Why is My Cat Laying in the Litter Box?

Updated: 1/26/20242-4 minutes
Cat in litter box

Have you ever witnessed your cat sleeping in the litter box? This unusual behavior often leaves cat owners perplexed and occasionally concerned.

Since cats like to stay well-groomed, the litter box is generally not a place where they linger for too long, so it’s worth investigating if you observe this behavior.

As it turns out, there is a wide range of reasons why a cat may lay or sleep in their litter box. Some of these reasons are nothing to be concerned about, while others should prompt you to  call your veterinarian for their expertise.

Why Do Kittens Sleep in Their Litter Box?

If you’re the proud new owner of a playful, rambunctious kitten, you’ll no doubt witness some unusual kitten behaviors compared to what you see in older cats. These may include laying down and having a snooze in their litter box.

Although it’s good to keep an eye on any unusual behaviors from your kitten, it’s also important to know they’re still trying to figure out and experiment with the world around them. While napping in the litter box might be unappealing to an adult cat, a kitten may be looking for a place to crash after a play session and the litter box might seem as good as anywhere.

Common Reasons Why Cats Sleep in Their Litter Box

There are numerous reasons cats lay or sleep in their litter box.

  • Fear or Anxiety: Introducing new animals to the house, moving to a new home, loud noises, pain or illness can all give cats anxiety. Often, an anxious or stressed-out cat will take refuge in a familiar and safe place and a litter box–especially one that’s covered–can be a comforting place to be.
  • Urinary Problems: If your cat is experiencing urinary problems, they might feel the need to spend extra time in the litter box. Conditions like kidney problems and diabetes may make your cat feel like they need to go constantly, causing them to stay in the litter box for prolonged periods of time. Conversely, urinary tract issues like FLUTD or other conditions that cause difficulty urinating may also cause a cat to stay in the litter box until they feel they have satisfactorily eliminated. If you believe your cat may be suffering from urinary problems, it’s essential to reach out to your veterinarian for advice in a timely manner.
  • Constipation or Diarrhea: Similar to urinary tract issues, cats struggling with the symptoms of diarrhea or constipation may spend an unusual amount of time in the litter box.
  • Being Territorial: Some cats are more territorial than others and may protect their resources, including litter boxes. If you own multiple cats, the general rule of thumb is one litter box per cat, plus one, which may help alleviate this issue.
  • Pregnancy: Just like it is with humans, pregnancy causes many changes in a cat's body. Pregnant cats may need to urinate more often, causing them to stay in the litter box more. Pregnant cats' bodies are under a lot of stress and it can be quite taxing on energy levels. A result of this could be difficulty getting into and out of the litter box. In this case, your cat may need to rest before exiting. Finally, if your cat is nearing the end of her pregnancy, they may be searching for a quiet and safe place to give birth and she may find the litter box an appealing option.
  • Illness: Cats who lay and sleep in their litter box may be suffering from an illness and be either seeking a quiet, safe place or lacking the energy to climb out of it. Call your veterinarian immediately if you believe your cat is sick or suffering from an injury.
  • Mobility Issues: Older cats are especially prone to being slowed down by mobility issues, such as osteoarthritis. Creaky joints and other mobility problems can make it hard for cats to climb out of their litter boxes. If you think this may be the case, talk to your doctor about which cat supplements are good for joint health and mobility. You may also want to explore litter boxes that are easier to get in and out of.
  • Cognitive Decline: In some cases, especially with senior cats, laying or sleeping in the litter box can be a sign of cognitive decline. Along with disruptions in their sleep/wake cycles, increased anxiety or irritability, confusion and changes in social behavior, sleeping in the litter box can be a red flag, meaning it’s time to talk with your veterinarian.

Cats engage in all kinds of interesting and quirky behaviors, so if your cat spends a little extra time in the litter box one day, it might be nothing. Make a note of it and if it becomes a regular occurrence, reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

Find out more helpful information about cats and see what our pet experts have to say on our Pet Expertise page. 

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