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5 Surprising Reasons Why Your Cat Is Kicking Litter Out of the Box & Vet Approved Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Nice and fluffy the cat lying on the wooden floor

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats can be tidy and clean animals. They can also cause considerable mess trying to achieve that level of tidiness. Litter boxes are a good example. When your cat has done its business, it is in its nature to cover up afterward. This isn’t for the sake of cleanliness or to ensure that your room is kept tidy but as a means to prevent predators from being able to locate them by the smell of their feces. They may also cover their poo so that they aren’t perceived as a threat by any alpha males.

While your cat may not have to worry about predators or upsetting alpha males in your home, it is an instinctive reaction to cover up their business. And while many cats do this without causing a mess, some end up kicking out more litter than their owners would like. Below are five reasons why your cat might kick litter out of the box and possible resolutions.

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The 5 Reasons Your Cat Is Kicking Litter Out of the Box

1. The Litter Box Is Not Big Enough

kitten on cat litter box
Image Credit: Sharaf Maksumov, Shutterstock

Litter boxes come in a variety of sizes. Not only can you get longer and wider litter boxes, but also those that are deeper with taller walls around the sides. If your cat can barely stand, or squat, inside the box, then they will find it very difficult to keep the mess within the confines of the tray. Buy a bigger litter box and see if this helps resolve the problem.

2. The Box Is Overfilled

You don’t need to fill a litter box right to the brim with cat litter. In fact, a lot of cats won’t use litter that is too deep. You should fill up to a maximum of two inches with litter. If you are putting more than this in the litter box, reduce the amount of litter you use. If you are putting up to 2 inches and your cat is still kicking litter out, try reducing the amount a little to see if it makes a difference.

3. The Box Is Underfilled

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

On the other hand, if there isn’t enough litter in the tray, your cat will have to work extra hard to try and sufficiently cover up their poop. Working harder means kicking more litter and kicking it more frantically, and this frantic kicking of litter is more likely to mean that pieces will find their way onto the floor outside the litter box. Add more litter. If you’re worried about using too much, you can scoop the poop and empty the tray every few days.

4. The Litter Needs Changing

Cats don’t generally like to poop where there is already poop. If your cat arrives at the tray and sees or smells a pile is already in there, they will try to poop as far away from it as possible, which usually means pooping at the edge of the tray.

Not only does this mean that you may find poop outside the tray, but you are also much more likely to find stray bits of litter that have been flicked from the walled confines of your cat’s toilet. Clean the tray out more often. Scoop poop as soon as you notice it and give the tray a good clean every couple of days.

5. Your Cat Is Messy

orange cat digging litter box
Image Credit: xamnesiacx84, Shutterstock

Cats are unique, quirky, characterful animals and while you may have read that they are fastidiously clean and meticulous animals, some have odd and downright peculiar habits. You might not want to admit it but it’s possible that your cat is just untidy. They may not see a problem with kicking litter out all over the floor, no matter how much it infuriates you.

The best solution for a messy cat is to try a different litter box or consider putting some kind of tray or mat underneath the litter tray to catch any debris that flies. Do remember, though, that you shouldn’t make too many changes to your cat litter, too often, or it could stress your cat out and only make matters worse. If your cat is stressed or anxious about their litter, they may stop using it altogether.

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Do Cats Prefer Open or Closed Litter Boxes?

Generally, it depends on the cat or cats in question. Some will use either a closed or open box while a small number prefer one or the other. The only way to know for sure with your cat is to provide both options and see which they willingly use more often. A closed litter box is confined which means that your cat is less likely to be able to fire bits of litter on the floor, but if your cat doesn’t like a closed box, they will find somewhere else to litter.

How Often Should a Cat’s Litter Box Be Changed?

If you get clumping litter, you can remove clumps as they appear, while scooping poop whenever you notice it. Removing litter as it appears will make the litter box a more inviting place for your cat and help ensure that they continue to use it without any problems.

Beyond this, you should completely clean the tray every two weeks, or whenever you notice that there is a messy build-up on the sides or base.

two cats attractant to litter box
Image Credit: Guajillo studio, Shutterstock

Where Should a Cat Litter Box be Placed?

There is no specific spot or location where a box should be placed, but you should try and find a location that is quiet, easily accessible, and offers a reasonable degree of privacy.

Also, consider whether your cat is comfortable in the room where you place the tray. If you have a room that your cat never goes in, it won’t make the best spot for a litter tray.

How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?

Experts usually recommend that you have one litter tray per cat, plus one extra. So, if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes. If you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes. Try to put them in different locations.

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Cats are usually quite easy to litter train and once they master it, they will rarely want to poop or litter outside the litter box. They will appreciate being able to cover up their poop, but this action itself can lead to bits of cat litter being fired onto the floor around the litter tray.

Ensure that the litter box is an appropriate size, that it has the right amount of litter, and that it is cleaned often enough that your cat doesn’t have to use the corner of the tray.

Featured Image Credit: Tanya Plotnikova, Shutterstock

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