Do You Know Why Cats Dig Into Your Plants?

Be it outdoors or indoors, it’s quite common to see cats digging into the ground our plants are growing in. What are they digging for, though? If you’re guessing gold, then I’ve got bad news for you—they likely aren’t. Here are the real reasons why cats dig into your plants!

Cats may dig into the soil of both indoor and outdoor plants to 1) prep for pooping, 2) hide from predators, 3) stay undetected by prey, 4) mark territory, 5) sharpen claws, 6) natural exploration, and 7) discomfort.

Simply put, it shouldn’t be much of a shock to see a cat dig into your plants. It’s part of their normal behavior, driven primarily by instinct to keep them safe. However, it could also be a sign of something more serious.

Prep for Pooping

As you probably know by now as a cat owner, litter sand is essential in making sure your furry friend poops and pees regularly in its litter box.

Now, when we think back to basics, to a time before cats were domesticated, you’ll realize that litter sand wasn’t really a thing back then.

Rather, cats would just use the natural material around them, which—you’ve probably already guessed—is soil.

The fact that you have plants growing in the soil in your garden or containers, doesn’t make much of a difference. Soil is basically au naturel litter material for cats!

So yes, your cat might start digging into your plants’ soil before they finally poo or pee into it.

Hide From Predators

Quite frankly, cat poop can smell bad and pretty strong. In the wilderness, that could be a dead giveaway for their location.

Larger predators could easily sniff them out and terrorize them!

Hence, it makes a lot of sense why cats to this very day still have the habit of digging deep and burying their droppings. It is thoroughly ingrained into them.

These days, house cats have little to no potential predators that can attack them, especially since most cat owners are responsible and prioritize their health and safety at all times.

But that doesn’t mean that your cat won’t dig into your plants!

Stay Undetected by Prey

On that note, wild cats also need to be careful about giving away their location to prey.

You see if they don’t dig into the soil to bury their stinky poop, then any small mammal or bird that will come across it will instantly know that it is in their best interest to leave.

In other words, cats need to stay hidden not only from potential predators but also prey. Otherwise, they can starve to death.

Again, you don’t really need to worry about this nowadays since there are a bunch of different ready-to-serve nutritious food options for pet cats.

But such a strong instinct to dig and stay unnoticed won’t go away so easily for these natural hunters!

Mark Territory

Digging into plants is also an act of marking one’s territory for cats.

Like other larger pets such as dogs, they may also pee and poop there to drive their point home—this area is theirs!

So when your cat digs into your new plants—potted or not—it isn’t actually that unusual. They just want you to know that they own them now too.

But just keep in mind that pet poop and pee aren’t exactly good for your plants.

Sharpen Claws

As cats move around and mind their business, it’s perfectly normal for their claws to get dull from repeated use.

For our furry hunters, dull claws are useless. It may even be dangerous as they also use their claws to defend themselves.

So if you happen to spot your cat digging into your plants’ soil from time to time, there isn’t a need for concern—especially if they don’t even try to poop or pee there.

In such cases, just leave them be. Or you could check if they need a brand new scratching pad or post so they can keep their claws sharp without putting your plants in danger.

Natural Exploration

Most, if not all, people can agree that cats are highly curious animals. New sounds, sights, and scents can easily attract their attention.

Why Cats Dig Into Your Plants
Why Cats Dig Into Your Plants

Sure, this could be related to concerns about nearby predators and prey, but it can also simply be traced back to their innate curiosity.

A cat will almost always inspect new things, plants included, they see in a familiar space—I say this with confidence because this is what I have experienced myself.

They may start off smelling or chewing on the leaves. After some time, the cat will generally start digging into the soil around the base of the plant. Then, they’d either stay there or leave.

Because of this, it’s important to keep toxic plants away from your cat’s reach.


Lastly, excessive digging and defecating into plants could be a sign that your cats are experiencing serious discomfort. More often than not, this may be caused by health issues.

Simply put, sudden drastic changes in behavior are typically a reliable sign that your cat is very bothered by something.

This is especially true if your cat who has never done so before starts doing it again and again, despite being already properly potty trained.

Closely observe your cat and take as many notes as you can. These details can help your veterinary understand what may be troubling your fur baby more easily and more quickly.

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