Skip to main content

3 reasons why your cat is sleeping in the litter box

In most cases, cats like to curl up in warm, cozy places. There’s nothing more tempting than a good, soft blanket, but even a sunbeam on the floor can make a choice sleeping spot. But sometimes, cats’ sleeping habits change, and you might even find your cat catching some z’s in his litter box. While this behavior might seem surprising, it actually happens somewhat frequently. If your cat has suddenly started snoozing in the litter box, it’s important to understand what might be causing this change. While certain situations can make your cat use his box as a bed, there are some medical causes that can contribute to this behavior, too.

Black kitten sleeping in a litter box
Moncayofoto / Shutterstock

Illnesses

Many different illnesses can cause your cat to start sleeping in the litter box. In addition to your cat’s sleep location change, looking for other changes in his behavior can give you some insight into what these issues might be. If your cat is lethargic and isn’t eating or drinking normally, this can indicate pain, a potential infection, and other possible health issues.

Urinary issues might also prompt your cat to sleep in the litter box. Urinary tract infections or urinary crystals can make urination painful or even impossible for your cat, so look for signs that he’s trying to urinate, is uncomfortable when urinating, or goes into and out of the box again and again. If your male cat has developed urinary crystals, he will probably try to use the box frequently and might even cry out in discomfort. This is an emergency and can be life threatening, so if you notice these symptoms, take your cat to the emergency vet right away.

If your cat appears to be uncomfortable, sluggish, or otherwise not like himself, your vet can help identify what’s wrong. Your vet will perform a physical exam, will ask you questions about your cat’s behavior, may test your cat’s urine, and will probably run a blood panel. Once your cat’s health issue is identified and treated, chances are he’ll return to his regular sleeping spots.

Labor

Your pregnant cat might seek out the litter box during or before she goes into labor, especially if she doesn’t have another secure, safe space in the house to give birth. This isn’t ideal for many reasons, so if you have a pregnant cat, start preparing her a safe birthing box well in advance. An ideal birthing box will give your cat privacy and will be lined with soft blankets. Be sure to place this in a room where your cat can easily access it, and keep other pets and kids away from the area so your cat can feel safe and undisturbed.

Grey cat sleeping in a litter box
Dikova Maria / Shutterstock

Stress and insecurity

While health issues can be the root cause of a cat’s sleeping in litter box areas, physical ailments aren’t always to blame. Your cat might seek out the litter box because he feels it’s a safe place and because it smells familiar. If your cat is highly stressed and insecure, he might not be comfortable sleeping elsewhere in the home.

Many factors can contribute to your cat’s stress. Bringing home a new pet or a baby can affect your pet’s security. Major changes, like moving to a new home, can stress your cat. And if your cat is a new member of your family, the stress of the transition into your home might be causing this behavior, too.

If you think that stress and insecurity might be behind your cat’s sleeping in the litter box, you’ll need to take steps to help him feel more secure. Separating your cat from other pets might help, and giving your cat a secure sleeping spot up on a cat tree, where he’s safely out of reach, can also boost his confidence. Using pheromones can also help relax a stressed cat, but in many cases, your cat just needs a space of his own where he can chill out and adjust.

The answer to “Why is my cat sleeping in the litter box?” can be a complicated one. Many factors can affect your cat, and this change in sleeping habits might be due to behavioral or medical causes. If you notice your cat suddenly start sleeping in a litter box, it’s best to pay attention to what other habits might have also changed, like he’s eating less and sleeping more. You might also think about any recent changes that have occurred within your home, since these could prompt behavior changes in your cat. When in doubt, take your cat in for a vet appointment so you can rule out health issues that might have caused this change in sleeping habits.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Why do cats lick themselves? It goes beyond just cat grooming
This totally normal behavior could mean a few different things
A cat licking his paw while lying in front of a blue background

Cats spend the majority of their time doing one of a few things: eating, resting, grooming, using the litter box, or causing havoc. Their routines can become predictable at times, so it's not even worth a second glance when you catch your cat licking themselves as obviously -- and loudly -- as possible. Cats groom themselves all the time, after all, but when does licking become a bit too much?
Even though cat grooming is completely normal, if it becomes noticeably excessive, your kitty may be licking themselves -- or even licking you -- for another reason. Luckily, we can help you understand why cats lick themselves and how you can tell what may be going on. Here's what you'll want to know and what to look out for.

Is my cat grooming? When licking is normal

Read more
Why do cats open their mouths when they smell? It’s for a really cool reason
The Flehmen response is a little-known reaction in felines that allows them to take in more of their surroundings
A white and tabby cat with their mouth open

Think of the last time you smelled something foul. How did you react? If you're truly made of steel, you may not have reacted at all, but for most people, it's impossible not to flare your nostrils at least. You may have even made a face! All of these reactions are perfectly natural, though humans aren't the only species that reacts to smells, both good and bad. Even your cuddly cat sniffs out the world around them sometimes,
If you've ever noticed your cat reacting to a smell, you're not alone. Some folks have even noticed their cat opening their mouth -- and even sticking out their tongue -- while smelling, but it's not so clear what this means. Is this a reaction to a scent, or is it just a way to get an extra thorough sniff? Whatever it may be, we're here to find out.
Needless to say, you're not alone if you're wondering, "Why do cats open their mouths when they smell?" We've scoured trusted sources to find out, and this is what we know.

Why do cats open their mouths when they smell?
Watching your curious cat open their mouth in a kind of sneer while they get a good sniff of something can raise a lot of questions -- it's understandable. When people do this, it's usually a response to an unpleasant smell, but when cats do this, they're actually trying to get a better understanding of the scent in the air.

Read more
Why do dogs hate cats? The truth behind this age-old grudge
Find out what's behind the dog and cat rivalry that's been around forever
A black pug and a tabby cat sit on a table

Even if you've never been around dogs or cats, you've probably heard about their rough relationship. Cats and dogs are rivals at best and enemies at worst -- right? It sure seems that way when there are thousands of stories and even videos of dogs and cats not getting along. Whether you've witnessed a dog-cat chase with your own eyes or have heard your pup barking at the neighbor's cat at all times of the day, it's only natural to wonder, "Why do dogs hate cats?"
Some dogs couldn't care less if a feline friend stopped by for a visit -- that's true -- but plenty of other pups would go positively bananas. So what's the difference?

Why do dogs hate cats?
While it's easy to assume that dogs and cats "hate" one another because of their vast differences, it's a bit more complicated than that. Even dogs that regularly chase cats don't do so out of malice or hate. It's an instinctual thing!

Read more