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December 16, 2021 |0 min read

6 Reasons Why Your Cat is Sitting in the Litter Box

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Cats love to hang out in funny places. Whether they’re curled up on top of a cabinet or hiding underneath your furniture, it’s not uncommon to find your cat in strange positions. 

That said, if you notice your cat spending a lot of time in their litter box, it may be cause for concern.

If you’re wondering “Why is my cat sitting in the litter box?” This article will provide the 6 most common answers, ranging from harmless play to potential illness. We’ll also take a look at the potential solutions to get your feline friend out of the box and back to their normal behavior.

#1 It’s Their Safe Place

Have you just welcomed a new cat into your life? While you’re excited to introduce them to their new home, they may have other ideas in mind.

Frequently, newly adopted kitties suffer from stress that may manifest in symptoms like:

  • Grooming issues
  • Decreased appetite
  • Jumpy or skittish behavior
  • Hiding in strange places

That can include hiding in their litter box.

If your cat was adopted from a shelter, the litter box may be a familiar comfort in a strange place. In addition, enclosed litter boxes offer protection in the form of an accessible hiding spot.

When dealing with a new cat spending a little too much time in their box, we recommend the following solutions:

  • Give it time – It may be hard to do nothing, but giving your new furry friend adequate time to adjust may be the only solution to getting them out of your cat’s litter box. How long that takes can vary greatly from cat to cat, but if you create a happy and loving home, we’re certain your kitty will find their way out of the litter box and into your arms.
  • Keep it extra clean – You may need to clean your litter box with increased frequency to encourage your new cat to leave. By removing their waste, you’ll eliminate the familiar smells that keep them coming back. Plus, for the sake of cleanliness, you don’t want your cat laying around in a dirty litter box.

It’s important to note that stress is a common reason why a cat might choose to spend time in their litter box. They don’t have to be a new addition to the family to seek out safety in the bathroom. 

Try to always keep an eye out for stress-related behavior in your cat, and do your best to mitigate their potential anxiety before it becomes a real problem.

#2 They’re Looking to Play

What could possibly be fun about playing in the litter box? According to some cats, a lot. 

Young kittens who are new to the litter box are prone to spending a little extra time figuring out how everything works. But that doesn’t mean the full-grown cats are unsusceptible to bringing their playtime into the bathroom.

Cats typically begin playing in their litter box for one of the following reasons:

  • Not enough stimulation – If work or life in general has kept you a little too busy, your cats may be looking for another way to entertain themselves. Without regular attention and playtime, a cat may begin playing in their litter box to get their kicks.
  • Feral instincts – In the wild, cats actually bathe in dust. This process allows them to remove a layer of fur and harmful bacteria that causes discomfort and itching. If your cat doesn’t go outside, the litter box may be the next best place to exhibit this instinctual activity.

While there’s not much you can do about your cat’s instincts, there are plenty of ways to keep your pet engaged, so they don’t turn to the litter box for entertainment. Consider purchasing some new toys, blocking out some cat-exclusive time, and showing your kitty there’s more fun to be had outside the box.

#3 There’s a Problem with the Litter

Cats are particular. In fact, you may think that’s an understatement if you’ve ever dealt with a truly fussy feline. The toys they like to play with, the foods they like to eat, and the way their litter box is set up are all serious matters.

If your cat isn’t leaving the litter box, it could be their way of telling you they’re displeased with something. Some frequent litter-related causes for upset kitties include:

  • New cat litter – Whether you’ve changed from soft litter to clay-based litter or simply switched up brands, your cat may object to different litter. It often takes just a few days for your cat to get used to their new litter, but if they’re still upset after a couple of weeks, it may be time to switch back.
  • It’s not clean enough – It may sound counterintuitive, but your cat may be spending more time in the litter box because it’s too dirty. Since your cat can’t tell you to clean the litter, this may be the most direct way to get your attention. A dirty litter box also means that your cat has to spend more time looking for a clean place to do their business, so give them a hand and grab some fresh cat litter.

