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I found some questions about this but it's usually about the mess cats make when they are digging inside.

My cat will be outside of the litter, not when she's doing her business and she will start digging the litter out of the box, with her front paws. She will get as much litter as she can get. Sometimes, she drags out things other than her poo (very rarely)

She's an only cat and I think she's happy and very stable other than this one behaviour

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    Have you found why your cat does this yet? I'm having the exact same predicament with my new kitten. When she's not doing her business, she will get near the box and with her front paws take out the litter. Very frustrating. Sep 12, 2018 at 23:13
  • My cat does the same. Sometimes, just to annoy me at night lol. But I got that little brat. I bought a big litter box. Fit for his size. I don't care anymore. He can dig all he wants. I think you're going to need a bigger boat or litter box. Get your cat a bigger litter box
    – Hani Gotc
    Oct 21, 2021 at 11:53
  • My kitten (5 months going into 6 months) just started doing this a few days ago and its been a hassle to try to get him to stop. Im constantly scolding him cause his litterbox is by carpet and he is scooping it out onto the carpet which makes it harder to clean up. I was wondering if there was a specific reason for the behavior like there was for when he was biting my ears in the morning when he was smaller. He does this first thing in the morning and he hasn't stopped doing it. I can scold him but he acts like he has zoomies so within the next 5 minutes he'll run up to the window to watch bir
    – Luna
    Apr 13 at 12:32

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From your description, I suspect you're using one of those litter trays with sides that are only a couple of inches high. (Otherwise it would be difficult for her drag litter out while being outside the box.) I would use those only for kittens, or for a cat that is injured or ill. If that's what you're using, I recommend you get a litter box where the sides are more like 6-9" tall. It doesn't have to be one of those fancy covered litter boxes -- in fact I prefer not to have it covered so that I'll see immediately if it needs scooping. But it should have enough room so that your cat can use one end for peeing and the other end for pooping, while the middle part that she stands on stays clean. I often use rectangular tubs from the hardware store.

Make sure the litter box is in a low-traffic place. Your cat may decide to use both ends of the box for peeing and pooping, but many of my cats have preferred to "specialise". The high sides of the box will make it difficult for her to stand outside the box and scoop litter, and it will also add to her feeling of privacy. She may stand outside the box and scrape at the sides. This is common in cats. I think it's sort of an "I need to cover my waste" instinct on overdrive, but it doesn't do any harm.

In general, litter box behaviour problems generally occur because the box isn't big enough, private enough, clean enough, or the cat finds the litter uncomfortable to stand on.


EDIT: OK, I see from your picture that my first theory was wrong, and that your cat is very determined. I have a couple more suggestions:

  • Remove the cover temporarily, and see if she still does it. I don't expect this to help, but it's easy to do and worth a try.
  • Try a bigger box (the width is fine, but try something much longer). I hate to suggest this because that looks like a very brand-new nice box that most cats would be quite happy with, but if you get desperate enough, this is worth a try. I don't think you'll be able to find a covered litter box as big as I'm suggesting, but you can find a suitable plastic tub at the hardware store. I suspect that she is peeing or pooping right inside the door, and doesn't feel like she has enough room to stretch her paws forward to scoop the litter behind her.

Perhaps someone else will have a another suggestion that you can try first.

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  • Thanks! Unfortunately it's a fully covered litter. And it's in a 'work' room in the apartment where i never go into. Here's her in action (just took these pics) imgur.com/y80YFPg,8wTlVuF,b91MWrS Aug 2, 2014 at 18:15
  • @stopdiggingkitty a larger litterbox will probably help,many cats like to look out of the opening when they do their stuff,so your cat have to be able to turn around in the box. Sep 13, 2018 at 4:51
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I have two kittens who are 3 and 4 months old respectively. The younger one, Salem, LIVES to see me sweep the litter up. I caught him in the act of trying to scoop the litter out of the box and onto the floor, and I am CERTAIN it's so that he could see me use the dustpan. They both come running and watch me clean the litter box and swat at the broom as I sweep up the litter. Does your cat pay attention to you cleaning the litter up? If so, he might be doing it just to see you clean it. When I realized what he was doing I kept an eye on Salem so that whenever he positioned himself to scoop the litter out the box, I'd scold him, or distract him with a toy, and he'd stop. He doesn't do it anymore, though they both make a mess of the litter enough as is, so they still get to see me sweep the litter up.

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Not sure if this applies in your case, but maybe this helps.

One of our cats has a habit of peeing very close to the walls of the litter box, sometimes close enough that she can't sit down properly.

If she manages to get urine on the walls while doing this, she'll typically get out of the box and frantically dig from the outside, trying to cover the urine stains with litter. Of course this usually ends in a huge mess outside the box until she's satisfied that enough litter has stuck to the urine stain.

I've observed this a few times, and it is clear that she's trying to cover up the smell, as she'll repeatedly smell the stained area while doing so.

So making a mess outside might not be the intention, but an unfortunate consequence.

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