find enough space to dig and cover their eliminations as thoroughly as they would like, leading them to throw litter out of the box by accident.

The sides of the box may be too short to contain the litter. If you also spot your cat reaching outside the litter box to “cover” the spot they just soiled, that’s another clue that the litter box size is the culprit.

cat leaving litter box
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

6. The Litter Box Is Dirty

Some cats are more tolerant of dirty litter boxes than others. However, using a dirty box may cause your cat to kick more litter out. As we mentioned, the instinct to cover poop and pee is to hide their scent.

If the litter box is too dirty, the cat may be unable to eliminate the scent to their liking, leading them to try even harder to bury it. This extra effort may lead them to toss more litter out of the box accidentally.

7. There’s Not Enough Litter in the Box

Although this may sound confusing, putting less litter in the box is not a good way to stop your cat from kicking it out. That’s because not having enough litter in the box is actually one reason your cat could be throwing it out in the first place.

If the cat thinks there’s not enough litter to cover their poop or pee, it may redouble its efforts. These extra enthusiastic attempts to dig in the shallow litter may toss more out of the box.

cat litter box on a wooden floor
Image Credit: Grzegorz Petrykowski, Shutterstock


Tips to Decrease Your Cat Kicking Litter Out of the Box

If you’re tired of sweeping up around your cat’s litter box multiple times a day, try these tips to decrease litter kicking.

  • Make sure you have enough litter boxes so your cats don’t feel the need to mark them as territory. In general, you should provide a litter box for each cat in the family, plus one extra. Place at least one litter box on each level of your house.
  • Get your cat a larger litter box with higher sides. You could also try switching to a covered litter box, but it may not tolerate the change if your cat has never used one. Keep plenty of litter in the box so your cat has enough cover to use.
  • Increase your litter box cleaning frequency. If you’re scooping once a day, up it to twice per day. You could also upgrade to a self-cleaning litter box to save time and effort.



Here’s the bottom line; kicking litter is normal cat behavior. The good news is that this behavior usually doesn’t indicate that there’s something wrong with your cat. The bad news is that only so many options are available to eliminate the extra mess. If you try all the tips we suggested and are still dealing with extra litter on the floor, it may just be something you’ll need to live with.

Featured Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

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