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June 15, 2022 |11 min read

Why Is My Cat Laying in the Litter Box?

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The two most common reasons why your cat is lying in their litter box or even sleeping in it are stress and a medical problem. Cats are obsessively clean, so their lying in the smelly cat litter box is irregular.

But if you want to know the specific reason why your cat is lying down in the litter box, you will need to watch their behavior closely and find more information. For example, the cat might be feeling territorial, pregnant, bored, or playful.

So, if you're wondering, "why is my cat laying in the litter box,” you should be concerned and take action to correct the situation. Use the following guide to help discover the reason behind this behavior and what to do about it.

1. Your Cat Could be Stressed

The small, enclosed space of the litter box with its familiar smells is comforting to a stressed cat. If they are stressed, the litter box will feel like a safe haven for them. The same happens if they are feeling threatened by another animal or person.

Your cat could be stressed because;

  • You recently adopted them
  • You just moved houses
  • You brought a new cat, dog, or other pet into the home
  • You had a baby or there's a new person in the house
  • You remodeled the house

Stressed cats also exhibit other symptoms such as excessive grooming and scratching, increased meowing, excessive sleeping, and aggression towards people or other animals. They could also have physical symptoms such as reduced appetite and shedding fur.

If your cat is hiding from you and is staying in a tense, crouched stance with its head lowered, pupils dilated, and tail tucked in, that's a stressed cat.

You may not always be able to identify or remove the source of the kitty's stress. Usually, the behavioral issue should go away in a few days, and all you can do is clean their litter tray often, so they have a clean place to hide in.

Another solution is to evaluate your cat's environment and find out whether it provides enough areas for the kitty to hunt in, hide, scratch, and sleep.

If your cat is overly stressed or won't return to normal behavior after a week or so, talk to your vet. There could be additional causes for their acting up, for which the vet will prescribe a mode of treatment.

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2. Your Cat Might Be Sick

Just like us humans, cats suffer from ailments such as urinary tract issues and stomach upsets. Problems with waste elimination make them want to lie near or in the litter box.

For example, if your cat has urinary problems, like crystals in their urinary tract, they will be unable to pass urine or find it extremely painful to do so. This is a potentially fatal medical problem that mostly affects male cats and should be attended to by a vet immediately to ensure cat health.

Urine crystals are like kidney stones in humans. Cats are more vulnerable to these struvite crystals if they are elderly, obese, or eating an unbalanced diet. Other signs of urinary problems include:

  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Vocalizing while in the litter box
  • Straining while urinating
  • Licking themselves excessively in the genital area
  • Blood spots in urine

Gut health problems like constipation and diarrhea are also common problems that cause cats to stay in the litter box. They probably feel that going out of the litter box takes too much effort, or that they won't even make it back, so they just stay there.

Look for other signs of gastrointestinal trouble such as vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, lack of appetite, and lethargy/listlessness.

If you suspect urinary tract or digestive tract issues, get your cat to the vet immediately. The vet will do some diagnostic testing to determine the underlying cause of the problem and prescribe treatment to deal with the medical issue.

3. Kitty Could Be Feeling Unsafe, Territorial, or Pregnant

If you recently introduced another animal into the house, your cat could be staying in the litter box for either of two reasons. The first is that they're feeling threatened and the litter box feels safe and familiar.

This behavior can also be triggered by guests in the house, loud noises such as nearby fireworks, or an unfamiliar environment. If there is another animal involved, staying in the litter box also lets them mark it with their pheromones as their own territory.

If you introduced multiple cats, follow the golden rule: get a litter box for each cat in the house plus one extra. Cats cannot share litter boxes for behavioral and health reasons, and each cat feels safe and secure in their own box with its familiar smells.

If you have just one litter box, the dominant cat could be trying to bully the other and keep her away from the litter box. Again, get each cat their own special litter box.

The second reason could be that the kitty is pregnant. If your cat isn't altered and has access to a male cat, they could be pregnant and seeking a place to give birth. The litter box will feel safe, secure, and familiar, even though it's not a hygienic place for your pregnant cat to give birth in.

