Do you often find your cat digging in the sink? If so, you’re probably wondering what they’re up to. Why do some cats dig in the sink? Should you be concerned about it? How can you get your cat to stop doing this? Here are the answers to all of these questions and more.
So, why does my cat dig in the sink? Cats typically dig in the sink because they want our attention: perhaps they’re bored or feeling hungry. Other cats dig in the sink because they like the shape, feel, and location. A stressed or excited cat can dig in the sink to express those emotions. If there’s something wrong with the litter box, your cat can decide the sink is a better place. Medical problems can also be a cause.
There’s no shortage of reasons.
This is why it is essential that we now explore these in further detail to help you try to identify why your cat may be doing it.
Then, we will move onto how you can and even should respond.
Reasons Why Cats May Dig In The Sink
Your cat may dig in the sink because they like to be there – the shape and size of a sink is perfect for a cat to feel comfortable. Other times your cat could be asking for your attention. Some cats dig in sinks to help their claws or to express stress or excitement. Sometimes it’s because they don’t like their litter box or they have a medical issue.
Your Cat Likes The Sink
Some cats enjoy the shape and feel of the sink.
A sink is often the perfect shape and size for them to snuggle up for a nap while feeling the protection of the hard sides of the sink.
Your kitty may feel secure when in the sink, so by digging there, they’re expressing their pleasure (or they want to mark it as theirs!)
In a warm environment, cats will also seek out the sink (or another porcelain or ceramic container) as a way to cool down while wicking saliva into their fur.
Cats also enjoy spaces that are high off the ground, and your sink provides a safe place to relax while being able to observe goings-on from a higher vantage point.
It could also be your cat likes the feel of the sink on their paw pads, so your cat might be in a playful mood.
If your cat jumps around, hides, or runs in addition to the pawing, they’re probably being playful.
Your Cat Wants Your Attention
A bored, hungry, or frustrated kitty may dig in the sink (or do a number of other things) to try and attract the attention of their favorite person.
Your cat could even be asking for you to turn on the tap – many cats love the sound (and taste) of running water.
For cats, their instinct tells them running water is fresh (and therefore safer to drink).
If you have previously picked up your cat when finding it in the sink to put it down again somewhere else, perhaps your cat has learned being in the sink is a good strategy to get your attention.
If it worked once, your cat will think it’s likely to work again and again!
Your Cat Is Maintaining Its Claws
Cats need to scratch hard surfaces regularly to maintain their claws.
Scratching sheds old parts of your cat’s nails and keeps its claws sharp and its muscles strong.
Your Cat Is Expressing Emotions
Your cat could be expressing emotions by scratching in the sink, such as stress or excitement.
One woman reports that when she comes home at night, her cat will run to greet her and then jump in the sink and scratch before chasing his tail round and round in excitement. He’ll then jump on her lap and demand cuddles!
Your Cat Doesn’t Like The Litter Box
Some cats will dig elsewhere because they don’t like their litter box, and they’re looking for a new place to urinate or defecate.
Just hope this chosen place isn’t your sink!
Your Cat Has an Obsessive or Compulsive Disorder
If your cat’s pawing at the sink is compulsive or obsessive, this could be a sign of a disorder.
Your cat might be dealing with stress, anxiety, or a chemical imbalance of some kind, leading to odd behaviors.
Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Digging In The Sink?
As long as your cat is in good health, there’s no need for concern if your cat digs in the sink. However, if your cat is bored, stressed, or digging because it doesn’t like the litter box, you will need to make some changes. If the digging is obsessive or compulsive, you’ll need to seek veterinary assistance for your cat.
If Your Cat Is Bored
If your cat is bored, the remedy is simple: spend more time with your friend. Devote at least 30 minutes per day of one-on-one playtime with your cat, whether they’re an outdoor or indoor cat.
Cats bond with their people, and you’ll find your bond with your cat gets stronger by spending quality time together.
Note: Rotate toys every few weeks so that your cat doesn’t get bored of the same toys. Use other forms of enrichment, too, like food puzzles (see below).
If Your Cat Is Stressed
Stressed cats need a different kind of care – most cats prefer quiet environments where their day is set out with a routine.
If you suspect your cat is stressed, here are some ways to help them:
- Be mindful of the scents in your home. Cats love the smell of home because it makes them feel secure. They scratch and mark to put their personal scent on things (and people), so if you use incense, fragrance oils, scented candles, and plug-ins to mask these odors, your cat can feel like they don’t live there.
- Give your cat a place to escape from the noise. Cats are very sensitive to noise, so if you have children playing musical instruments or adults watching sporting matches, give your kitty a quiet place to escape.
- Be considerate of how your cat likes to be touched. Cats vary widely with how much handling they like, so let your cat come to you for cuddles. Most cats don’t like long extended strokes: they prefer soft scratches on their shoulders, head, and neck. Watch your cat’s body language to see what she likes best.
