Why Is Your Cat Laying In Litter Box: Behavior Explained

Cat Behavior, Cats

Last Updated - December 12, 2023

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Cats are known for their quirky behaviors, but one that can leave pet owners scratching their heads is the sight of their cat sleeping or cat laying in the litter box. If your cat lays, hides, and sleeps in their litter box, you may wonder, is this a normal behavior for cats? Is it a cause for concern, or is there a method to this apparent madness?

Although it may appear unusual or even worrisome initially, this behavior has several reasons. In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons behind this seemingly odd habit, what it might signify about your cat's health and comfort, and how to ensure your kitty's well-being.

Is it normal for a cat to sleep in the litter box?

If you find your cat lounging in the litter box, you might wonder if this behavior is normal. The answer to this question is no. Cats typically use the litter box exclusively for their toileting needs. Observing your cat sleeping in the litter box is usually a sign of an underlying issue.

Cats are known for their cleanliness and inclination for comfortable resting areas. Therefore, any prolonged presence in the litter box should be considered abnormal behavior, and it's essential to investigate and address the cause, which may be related to stress, discomfort, or an underlying medical condition. Consulting with a veterinarian or a feline behavior specialist is advisable to ensure your cat's well-being.

Reasons Why Cat Laying In Litter Box


Stress can lead to perplexing behaviors in cats, and one such manifestation is finding them curled up in an enclosed space like their litter box. This seemingly unusual response is a visible sign of emotional distress, and it's essential to understand why it occurs.

Cats are creatures of habit, and changes in a cat's environment or routine can trigger stress. Common stressors include new family members, changes in living arrangements, unfamiliar animals, a new pet, insufficient litter boxes, or even medical issues. When a cat feels overwhelmed or threatened by these changes, it might seek refuge in the litter box.

To a cat, the litter box represents a confined and protected space. It's akin to their personal sanctuary, offering a sense of security during moments of anxiety. This instinctual behavior can be compared to a human seeking refuge in a small, enclosed space during times of stress. Additionally, cats possess a heightened sense of smell. They may use the litter box to familiarize themselves with new scents, helping them adapt to changes in their surroundings.


Persistent stress can lead to physical and psychological issues in cats, including urinary tract problems and depression. To address this, pet owners should identify and mitigate the sources of stress, provide a comfortable and secure environment, and consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist if needed. 

If you have multiple cats, it's crucial to provide one litter box per cat, along with an additional one. Having multiple litter boxes helps reduce competition among the cats for access to the box, ensuring a more peaceful toileting environment for all feline occupants.

Ultimately, understanding the reasons behind a cat's behavior and helping eliminate them can lead to better emotional health and well-being for our feline friends.

Urinary Tract Issues

When a cat chooses to lay in their litter box, it can also signal a potential urinary problem. This behavior is not always about seeking comfort but can be a cry for help or a response to discomfort in the urinary tract.

Cat urinary issues can range from urinary tract infections (UTIs) to more severe conditions like urinary blockages or bladder inflammation. Cats with these problems may associate the litter box with their discomfort and choose to stay there, perhaps because they equate it with relief or want to be close to a source of potential relief.

Cats may display other symptoms when suffering from UTIs or blockages, such as frequent urination, straining in the litter box, blood in the urine, and vocalizing in pain. Laying in the litter box can be a manifestation of their discomfort. A urinary blockage can escalate into a life-threatening emergency in more severe cases. When cats cannot urinate, they may assume a hunched posture in the litter box, straining unsuccessfully to relieve themselves.


Cat owners must recognize these signs and take immediate action. If a cat is consistently laying in the litter box, appears to be in pain while urinating, or is unable to urinate, it's imperative to consult a veterinarian promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment of urinary issues are essential to alleviate pain, prevent complications, and ensure the well-being of your feline companion.


Boredom can have unexpected and concerning effects on our feline companions, including causing them to lay in the litter box. Cats are naturally curious and active creatures, and when they lack mental and physical stimulation, they may engage in unusual behaviors to deal with their restlessness.

Laying in the litter box can indicate attention-seeking behavior or a desire to change their environment. Cats often view their litter box as a territory they can control, and by staying in it, they may be attempting to garner attention or provoke a reaction from their owners. Moreover, cats might find the texture of the litter intriguing or comforting when they're bored. The litter provides sensory stimulation, making it an attractive spot when other sources of entertainment are lacking.


