Why cats sometimes sleep in their litter box

As a human, it’s hard to imagine why a cat may want to sleep in the same place where they go to the bathroom. But still, some cats choose to sleep in their litter box. While this may be normal behavior for kittens, it can be a sign of a deeper problem when adults do it. If you notice your cat sleeping in or next to the litter box, it’s important to identify the reason why so you can help them. Here are a few of the most common reasons why cats sleep in their litter box.

Kittens are still learning

Kitten sitting in litter boxFor kittens, sleeping in the litter box is not all that abnormal. They’re still figuring everything out and learning the ways of the world from their mother and you. Kittens will often learn how to use the litter box from an older cat in the home, but it’s not as intuitive for some. They may dig around, play in the litter, or just get sleepy and need a nap.

Newly adopted

Some cats take a while to get accustomed to their new surroundings. If you just adopted your cat from a shelter, they may be used to sleeping in a small space close to or in their litter box. The enclosed space of the box may feel more comfortable and safer to them, especially during the stress of moving to a new home. To help your cat feel more comfortable sleeping outside of the litter box, give them a small space to sleep in. This could be a cardboard box, covered cat bed, or a carrier with a blanket in it.

Territorial issues in multi-cat homes

Cats are territorial creatures that enjoy having their own space to explore, rest, and do their business. In homes with multiple cats, this can cause some tension. Cats may fight over who gets to use the litter box. Some dominant cats may choose to mark their territory by sleeping in the box. Alternatively, a cat who is harassed by other cats may also sleep in the box so they can use it before the others try to block them out. This issue is easily solved — purchase an extra litter box. As a rule of thumb for multi-cat households, you should have one litter box per cat plus one extra. This will prevent any territorial conflicts and ensure that there is always a litter box available to them when they need to use it.

Fear or stress

Striped cat sitting a litter box
Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock.com

Just like us, cats get stressed out from time to time. Any significant change in their environment can prompt a cat to feel stress and fear. They may be anxious about moving to a new home, a stranger visiting, a new pet living at their house, or any number of other situations. When cats are uncomfortable and stressed, they may begin to exhibit strange behaviors, like sleeping in their litter box. To make your cat feel safe again, offer them a private area to rest and take refuge. Over time, they will learn to feel comfortable in their new environment and go back to being their normal selves.

Illness

One of the most common reasons why cats sleep in their litter box is because of medical issues. Cats with kidney disease, urinary tract infections, constipation, or other digestive problems may sleep in their litter box when they’re not feeling well. If your cat is struggling to go to the bathroom or they think they may not make it back in time, they may decide it’s best to stay close by. Some cats that are suffering from an advanced stage of dementia may also sleep in their litter box. If you suspect your cat is ill, take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis. The veterinarian will be able to ease their pain and solve their digestive troubles. Once their medical condition is addressed, they should refrain from sleeping in the litter box once again.

Labor

Is your cat pregnant? Typically, when female cats are on the verge of giving birth and do not have a private place to do it, they will seek shelter in their litter box. If your cat is pregnant, do some research so you can create a proper space for her to give birth where she and her babies can feel safe.

Cats sleep in their litter boxes for a number of reasons. Whether they have a medical problem, they’re stressed out, or they’re marking their territory, there are steps you can take to ease them out of the box and into a more suitable sleeping place. For more assistance, check with your vet.

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