Cats usually dig to hide their mess from potential prey and predators. Photo by andrea zastrow
What are they up to?Have you ever watched your cats digging in their litter box or on the ground and wondered what they're up to? (Sometimes it doesn't even matter whether the ground is outdoors or inside a flower pot, they just seem to go for it!). Why do cats dig? What's going on in the minds of our furry little friends? Basically, there are several reasons why they feel the need to re-arrange your favourite flower pot or a fresh pile of litter...
Reasons for diggingThe first and most important reason is to cover their mess (urine or feces) and hide it from potential prey and predators who might be a potential snack for your feline companion, or out to make your cat a meal of their own. Tracking your cat's smell through feces or urine is a big 'no no' in both cases; scaring off the snack, or inviting unwanted attention. This is a strong primitive instinct that has never been lost even though your cat is (sometimes ) domesticated. Even if a cat finds itself on a bare rock or hardwood floor, it will still try to dig despite the fact that there's nothing to cover its mess with - a sure sign of just how deep the instinct goes!
Hunting, scent, and clawsAnother reason why cats dig is to hunt. They love to dig up a rabbit hole, snake hole, and so forth to get at a tasty treat, and can regularly be seen out quarrying for their prey.
As well as hunting and hiding their scent, a cat's need to sharpen its claws is also an important reason why it will be seen digging. Digging rough surfaces helps the old nails shed in a natural way - hence your little bundle of joy's tendency to attack inanimate objects and scurry away looking slightly indignant when you ask it to stop.
Sometimes cats try to dig (knead) their bedding before settling down. This type of action is designed to make their sleeping area most comfortable and ensure their necessary quota of relaxation.
Whenever you spot your cat digging, remember it's being led by age old genetic instincts inherited from its wild ancestors. If there's a bit of a mess left over, and a slightly guilty face, bear in mind that it really couldn't help it, it's still very much wild at heart.