- Remember that play and other forms of enrichment are stress-busters. Try food puzzles, window perches, interactive play, safe outdoor access (e.g., a catio), and vertical space from which to survey their domain.
- Implement a routine. All cats thrive on routine, and stressed cats need it even more – your cat will appreciate the same food at the same time, etc.
Note: If you suspect your cat is highly stressed (e.g., they might have separation anxiety), consult your vet for help. You’ll want to rule out any medical conditions, and your vet may recommend medication or behavioral treatment with a specialist.
If Your Cat Doesn’t Like The Litter Box
It could be your cat doesn’t like the litter box for any number of reasons:
- They don’t like the smell. Some people want to use scented cat litter, which is all about them and not about the cat! Cats have highly sensitive noses, and scented litter (and other strong smells) are overwhelming for them. Stick to plain, unscented cat litter.
- They don’t like the state of it. Cats are fastidiously clean, so they won’t go in a litter box that’s too dirty. Litter trays must be cleaned once daily as well as after any poo, and they need to be emptied and deep-cleaned every few days (using a pet-friendly disinfectant and cleaner).
- They don’t like the location. Perhaps you’ve moved your cat’s litter tray recently, or it’s too close to other cats or animals. Cats also don’t like using litter trays that are close to their food, water, or toys.
- They don’t like the size or shape. Some litter boxes are too high for older cats to climb into, or they’re too small for your cat to comfortably turn around and dig.
- They don’t like the type. Some cats prefer covered litter boxes, while others feel threatened by them, so check what your cat prefers.
- They don’t like the material. Cats have different preferences as to the type of surface they like to dig in, so if your cat likes digging in the sink, they may prefer a litter box that replicates a hard and smooth surface. You don’t need to get a porcelain litter box – but your cat might prefer steel over plastic, for example.
Note: If you’re not sure where to start, know that most cats prefer large, open litter trays with unscented litter that has a sandy texture.
Other Reasons To Be Concerned
Your cat could have health conditions that are a cause for concern.
Your Cat Could Have A Disorder
Your cat could have a problem such as chronic anxiety, separation anxiety, or an obsessive or compulsive disorder.
Often cats who demonstrate destructive behavior can have one of these problems (or they are just understimulated by neglectful cat parents!)
Your Cat Could Have Alzheimer’s or Dementia
If your cat is an older cat who suddenly gets into the sink as you’re washing your hands or just running the tap, your cat could have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Go to the vet for a check-up to be sure there isn’t a medical cause for this behavior.
Your Cat Might Be Too Hot
Your cat might be trying to get into the sink to cool off because of a fever.
If you suspect they’re too hot, check their temperature with a rectal thermometer. Their temperature should be between 100 to 102 degrees F (37.7 to 38.8 degrees C).
If your cat’s temperature is higher than normal, get them to the vet asap for diagnosis and treatment.
Your Cat Might Have Diabetes or Kidney Problems
If your cat seems to prefer the sink because it’s constantly wanting running water, this could indicate a medical issue such as diabetes or kidney problems.
Any time your cat is drinking more (or less) than usual is a sign you’ll need to take them to the vet for a check-up.
Many cats don’t drink enough water, and if they eat mainly dry food, their kidneys can suffer as a result.
How To Stop Your Cat From Digging In The Sink
If you suspect your cat may have a medical or behavioral issue, the first step is a vet visit (see above). However, if your cat is happy and in good health, you can try making access to the sink more difficult or getting your cat a sink of their own.
Put Something Over or Around Your Sink
You could try putting a deterrent around or over your sink. Something like:
- A sink cover. Most sink covers are quite heavy, and your cat won’t be able to lift it. Your cat should give up after trying a few times – in which case it may shift the digging behavior to another part of your house, though!
- Double-sided tape. Cats don’t like the feel of sticky tape on their paws, so by lining the rim of your sink with sticky tape, your cat will quickly learn it’s best to go somewhere else to play. After a while you can remove the tape. Having said that, some cats learn to jump into the middle of the sink to avoid the tape, so this is a hit-and-miss method!
Block Access To The Room
While this isn’t always possible, you might be able to block access to the room containing the sink by closing the door.
Get Your Cat Its Own Sink
If you aren’t happy with sharing your sink, you could get your cat one of its own.
The danger here, though, is that your cat may ignore it and prefer to use the one that smells like you!
Consider Upgrading The Litter Box
If you know, or suspect, your cat is not fond of their current litter box, its time to make an upgrade.
A cat that digs in the sink, and not their usual digging location (their litter box), can initially cause concern.
And that concern may very well indeed still be warranted.
But not always.
As we have seen here today, the underlying causes can range, as can how you should respond.
If you are still unsure why your cat is digging in the sink, though – it may be worth consulting with a vet.
As should be the case if you do suspect something is up.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.