Are There Any Benefits To A Cat Digging?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the potential upsides to occasional cat digging and when it’s best to redirect the behavior versus simply allowing it.

Most cat owners will likely agree that their feline companions’ digging habits can seem perplexing at best and downright destructive at worst. Whether it’s scratching at the carpet, clawing their scratching posts with abandon, or tearing through potted plants in search of the perfect spot to excavate, cats and their digging claws can try even the most patient pet parent’s patience. However, before we judge our cats too harshly for their apparent enthusiasm for all things excavation-related, it’s worth considering whether there may actually be some benefits hidden beneath the fur and dirt. In this post, we’ll explore some of the possible reasons cats feel compelled to dig and how understanding their natural behaviors a little better could help curb those carpet-clawing impulses – and maybe even strengthen the bond between furry friend and dedicated owner.

Are There Any Benefits To A Cat Digging?

While it might seem a curious behavior, cats digging does offer several benefits:

Nail Health: Digging provides a way for cats to keep their nails healthy and sharp. It’s a natural behavior that helps shed the outer layers of the nail, revealing a sharper claw beneath.

Territorial Marking: Cats have scent glands in their paws. When they dig, they are marking their territory by leaving cat scent last behind. It’s a way of communicating with other cats.

Hunting Instinct: Digging can also be a part of a cat’s hunting routine. In the wild, cats dig to catch prey living underground or to hide leftovers for later.

Relieving Stress: Cats often dig when they are anxious or stressed. It can be a way for them to relieve stress and feel more secure.

Comfort and Privacy: Digging in a litter box, for example, allows a cat to cover its waste, providing a sense of cleanliness and privacy. It’s a natural behavior that cats use to keep their area clean and odor-free.

Devon Rex Kitten Digging Sand In Litter Box While Being Watched By Curios  Brother Stock Photo Stock Photo - Download Image Now - iStock

Why Does My Cat Dig?

Cats may dig for various reasons, and it often relates to their natural instincts:

  • Digging for Comfort: Cats may dig in soft surfaces, such as blankets or bedding, to create a comfortable and cozy spot.
  • Burial Instinct: Instinctively, cats may dig to bury their feces in the litter box, a behavior inherited from their wild ancestors to avoid attracting predators.
  • Playful Behavior: Some cats dig as part of play or exploration, especially in loose materials like sand or soil.
  • Hiding or Storing Food: Cats may dig at their food or around their food bowls as an instinctual behavior to hide or store leftover food.

Read more: Why Do Cats Put Toys In Their Food Bowl?

What Types Of Surfaces Do Cats Like To Dig On?

Cats can exhibit their digging behavior on a variety of surfaces:

Litter Boxes: Most commonly, cats dig in their litter boxes. They are instinctively clean animals and prefer to bury their waste to maintain cleanliness.

Soil or Sand: Cats often display this behavior outdoors in soil or sand. These natural substrates are easy for their claws to penetrate and manipulate.

Carpets and Rugs: Carpets and rugs can also be a target for a cat’s digging behavior. The textures might mimic that of dirt or sand, stimulating the cat’s instincts.

Soft Furnishings: Cats may sometimes be found digging on soft furnishings such as couches, cushions, or beds. These soft surfaces are easy for them to dig into and might offer a similar sensation as that of softer outdoor substrates.

Cat Towers and Scratch Posts: Specially designed cat towers and cat scratching posts are often made with materials that encourage digging, such as sisal rope, to help maintain their claw health.

Can Digging Be A Sign Of A Health Issue In Cats?

While digging is a natural behavior for cats, excessive or obsessive digging could potentially indicate a health issue. If your cat is spending an unusual amount of time digging in the litter box but not using it, this could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or gastrointestinal problem. Excessive digging could also be indicative of behavioral issues, possibly caused by stress or anxiety. It’s always important to observe your cat’s behavior and consult with a veterinarian if you notice any significant changes.

How Can I Stop My Cat From Digging In Unwanted Places?

To discourage digging in unwanted places:

  • Provide Adequate Litter: Ensure the litter box is large enough, clean, and filled with an appropriate amount of litter.
  • Try Different Litter Types: Some cats have preferences for certain litter textures. Experiment with different types to see if your cat has a preference.
  • Offer a Comfortable Bed: Provide your cat with comfortable bedding or a designated spot to rest.
  • Distraction: Redirect your cat’s digging behavior by offering toys or engaging in interactive play.


In conclusion, while cats are often known for being mischievous and mysterious creatures, their digging behavior may actually serve a purpose. Through our exploration of various research and expert opinions, it has become clear that cats dig for a variety of reasons including instinctual behaviors, communication with other animals, and hunting practices. Though it may cause some frustration for pet owners, this behavior is a natural part of a cat’s instincts and should not be discouraged. In fact, there may even be benefits to a cat’s digging such as improved mental stimulation and physical exercise. Therefore, rather than trying to completely eliminate this behavior, it is important for cat owners to provide appropriate outlets and opportunities for their feline friends to dig. By understanding and embracing a cat’s digging behavior, we can strengthen the bond between humans and their furry companions while also allowing them to fulfill their natural instincts.