Is your cat sleeping in their litter box? It’s not the most pleasant idea, but sometimes it can be harmless. However, that doesn’t mean you should take it lightly, as it may be the sign of something more serious.
A cat sleeping in their litter box could be because of a urinary tract infection or a problem with their kidneys. It can also just be because they are intimidated and want to go somewhere they feel is secure, or it may be a sign of dominance in a home with lots of cats.
I’ll go into some of the reasons why a cat might sleep in their litter tray now but remember that I am not a veterinarian and so the suggestions here are exactly that – suggestions.
If your cat’s behavior changes then you should monitor it and seek an expert opinion, especially as some of the reasons a cat might sleep in a litter tray are because of a medical issue. This post is not medical advice, and you should always speak to your regular vet if you are concerned.
Now that’s out of the way, here are some of the reasons why a cat might start sleeping in their litter box.
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Why is my cat sleeping in their litter box? Ultimately, cats sleeping in their litter box is going to be a behavioral change or because of an illness. And so, for most house cats that are relatively settled, where there hasn’t been a change to their day-to-day structure, it’s likely to be a medical issue if they suddenly start sleeping in their toilet.
Often a cat will sleep in their litter box because they are having problems with their bladder or intestines – more commonly the former but it could be either. A urinary tract infection, or kidney disease or anything like that could make it uncomfortable for your cat to go toilet, and so they might want to stay close so that they’re ready to go when they can.
It’s more common with an older cat but don’t be surprised if younger cats do it too if they catch an infection. At the same time, don’t disregard the problem if yours is a senior cat – just because illnesses are more common, or they may be more likely to struggle to pass urine, doesn’t mean you should leave them in discomfort.
All of these problems are painful for cats and if left untreated can be severely damaging, and potentially fatal. So, if your cat has started sleeping in their litter tray then you need to get them checked out. It’s always better to rule out illness before you start looking into whether it’s a behavioral issue anyway.
Once you’ve made sure that your cat isn’t unwell, then you can start considering some of the other reasons that they might be sleeping in the litter tray. One option is if they are being territorial.
If you have multiple cats in your home, then they might not always get along the way you want them to. One cat might be more dominant than the others and may decide to sleep in the litter tray to exercise their dominance, and essentially bar the other cats from using it.
It may also be the opposite – a cat may not be dominant, but they might sleep in the tray in order to claim it for themselves because they’re worried a more dominant cat won’t let them use it.
A reaction to stress or fear
Cats like to feel secure and safe, and when they are stressed out, anxious or afraid they will look to remove themselves from the situation and find a spot where they feel more comfortable.
And if you’ve put some thought into where your cat’s litter tray is, there’s a good chance that they see it as a nice safe space. Cats like privacy with their toilet business and so if they’re also looking for a haven of peace and calm, one of their first thoughts is likely to be the litter tray.
If you’re a parent with loud kids, you can probably relate – many of you might’ve just tried to find a few minutes of peace in a locked bathroom if they’re having one of their hyperactive moments…
So, if your cat is starting to sleep in the litter tray, consider whether there’s a reason that they might not be feeling relaxed. Have you had a lot of visitors lately? Maybe the cat has only recently been welcomed into your family and they’re a little skittish still? This might be why.
Pregnancy and labor
Again, there are few places in your home where your cat will likely feel safe and protected than in a litter tray. And if you’ve got a pregnant cat then that’s all the more reason they may start deciding to sleep in the litter tray – if they’re about to give birth, they want to do it somewhere quiet and where they know their babies will be secure.
Ideally, you don’t want kittens being born amongst clumps of used litter, but as with many of the reasons your cat might be sleeping in the litter tray, there are some solutions available.
One last reason is a relatively straightforward one – if your cat is still a young kitten, there’s a good chance they’ve just not figured out that they aren’t supposed to sleep in the litter tray yet. They might think it’s somewhere fun, or just get tired and decide it’s a place for a nap.
By watching their mum, or through reinforcement from their cat owner, a kitten will understand soon enough.
So what should you do?
The first thing should always be to rule out an illness, especially if your cat has shown no reason for any of the behavioral issues to be the cause. You’ll likely know if your cat is pregnant or stressed, or having territorial issues, so if your cat sleeping in the litter tray comes as a surprise then book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can.
If it is behavioral, you can usually solve the problem by looking at your cat’s bed and seeing why they might not see it as a safe space for them. Consider the bed itself – does it need to be more sheltered, or more comfortable? Has it become harder for your cat to climb or jump into as they’ve got older?
Then think about the location. Is it somewhere in your home where there’s a lot of traffic from people walking by? Could you find somewhere quieter?
If you’re still struggling, try putting the bed close to the litter tray and showing your cat the option they have for an alternative space. Your cat won’t want to sleep amongst its own urine and poop, so it shouldn’t take too much encouragement.
Is it normal for cats to sleep in their litter box?
It’s not normal for cats to sleep in their litter box but it’s not uncommon. It’s usually a sign of an illness but may be a behavioral issue too – they might be stressed, or claiming territory.
Always check with your veterinarian if you’re concerned.
Why won't my cat leave the litter box?
If your cat won’t leave the litter box, they may be suffering from a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or another bladder issue that makes them want to stay close to their toilet.
Have them checked over by your vet if you are worried.
How can I get my cat to stop sleeping in the litter box?
If your cat is sleeping in the litter box and your veterinarian says they’re not unwell, it may be territorial or an anxiety issue. If it’s territorial, make sure you have enough litter trays for all cats.
If it’s anxiety-related, make sure their bed is comfortable and placed somewhere quiet.