The solution to an insecure, territorial or pregnant cat is to provide them with a better alternative. A cat cave can be a snuggly box or enclosed space where a kitty can hide and feel safe. Place the cat cave near the litter box where the cat will still have the familiar smells of the litter box.

Later, you can transition the cat away from the litter box later to a more convenient place on a windowsill, cat perch, or shelf.

4. Your Cat Could Be Telling You Something

Kitty could also be acting up if they need a check-up. Cats are stoic and won't let on that they are uncomfortable or suffering. Even if it might not be a UTI or gut problem, mobility issues such as arthritis could cause pain for them to get in and out of the litter box, so they prefer to stay in it.

This is common cat behavior when they are 12 years or older. In addition to a vet visit, making the litter box more accessible with lower sides could help solve the problem.

5. Your Cat Might Be Feeling Bored

Cats love their routine and are famously meticulous about their litter box habits. If they suddenly start to act up, it could mean they want you to pay attention to them.

One of the reasons for the cat’s behavior could be boredom. If you have not been spending time with your kitty recently or have been away, they might be trying to get your attention.

Young cats and kittens especially want to act up when they're feeling bored or playful. They could knock things down with their paws, attack your legs as you walk by, and get the zoomies. Eventually, they will be so bored that they might play around and after, create a sleeping spot in the litterbox.

If that's the case, get your cat something new to be excited about. A new climbing post, catnip-infused toy, or treasure hunt will fix their litter box problem in no time.

However, remember that playing in the litter box is normal for kittens and they could just be exploring and discovering things. Just keep an eye out to ensure that they don't bring up poop and track it all around the house.

6. Did You Change Kitty's Litter?

Cats love familiarity. Cat litter is a big part of their life, so learning how to choose cat litter helps keep your cat happy and comfortable. However, if you recently changed out your cat's litter to one that feels different, they may be exploring and familiarizing themselves with it. 

Lying in the new litter also helps your cat introduce familiar smells and mark it as their territory.

Your cat might start lying in or messing around with its litter if you change from one type of cat litter to another. For example, swapping a non clumping vs clumping cat litter will feel unfamiliar to your cat, making them want to explore it more.

Some types of cat litter, such as paper litter, could also feel comfortable and soft enough for your cat to want to lie in.

If your cat has no other access to soil, the litter box might be the next best option. One thing to watch out for is if the cat is feeling itchy and scratching a lot. Parasites like fleas or skin conditions will require expert help from the vet.

PrettyLitter: Discover Potential Health Problems With Color-Changing Litter

Litter box habits are one of the surest ways to discover your cat's health problems. For example, blood in a cat's urine is a sure sign of urinary tract problems, while alkaline or acidic urine could indicate various types of infections and kidney problems.

PrettyLitter changes color depending on the composition of your cat's urine, so it is important to understand the PrettyLitter color meanings to monitor your cat's health and well-being. With PrettyLitter, you will know immediately if there is a problem with your kitty's digestive or urinary health. In addition, our super absorbent silica crystal litter will reduce odors and help keep your cat clean if they are hiding in the litter box for any reason.

Get started with a PrettyLitter subscription today and be more proactive about your cat's health.


World Animal Foundation. Why is my Cat Laying in The Litter Box?

Cat Vills. Why is my Cat Sleeping Inside The Litter Box?
The Spuce Pets. Litter Box Problems in Senior Cats.


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Christina Scamporrino is a lifelong animal lover and began working in the petcare space in 2019. Christina’s passion for the community of feline owners and enthusiasts have led her to designing premium packaging for PrettyLitter cat litter, PrettyPlease dry food, wet food, and treats, and a litter box designed to solve common litter box issues.

Outside of her professional work in the petcare space, Christina is a longtime kitten foster and has worked with several cat rescues throughout Southern California. When given the option, she favors orange cats, but loves all cats equally.


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