Why Does My Cat Scratch the Wall and Floor?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains why cats scratch after eating and using the litterbox.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: November 6, 2009, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: I have two cats; one is 10 and the youngest is 5. The youngest cat Ibby Ditty has always scratched the floor or the wall after she eats or after she uses the litterbox. Why does she do this? She does cover after using the litter and then proceeds to scratch the wall next to it. She has always done this.

A: The wall and floor scratching behaviors you are describing are common cat behaviors. The reasons for the behaviors are different for both of the situations that you have asked about.

Cats who scratch the floor or wall after using the litterbox are usually making a comment about the litterbox itself and or the litter that is being used. Often the cat box is too small for the cat or there isn’t enough litter or there’s too much litter in the cat box. Sometimes cats will engage in this behavior if the litterbox isn’t clean enough.

Ideally, the cat litter should be about 3 inches deep. This is deep enough for the cat to adequately bury her excrement. Litterboxes also need to be scooped on a daily basis and completely dumped, cleaned and refilled with fresh litter every few weeks. Litterboxes are also a factor to consider. I find that most commercial litter boxes are too small for most cats. I recommend uncovered 66-quart Sterilite storage containers. These are large, translucent storage containers that the cat can easily turn around in and when filled with about 3 inches of litter, dig in, to her heart's content.

Ms. Ditty’s motivation for scratching the floor and wall around her food after she eats differs from why she’s scratching the wall after using her litterbox. If there was a paper towel or other easy-to-move object near the food dish, she would probably cover her food with it, moving it by scratching and pulling at it with her claws. Often this behavior can be observed in our little domestic cats as well as wild cats, after eating. There may be a few crumbs left, or a substantial amount that hasn’t been eaten. Covering the food theoretically keeps other predators from finding it and ups the odds that there will be food available for later. Additionally, covering the uneaten food can help keep the cat safe, since the smell of food attracts predators and other hungry animals.


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Reader Comments

Jan    Wenatchee, WA

1/7/2017 10:23:07 AM

I was going to take your advice about the Sterlite container, but the 66-quart is very tall! Did you mean that size? Or was it a typo?

Joshua    Ogden, UT

2/27/2015 8:55:13 AM

OMG! I've been looking for this answer for a year now! Thank you...This describes my baby Midnight perfectly! I never knew why! And I raised her from a week after her birth, bottle and everything and always wondered where she learned this behavior from. And raising her from that age without other humans around, She trusts and wont hide around me alone. She will also attack any other human if they get to close. Never knew why on that one either. So thank you for writing this! Oh and she will never shut up, She LOVES to talk lol...

Lesley    Davisburg, MI

9/23/2012 5:08:29 AM

Thanks for the informative article...we always wondered why Roo scratches all around his food after he was done eating. Hmm, who knew? He was saving it for later and trying to cover it up. Instincts are fascinating!

CatChannelEditor    Irvine, CA

8/29/2012 4:27:35 PM

Debbie -- Sounds like kitten behavior. Make sure the litterbox is clean and stocked with fresh litter, and your young cat is likely to outgrow this (as well as jumping off the wall).

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