Why Is My Cat Digging?

As pet parents, we often anthropomorphize our beloved feline furballs, ascribing them human–like qualities.

Some cats tend to resemble their owners a lot. Others follow them from room to room, interested in whatever their pet parents do. And then there’s that type of cat that likes acting like a dog—being unconditionally loyal, greeting their owners whenever they come home, performing tricks, or lounging in their laps like typical lap dogs.

Today, we’ll discuss one particular dog-like behavior—digging. Wait, can cats dig like dogs do? Yes, they can, and some cats do this quite often.

Don’t confuse the dog-like digging with what your kitty does inside its litter box when it wants to cover up its feces.

Litter box digging is ordinarily okay; it is a biological instinct to cover up their business.

We’re talking about the phenomenal process of digging up a hole in potted plants, the garden, or even your throw pillows without filling that hole with waste.

If you’ve never spotted your feline pal doing it, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t. On the other hand, if you happen to notice the kitty digging frequently – don’t worry. This dog-like behavior isn’t as rare as you think. And it doesn’t mean your cat thinks he or she is a dog!

Where Do Cats Commonly Dig?

There are a few bare spots where you might find your indoor or outdoor pet cat digging or trying to dig a hole.

  • In potted plants
  • In gardens
  • On hard floors and tiles
  • In the sand on the beach/ dirt on a lawn
  • On blankets, pillows, clothing, upholstery
  • On your bare skin

Don’t worry if any (or if all) of the above sound confusing to you. Cats are indeed whimsical and often misunderstood by their pet parents, but that doesn’t mean their actions are insane.

Why Do Cats Dig?

Biological Needs

Plant soil resembles cat litter for most cats regardless of age or breed. As such, even if their litter box is clean or you’ve changed to a different type of litter, the kitty might still want to do business in the garden or in your potted plants.

Thus, it will dig a hole, do its business, and then mask its scent. Sometimes, the cat may not dig before relieving itself but only after so that it can cover up the odor.

Hiding Food

Hiding leftover prey is an inborn instinct in stray feral cats. However, some domestic ones may need to hide their food, even if kept indoors.

But if the cat is digging inside its food bowl, its behavior is not triggered by the desire to hide a snack for later. When your pet is digging inside the bowl or on the floor around it, it either wants to find something a bit tastier than what it’s getting, or it’s just scent-marking the area around the bowl with the scent glands on its paws.

Scent-Marking The Territory

Felines are notoriously territorial creatures. They can quickly get jealous and will become fierce when trying to protect what’s theirs. As stated above, cats can dig around food or water bowls to mark the area. They can also dig on the floor to rub off their scent without any visible reason. Yes, sometimes cats do that just because they can.

Hunting And Exercising

Some cats dig holes in the outdoors for hunting and playing purposes. If they’ve caught the scent of a bug or something else, if it’s sparked their interest, they’ll keep digging. Felines are among the best hunters on our planet, so if your pet is trying to hunt something, don’t worry about its strange digging habits.

What’s more, cats need to exercise daily, and that includes exercising their toes and claws. The designated scratching post you’ve bought isn’t always enough for them.

They need toys and environment enrichment activities. There are plenty of toys you can buy or make your own, like our DIY catnip toy below.


When your furball digs on your bare skin, it’s actually kneading. The same goes for when it digs on blankets, clothing, and other types of soft fabrics. Cats of all breeds and ages knead to plead for attention and express affection. Of course, during the kneading process, they are also scent-marking.


When cats get stressed out, their behavior usually becomes problematic. Whether they’re running around frantically, obsessively licking themselves, digging without explanation, or doing some other puzzling thing, these types of strange behavior should never be neglected.

If you’re unsure about your cat’s digging habits, don’t hesitate to call your vet. Chances are your kitty is just acting out of inborn instincts. But if its actions are caused by chronic anxiety, things could get worse. If you want to stop the digging habits in the soil, consult with a vet. He or she will tell you what types of detergents and substances you can use to make the soil repelling but not poisonous to your pet.

Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

2 thoughts on “Why Is My Cat Digging?”

    • Hi Noah –
      Can you share a pic. I have suspicions my cat is doing this too. I don’t know how to make it stop. I am worried she will dig a pile so high she will jump over our house !!!(it is a one story home). Very glad someone has mentioned this behaviour too.

      Many thx,

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