To prevent boredom-related issues, cat owners should prioritize mental and physical enrichment. Offering cat toys, providing cat trees, window perch, and engaging in playtime can help keep cats mentally stimulated and physically active. Ensuring a stimulating environment can reduce the likelihood of your cat seeking solace in the litter box. If the behavior continues or is accompanied by other troubling signs, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to rule out any underlying medical problems and effectively address the issue of boredom.


If your cat isn't spayed and she has access to a male cat, you may have a pregnant cat on hand. Pregnancy in cats, like in humans, brings about significant physiological and hormonal changes. These changes can lead to alterations in behavior, including a cat laying in the litter box. However, it's crucial to understand that such behavior during pregnancy should not be considered normal and warrants attention and care.

Laying in the litter box during pregnancy may indicate discomfort or stress. Cats might experience physical discomfort due to the changes in their bodies, such as increased weight or pressure on their abdomen. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations can affect their behavior and stress levels, leading them to seek refuge in the litter box, which they might perceive as a safe and secluded spot.

Cat owners must ensure pregnant cats have a comfortable and secure environment. Providing a quiet, cozy nesting area away from the litter box is essential. Pregnant cats should receive proper veterinary care to monitor their health and address any discomfort they may experience.


If a pregnant cat constantly lays in the litter box, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian. This behavior can also be a sign of complications in the pregnancy, such as discomfort due to an oversized litter or other issues that require medical attention. Pregnant cats deserve special care and attention to ensure their well-being throughout this critical period.

New Cat Litter

A sudden change in cat litter can indeed lead to a cat laying in the litter box, as it can be a perplexing and unsettling experience for them. Cats are creatures of routine, and sudden environmental changes can lead to stress and behavioral shifts.

When transitioning to a different type of litter, your cat may experience a sense of unfamiliarity and discomfort. This can lead to them seeking solace in the litter box, which they associate with a sense of security. It's akin to humans seeking comfort in a familiar space when confronted with change. Furthermore, some cats might be sensitive to the texture or scent of the new litter, leading them to stay in the box as they try to adapt or understand the transformation in their toileting area.


To minimize stress and potential litter box issues during a change, it's essential to make transitions gradually. To help your cat adjust to the new litter, consider mixing the new litter with the old one initially and gradually increasing the proportion of the new litter over several days. This gradual shift allows your cat to acclimate to the change more comfortably.

If your cat continues to lay in the litter tray after the transition period, it's crucial to monitor their behavior and consult a veterinarian if it persists. This behavior might signal underlying stress or discomfort, which should be addressed promptly to ensure your cat's well-being.


Cats are territorial creatures who instinctively need to establish and claim their space. However, in some instances, this natural territorial behavior can manifest in unusual ways, including a cat laying in the litter box. This especially affects male cats, although it is not unusual for it to occur in all cats.

When a cat feels the need to assert dominance or claim territory, it may choose the litter box as a symbolic location to do so. This peculiar behavior can occur in multi-cat households where cats vie for dominance or when a new cat is introduced, causing tension and competition. A cat essentially marks the litter box as their territory by occupying the litter box. The scent glands on their paws leave their mark, indicating to other cats that this spot is claimed. It's a way for cats to communicate and establish boundaries, albeit somewhat unconventional.


To address this behavior, it's crucial to ensure that cats have ample territory and resources to prevent conflicts. This includes providing multiple litter boxes, offering separate feeding areas, and creating a peaceful environment where cats can coexist without feeling the need to assert dominance in the litter box.

If this behavior persists or escalates into aggression or other issues, consulting with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist is advisable to address the underlying causes and create a harmonious living environment for all feline residents.

Medical Problem

When a cat begins to sleep in the litter box, it can indicate an underlying health problem. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort, so spending more time in the litter box than usual often indicates that something isn't right.

One common health issue associated with this behavior is urinary tract problems, such as infections or blockages. Cats experiencing pain or discomfort while urinating may seek the litter box to relieve or signal their distress. Gastrointestinal issues, including constipation or diarrhea, can also lead to cats laying in the litter box. The litter's texture may provide comfort or a sense of security during digestive discomfort. Furthermore, older cats may experience arthritis or joint pain, making it difficult to move around comfortably. In such cases, they might opt to stay close to the litter box, as it's a familiar and easily accessible location.


Cat owners must monitor this behavior closely. If a cat spends excessive time in the litter box, seems to be straining, or exhibits changes in litter box habits, it's a clear indication to consult a veterinarian promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment of underlying health issues are essential for ensuring the well-being and comfort of your feline companion.

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About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.