Why do Cats Lay in Their Litter Box? 8 Common Reasons & How to Provide Alternatives

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Why do cats lay in their litter box?
kitten laying in litter
cat litter alternatives
cat laying in litter tray

Having a cat that keeps laying in her litter box is a surprisingly common occurrence. Let’s find out why cats lay in their litter box and what to do to stop this behaviour!

Cats often sleep in odd places and love warm, enclosed spaces. You may be surprised to find that your pet has suddenly taken to hiding or sleeping in the litter box. Cats are generally considered clean animals, but a litter box isn’t the most sanitary place to sleep.

Sleeping in a litter box is relatively common but could indicate your cat has some health issues. Medical problems such as urine infections, constipation, pregnancy, anxiety, and stress can cause a cat to retreat to the litter box. Always consult your vet if you’re at all worried about your pet.

Why do cats lay in their litter?

Some cats decide to sleep in a covered litter box as it makes them feel safe and secure. Your pet may be perfectly fine. I’ve researched the main reasons cats choose to sleep in a litter box.

1. Stress

Cats are sensitive creatures that can quickly become distressed and overwhelmed by changes in their life or environment. Stress can cause a cat to hide or sleep in a covered litter box. Many owners report that after moving house, their cat seeks shelter in enclosed spaces. 

Other sources of stress for a cat include frequent visitors to the home, new pets, a new roommate, or a new baby. If there are any loud noises inside the house, including noise from DIY projects or remodeling, your cat may feel afraid. Equally frequent loud noises from outdoors such as thunder, fireworks, or construction work may disturb your pet. Loud noises will scare your pet and cause her to run for cover. 

In some homes, the litter box may be the only safe place a cat can find. Your cat may prefer to sleep in the litter box rather than out in the open. 

How to help stressed cats 

Encourage your cat to stop sleeping in the litter box by providing other alternatives to make her feel more secure. Place your cat’s bed inside a cardboard box and put it near the litter box. You may also like to buy a cat cave or enclosed bed. 

cat cave
enclosed cat bed
cat basket

Top Tip: place a blanket or cushion that your cat has been sleeping on in the box or cat cave. This will mean your cat’s scent is already on the new bed, which will make it seem familiar. Your cat is more likely to try out her new bed and move out of the litter box if she feels secure.

2. A medical condition

One of the main reasons cats spend a lot of time in their litter box is due to health problems. A cat that begins sleeping in her litter box may have a urine infection, be constipated, or have kidney disease. Your pet may stay close to the litter box if she feels unwell or uncomfortable.

Cats can even suffer from dementia, and this may be the cause of litter box snoozing. It’s worth having your pet checked over by a vet if you suspect a medical issue has caused changes in your cat’s behaviour. A vet will check whether your pet is in any pain and help solve digestive problems or urinary tract infections.

3. Privacy

As litter boxes are covered, your cat may be seeking some privacy. This is likely if you live in a busy home; your cat may simply be looking for a quiet place to have a nap. You can change your cat’s behavior by providing safe and more hygienic places to sleep—cats like hiding in cardboard boxes, paper bags, and cat caves. Cat trees often have an enclosed area that will provide your pet with a private nap place. A taller tree with a perch will also mean your pet can get away from the noise, energetic children, or other pets.

4. Problems with bullying

If you live in a household with multiple cats, your pet may be sleeping in her litter box to stop the other cats from using it. Cats can be very possessive and territorial. Your pet might be feeling defensive and has decided that the litter box is her space. Perhaps your cat is being bullied by your other pets and is guarding her litter box and territory to ensure she’ll be able to use it when necessary. 

How to help your cat

It may not be clear whether your cat is being bullied or is the bully. Keeping an eye on all your cat’s behaviour may help you to work it out. In the meantime, it’s worth adding another litter box to your home. 

It’s recommended that you have a litter box for each cat. This will help your cat to relax and become less territorial. When your cat realizes there are enough litter boxes, she’ll likely become less possessive. 

If you’ve recently taken on another cat, this may be the cause of the problems. Your cat may be feeling stressed because of the new arrival. Take it slowly when introducing pets, and ensure they both have a separate litter tray. 

cat laying in litter

5. A change in the type of litter

If you’ve recently changed your cat’s litter, your pet may be confused. Your cat may not associate the new litter with going to the toilet. This is most likely the case if you’re using a type of litter that looks, feels, and smells different. Perhaps the litter feels like a comfortable place for a nap. 

Related Article: Cat Litter Alternatives

Change the litter slowly

When introducing a new litter to your cat, it’s best to change it a little at a time. Continue using your old litter brand and add about 25% of the new litter. You can then slowly increase the amount of new litter over a few days or a week. This will allow your cat to accept the change without becoming confused. 

6. Why do kittens sleep in their litter box?

Kittens have a lot to learn, and most will quickly learn to use a litter box by watching their mother. If you have a litter box with high sides, it may be hard for your kitten to climb over the edge. She may have gotten tired and decided to take a nap. Your kitten will likely grow out of sleeping in her litter box as she gets older.

7. Newly adopted cat laying in the litter box

If you’ve recently adopted a cat, she may still be getting used to her new home. Cats that have lived in a shelter for a long time may be used to living in a reasonably small enclosure. In animal rescue centres, cats often sleep near their litter box. Your new pet may feel safer sleeping in an enclosed space, or the move may have left her feeling stressed. 

Provide your cat with a cat cave, carrier, or a cardboard box with a blanket for sleeping. A covered space will make your pet feel safe and encourage her to stop napping in the litter box.

8. Pregnant cat sleeping in her litter box

If your cat is pregnant and has started sleeping in her litter box, it may be a sign that she’s getting ready to give birth. Female cats seek shelter, safety, and privacy when birthing.

Create a safe birthing space for your cat

Aim to create a safe place for your cat to give birth. Put a cardboard box on its side and use a familiar blanket or cat bed to make your pet feel comfortable. Your cat shouldn’t give birth in the litter box as her kittens will be exposed to bacteria which may cause them health problems.

Why Do Cats Lay in Their Litter Box?: Final thoughts

If your cat is regularly sleeping in her litter box, a trip to the vet is worthwhile. Once you’ve ruled out common medical conditions such as digestive complaints and urine infections, you can fix this behavioural issue.

In most cases, it’s pretty easy to encourage a cat to stop laying in cat litter. Providing an enclosed alternative will make your cat comfortable and also be more hygienic.

cat laying in litter tray

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