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Why Does My Cat Play in the Litter Box? 8 Likely Reasons

Adam Mann

By Adam Mann

cat on a disposable litter box

If your cat is playing in the litter box, it can be a frustrating situation and seem a little odd, but the truth is that it’s a relatively common behavior. We’ve highlighted eight reasons your cat could be spending a little extra time in the litter box, what you should do about it, and when you should start to worry.

Once you know why your cat could be acting this way, you can figure out the exact reason and move forward from there!

The 8 Reasons Your Cat Plays in Litter Box

1. Burying Urine or Feces

If you hear your cat digging and scratching in the litter box all the time, by far the most likely reason your cat is doing this is because they’re burying urine or feces. This is completely normal behavior and you’re not going to stop your cat from doing it.

However, to keep your cat from kicking litter all over the place, you might need to invest in a litter box with high sides to keep everything contained.

gray british shorthair kitten in cat litter box
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

2. Marking Territory

Cats tend to be a little territorial from time to time, and one area where they like to mark their territory is their litter box. Cats can mark their territory by spraying, spreading their scent, and simply spending a little extra time in their litter box.

If this is what your cat is doing, it’s not something you really need to worry about unless they’re trying to keep another cat out of the litter box.

3. Not Enough Litter

Sometimes your cat is kicking around in the litter box looking for a spot with enough litter for them to use the bathroom. Your cat doesn’t realize there isn’t more litter underneath, and they’re digging around looking for somewhere to go.

If your cat can easily reach the bottom of the litter box while digging, this is a problem, so consider adding a little more litter to their box and they might stop “playing” in it so much.

Cat Urinalysis Cat Litter
Image Credit: Yaya Photos, Shutterstock

4. Anxiety

Anxiety can manifest itself in all sorts of ways, and one way is for them to spend more time in the litter box than they need to. If you think your cat is feeling anxious about the litter box, try moving it to a quieter location to help calm them down.

5. Boredom

Your cat needs entertainment, and if you’re not entertaining them, they’re going to figure out ways to entertain themselves! While you likely don’t want your cat playing there, they’re not likely to stop until you provide them with enough entertainment outside of the litter box.

two cats and several litter boxes
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

6. Medical Problems

If your cat playing in the litter box is a new phenomenon, we recommend taking them to a vet to rule out any potential medical causes. If your cat is suffering from urinary problems or something similar, you might not notice many other signs. When in doubt, play it safe and take them to the vet!

7. Litter Box Is Too Small

Cats need some space to move around in their litter box, and if you have a small one with a big cat, it could be a problem. You can’t go too big with the litter box, but you can go too small. If you suspect the litter box you’re using is too small, simply upgrade the size and it might fix the problem.

clean cat litter box
Image Credit: Guajillo studio, Shutterstock

8. Dirty Litter Box

Cats want a clean spot to use the bathroom, and if they can’t find one in the litter box, they’re going to kick things around quite a bit trying to find one. Not only will they not like it, but dirty litter boxes can lead to health problems for your cat too. The good news is that all you need to do is clean it!


The litter box is an area for your cat to relieve themselves, but while this is the primary purpose, sometimes your cat will spend a little extra time in there. But now that you know about the common reasons why your cat might be doing this, you can figure out if it’s something to worry about or if it’s just normal cat behavior.

Featured Image Credit: Mr.Piya Meena, Shutterstock

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