When it comes to potty time, most cats will get in, do their business and get out. If your cat has suddenly started laying in the litter box, there may be some medical or stress-related issues that need to be addressed.
Odds are against an underlying medical problem if it’s your kitten exhibiting this behavior. Kittens are known to both sleep and play in their litter box. This is usually just a phase. However, if it’s an adult cat we’re talking about the problem should be taken a bit more seriously.
Felines are inherently very hygienic. So your senior cat sleeping in a dirty litter box all of a sudden could mean something is wrong. On the other hand, there are common environmental and behavioral problems to be considered. It’s important that we rule out health issues first, so let’s discuss what those could be.
Why Does My Cat Lay in the Litter Box?
To get a clue as to whether the problem is behavioral or health-related, it’s important that you closely monitor your kitty’s behavior. Knowing if their routine has changed and how much time they’re spending where will help form your diagnosis. If you feline shows any sign of sickness, go to the vet immediately.
Potential Health Problems
Kidney disease is the primary health- related cause for a cat sleeping in the litter box. There are two types of kidney disease: Acute renal failure and chronic kidney disease. The former can happen to cats of all ages and develops relatively quickly, over the course of a few days or weeks. If caught in time, acute renal failure can usually be treated and reversed.
Conversely, chronic kidney disease- mostly found in middle-aged and elderly cats- is not so easily dealt with. This type can manifest itself over over months and and even years. Once your feline reaches 7 years of age it’s important to keep a sharp eye out for chronic kidney disease.
Here are the signs to look out for:
- Frequent urination
- Bacterial infections of bladder and kidney
- Weight loss & decreased appetite
- Drinking a lot of water
- Ulcers on the gums or tongue
- Dry coat
- Vomiting, diarrhea and bloody or cloudy urine
- Weakness and indifference
- Bad breath
- Brownish colored tongue
As you can see, frequent urination is at the top of the list. This could be why your cat is laying in the litter box; she doesn’t feel comfortable being too far from the potty. Constipation is the other big factor here as well.
Additionally, kidney disease can sometimes be a result of a urinary tract infection. If you notice your feline taking extra time in the litter box and not peeing, this could be why. Male cats in particular. Males can develop crystals in their urine that block the urine from flowing freely. This blockage can be hugely detrimental and have potentially lethal effects within 48 hours. If you see your cat trying to pee and failing, take him to the vet immediately.
If your feline hasn’t been spayed and has any opportunities to interact with a male, she could show up pregnant one day. Most of the time cat parents will at least have a clue this is the case, but sometimes not. More independent minded cats that have free roam of the neighborhood are at higher risk.
Especially towards the end of the pregnancy, when it feels like something could come out, your kitty may take to laying in the litter box. Just like like in the case of a urinary problem, she may not feel comfortable being away from that litter box for too long.
The litter box may also provide a unique sense of safety, especially if it’s covered. Your cat may even think it a good place to have the babies; it is not. Make a cat carrier or cardboard box comfortable for her and let her use that.
Environmental & Behavioral Problems
Now that you’ve ruled out any health problems it’s time to turn to environmental and behavioral factors. These are the most common explanations for your cat’s sudden affection for the litter box. By and large, changes to your feline’s routine or immediate environment are to be blamed.
Sometimes when a cat is feeling overly stressed or fearful, they’ll run to a place they feel most secure. If your vet has issued a clean bill of health, it’s time to determine what the root cause of this stress could be.
Cats like their routine and abhor change. So ask yourself- what has changed at home recently? Have you brought in another pet that could be antagonizing kitty? Are they any new humans hanging around that didn’t before? What about any loud, frightening noises? Backfiring cars, sirens, barking dogs… all of these things can drive a cat to hide in her safe place. The small, enclosed area gives her a sense of security.
Sometimes these external factors can’t be helped, and your kitty will run to her safe space for a while until she gets used to the change.
If this is the case, a cat carrier would be a worthwhile investment. This will provide your feline with a sense of security without having to lay in her own excrement. Put a little blanket in there for comfort and a towel over top for the added feeling of safety. Similarly, a covered cat bed would do the trick as well.
A simple explanation for your feline lounging in the litter box could be the temperature of the litter. Maybe the floor, couch or windowsill she usually frequents is just too hot to bear. Sometimes that cool bed of litter is just what an overheated cat needs.
If you can, turn the temperature down a few degrees to provide a little bit of respite from the heat. If that’s not possible, giving your kitty access to a tile floor is just as effective.
In the event that you don’t have a tile floor, you can use a metal pan for your cat to curl up in. The pan won’t absorb too much heat and should keep your kitty cool regardless of the time of year.
Newly Adopted Cats
Don’t worry if your newly adopted furry friend is a little skittish for the firsts few days you take them home. This is completely normal. Cats need a bit of time to adjust to abrupt change. And the litter box is high on the list of potential hide outs.
On another note, a new adoption is the perfect time to upgrade your litter box. See our top picks for the best self-cleaning litter boxes if you’re sick of constantly scooping up after your cat.
In multi-cat households, there is some likelihood that there will be a tense feline power struggle. While cats will mark their territory with their urine, sometimes they feel like that isn’t enough and decide to hold down the fort. This is a way to assert dominance over the other cats.
On the other hand, if one of the cats is feeling insecure and bullied they may take to sleeping in the litter box to ensure they’ll have access to it when nature calls. If the timid one can’t make it, the result is your cat pooping outside of the litter box.
You can fix this issue pretty easily by buying additional litter boxes and placing them strategically all over the house. Once each cat has their own territory locked down, the tensions will ease.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal for a cat to lay in its litter box?
Yes. Hiding or sleeping in their litter box is a predictable reaction to a stressful situation. To avoid this, invest in a cat carrier or covered bed to provide a safe place for your cat that isn’t so stinky.
How can I get my cat to stop laying in the litter box?
Provide a cool place for your cat to lie down in the event they are overheating. If using the litter box to hide, make a cat carrier or bed available and comfortable enough that your cat feels safe and calm inside.
Why is my cat digging in the litter box so much?
A little bit of digging is natural and stems from the instinct to bury their feces to be rid of the smell. However, excessive scratching could be indicative of unhappiness with the litter, litter box or location of the litter box.