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Why is My Cat Laying And Sleeping in Their Litter Box?

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 5 minutes

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Cats are hygienic animals, so the litter box might seem like a strange place to lie or sleep. That it’s a pretty common behaviour.

There are several reasons why you might find your cat laying or sleeping in their litter box. Some are medical, others are behavioural.

So in this article, we’ll cover;

  • Medical reasons for cats lying in the litter tray
  • Behavioural reasons for cats sleeping in their litter box
  • What to do if your cat lays in their litter box

Medical Reasons For Cats Laying In Their Litter Tray

There are a few medical reasons why you might find your cat laying in its litter tray. These include:

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)

One of the most common reasons why cats lay in their litter box is due to urinary issues, including;

  • Inflamed bladder or urinary tract
  • Crystals in their urine
  • Blockages of the urethra

Cats with urinary problems make excessive trips to their litter box and spend more time in it. Some might choose to lie in their litter box instead of running back and forwards.

Telltale signs that your cat might have a urinary tract infection (UTI) include:

  • Frequent visits to the litter box
  • Not being able pass urine, despite frequent vists
  • Straining to urinate
  • Spots of blood in their urine
  • Excessive licking of their genitals
  • Meowing in their litter box

Urinary issues in cats can be painful. They can be serious too, sometimes fatal. So if you notice any of these signs, call your vet as soon as possible.


Constipation will make your cat feel like they need to poop but they will struggle to pass any.

This constant feeling of needing to poop makes some cats hang out near their litter tray. Some will choose not to leave it.

Constipation is common in cats and but it’s a symptom of other issues, some of which can be serious;

  • Poor diet
  • Ingestion of foreign bodies
  • Pelvic injury
  • Tumours
  • Signs of constipation include;
  • Dry, hard stools
  • Straining to pass stool
  • Crying in the litter box

If you think your cat might be suffering from constipation, call your vet.

Giving Birth

If your pregnant cat starts to lay in her litter box, it could be a sign that she is ready to give birth.

Female cats will look for a safe and comfortable place to have her babies. With a lack of options, they will often choose their litter tray.

If your pregnant cat curls up in her litter tray, get her a box or basket with soft, clean bedding to give birth in.

Keep her litter tray close by so she doesn’t have to go far to the toilet.

Behavioural Reasons For Cas Sleeping In Their Litter Box

There are also behavioural reasons for cats sleeping in their litter trays. Some behaviours are normal and nothing to worry about, others, you’ll need to address;

Kittens Being Kittens

Kittens are inquisitive and playful and they can get up to all kinds of mischief in their litter box. It’s all part of litter box training.

Some kittens try to eat their litter, they dig and sometimes, they lie in their litter and fall asleep.

This is very normal kitten behaviour and as long as you have kitten-friendly litter, it’s not something you should worry about.

Guarding Territory

A litter box is like food – it’s a resource. It’s common for cats who used to share a litter box to decide that sharing is no longer acceptable.

A dominant cat might decide the litter box is now theirs and lie in it as a way of guarding it. In which case, you’ll need more litter boxes.

How many litter boxes should you have? Each cat should have their own, in a place where they feel comfortable going to the toilet.

When figuring out where to put a new litter box, think about which areas of the house your cats occupy. If one cat spends most of their time in a spare room, put their litter box in there.

Litter box location is important so spend the time to find the right area. Moving a litter box can be a big deal to your cat, causing stress and confusion. If you keep moving it, you might find they start to use the rug instead.

Stressed Cat Seeking Out Safety

This is most common for cats that have enclosed litter boxes.

Cats often look for shelter when they feel stressed or anxious. Some cats hide under the bed or under the sofa. Some choose to hide in their litter box.

Stress can be a real issue for cats and any number of things can cause it, including;

  • Adopting a new cat
  • The addition of a new pet
  • The birth of a baby
  • Moving home
  • The sound of fireworks

These can all cause your cat to feel stressed or anxious. So provide them with an alternative area to hide out. This could be an enclosed bed or access under a bed, for example.

Confused By a Change Of Litter

It’s common for cats to be confused if you change the type of cat litter in their box. Especially if you’ve made the change from hard cat litter like clay to soft litter like recycled paper. This often happens if you run out of your normal litter and use an emergency alternative.

The litter box will smell familiar. But the smell and texture of the new litter can make a cat think it’s a good place to sleep, instead of the toilet.

If you want to change your cats’ litter, use the best litter for their needs and do it gradually. Start by mixing a quarter of the new litter into their old litter. Then add more bit by bit as you scoop and clean their litter box.

What to Do About Cats Laying in Their Litter Box

The good news is that a cat sleeping, sitting or laying in their litter box is often a temporary behaviour.

If you’re concerned about your cat’s health, have your vet check them over. Fixing any medical issues will most likely stop this behaviour.

With a clean bill of health, figure out why they’re spending so much time in their litter box. Then do what you can to correct it;

  • If you have a kitten, they will grow out of it
  • If they’re guarding territory, get another litter box
  • If you changed their litter, they will understand that it’s their toilet when they need to go
  • If they’re nesting to give birth, provide them with a comfortable box or basket

If it’s down to stress, find out what causes it and what you can do to reduce it;

  • Understand when they get stressed and try to reduce those events
  • Install a plug-in calming pheromone diffuser
  • Provide them with an alternative space to hide
  • Ask your vet to prescribe anti-anxiety medication

In Conclusion

Cats laying in their litter box is a common behaviour. It’s also a temporary one.

There are various reasons why a cat would lay or sleep in their litter. It can be a sign of medical problems like UTI’s or constipation. Some of which can be serious, even fatal. So if you’re concerned about your cat’s health, take them to the vet.

Other factors like stress, resource guarding and pregnancy can cause a cat to take refuge in their litter box.

Take the time to understand why it’s happening and make the changes needed to fix it.

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Ben Doyle

Ben Doyle co-owns Pet Checkers with his wife, Vicki. He spends his days looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When he's not taking care of animals, he's writing about them.

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