Why does my cat make such a mess with their litter tray? Here are seven potential reasons

Why does my cat make such a mess with their litter tray? Here are seven potential reasons


Many of us provide a litter tray for our cats to do their business, even for cats that can go outside freely – having a litter tray is of course essential for indoor-only cats, but even many outdoor cats use them too, and using a litter tray for your cat can help you to keep an eye on their health, by allowing you to spot any changes or problems in their toileting habits or stools.

However, some cats that use a litter tray seem to be determined to make as much mess as possible when they do so, with even a short trip to the tray resulting in a hearty scattering of cat litter left all over the floor.

If your cat is among them, you might be wondering if there is any way to reduce the mess that your cat creates by kicking litter outside of the box or generally churning it up so much that they leave a surrounding circle of it when they leave – and there are a range of potential reasons why your cat is so messy!

Learning to spot some of the scenarios and problems that can result in a lot of mess of litter around the box can help you to resolve them, so in this article, we will explain seven things that can cause your cat to make a mess around their litter trays. Read on to learn more.

You don’t clean the tray out enough

Cats are very clean animals, and they are very finnicky about everything being just so. Cats also like to bury their waste, which in the wild, helps to mask their scents from predators and keeps them safe, and this urge to bury is instinctive in most cats.

If your cat’s litter is wet or if you don’t clean it out often enough, your cat may well refuse to use the tray at all – and if they do use it, they are apt to do a lot of digging about in order to try to find clean litter to bury their waste, which is likely to produce a lot of mess.

The litter tray is too small for your cat

Nobody wants to have a huge litter tray taking up half of your available floor space, but if the litter tray is not large enough for your cat to use comfortably, with room to turn around in and move the litter as well as toileting, the chances are that most of the litter will end up outside of the box as your cat struggles to negotiate the tray without enough space.

The litter tray is too shallow

Even if your cat’s litter tray is plenty large enough, if the sides are low – such as is the case for trays designed for young kittens – they will still manage to kick litter outside of the box when they try to bury their waste. Look for a tray with higher sides, or a tray that is enclosed in a box to contain the litter.

The litter tray is shared by two or more cats

Even if your cat lives quite happily with others and they all get on very well, you should still provide one litter tray per cat, as this is one resource that cats don’t like to share.

If your cat picks up the scent of another cat when they need to do their business, they might reject the tray in favour of going elsewhere – or they might treat the litter tray much as they would a dirty litter tray, and spend a lot of time digging about in it, which is apt to make a mess.

You’re overfilling the tray

Having a nice deep bed of cat litter for your cat to use will help to make using the litter tray a satisfying experience for your cat, but if you fill the tray too full, litter will get spilled and kicked out of the box.

Try to use a fairly deep tray (with a lower front if this will make it easier for your cat) and only fill it around half full to minimise mess.

There’s not enough litter for your cat’s liking

On the opposite side of the coin, if you’re a little stingy with the litter in order to make it go further or so that you can throw out and replace the contents of the tray with minimal waste, your cat may find that there’s not enough litter for them to be able to bury their waste to their liking, leading to a lot of digging and kicking litter about.

Your cat doesn’t like the type of litter you use

Finally, there are a huge number of different types of cat litter on the market, made of various different materials and formed into different textures and shapes. Different cats have different preferences on what makes for a good litter tray material – so if you change your litter and your cat seems to be making more of a mess with it, it might be because they aren’t keen on the new product.

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