Your cat might even appreciate more options when it comes to their private time. Consider adding additional litter boxes around your home. You can also invest in a self-cleaning litter box if you want to ensure your cat always has a pristine place to do their business.

#4 They’re In Labor 

While most cat owners spay or neuter their animals, some may opt to breed their cats or take in an already pregnant feline. In that case, the reason your cat is spending so much time in the litter box may be that she’s about to give birth.

The miracle of birth may seem a little less glamorous when you see your cat hunkered down in the litter box. Even so, there are some ways you can help her get through the process, like:

  • Provide comfort – Allow your cat a quiet, temperate space to give birth. Consider giving her some clean towels and make sure she has space (outside of the litter box) for the newborn kittens.
  • Provide food and water – Unsurprisingly, the birthing process is incredibly exhausting for cats. Bring a food and water dish into the room to allow her to replenish her strength after giving birth. She’s going to need it to feed her hungry kittens.
  • Phone your vet – While it may be impractical for your vet to make a house call, you should keep their number close by and refer to them for any specific medical advice. Whether you’re wondering about the cat’s placenta or the birthing sacs that the kittens arrive in, your vet should be able to answer all of your questions.

Once your cat has finished giving birth, she may stick around the litter box for a little while after. When she’s feeling strong enough, she’ll be more than happy to leave the box and show the babies the rest of their world (even if that’s just your home).

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#5 They Have a Blockage

The most common medical reason for your cat’s strange behavior is a potential blockage. This can come in the form of:

  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Feline interstitial cystitis

All these medical conditions are treatable with the help of a veterinary professional. If you’re unsure whether or not your cat is dealing with a medical issue, it’s always worth it to get a professional opinion. 

None of us like to see our furry friends uncomfortable, so break out the cat carrier and send your little kitty to your trusted vet.

#6 They’re Staking Their Territory

In a house with multiple cats, there can occasionally be a bit of drama. While cats usually get along with each other, introducing a new cat to your home can meet an initial struggle for dominance.

On these occasions, it’s not uncommon for a cat to stake their territory by sticking to their litter box. By sitting in the litter box, your cat is marking the area with their scent glands and sending a clear message to other cats to stay away.

If you’re dealing with a territorial cat, there are a few ways to encourage them to play nice with others, such as:

  • Keeping them separate – Your territorial cat may need to be separated from other cats for a period of time. By giving them their own space, they can calm down and redevelop their sense of security. Afterward, you can slowly reintroduce them to your other animals in a controlled environment.
  • Creating positive experiences – Create positive experiences between your cats by feeding and playing with them together. If they begin to associate good feelings with the other animals in the house, they may have a much easier time adjusting to their presence.

Solid routines, predictable feedings times, and special sleeping spots can go a long way to making a territorial cat more comfortable. When you eliminate potential stressors, your cat will be more likely to stay calm, cool, and collected among their fellow felines.

PrettyLitter: Keeping Your Cat Out of The Box

After reading these 6 reasons, it should be easier to answer the question, “why is my cat sitting in the litter box?”.

That said, sometimes it’s a little difficult to diagnose your cat’s potential health problems, which is why we created PrettyLitter.

Our veterinarian-approved litter can help reveal your cat’s health issues. It’s also highly absorbent, easy to scoop, and odor-trapping. That means you and your cat will love using it. With PrettyLitter, the best way to keep your cat out of the box is by changing what’s in the box. Try it today.

Sources: 

FAQ Cats. Why Do Cats Play In The Litter Box – Behaviors & Reasonshttps://faqcats.com/why-do-cats-play-in-the-litter-box/ 

PDSA. Cat labour – a guide to your cat giving birth. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/other-veterinary-advice/cat-labour-a-guide-to-your-cat-giving-birth 

Pet MD. Crystals in the Urine in Catshttps://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/urinary/c_ct_crystalluria 

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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