Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Cat Sleeping in Their Litter Box? Here’s 7 Possible Reasons Why

Chelsea Mortensen Profile Picture

By Chelsea Mortensen

cat sleeping on a litter box

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Litter box behavior can be a puzzle to us humans. Most of the time, cats will use their box like normal, as long as it stays clean. But every so often, you see head-scratching behavior, like sleeping in the litter box. Although staying in the litter box all the time can be a sign of illness, if your cat is just hanging out and not trying to relieve itself more than normal, the cause is equally likely to be behavioral, not medical. Luckily, most of the time, it’s temporary behavior with an easy fix.

Here are seven of the most common reasons your cat might like sleeping in the litter box.

The 7 Most Common Reasons Your Cat Is Sleeping in the Litter Box

1. It Smells Familiar

Your cat knows the smell of its own litter box, and that familiar smell can be comforting. This is especially true if you’ve just moved or adopted a new cat—the litter box is probably the first place that smells like “home.” Added stress can also make cats seek out the litter box as a comfort space. Even though it’s a little gross, that familiar scent will help your kitty adjust and feel at home. Luckily, this is usually temporary. In the meantime, you can try to put blankets with your cat’s scent nearby to offer a competing safe space.

gray kitten sleeps in the cat litter box
Image Credit: Dikova Maria, Shutterstock

2. Territory Guarding

If you’ve got a multi-pet household, the litter box may be subject to a territorial dispute. Your cat might decide to move in so that no one else can use their box. This might come along with other signs of tension and aggression, like fights around mealtimes. If you’ve just introduced a new pet, you might want to slow things down and keep them mostly separated for a little while longer.

Whether one pet is new or not, you should probably also add another litter box to your space. A good rule of thumb for multi-pet households is to keep one box per cat plus one extra.

3. Your Cat Likes Enclosed Spaces

If you’ve got a covered or high-walled litter box, it might feel comfortable and cozy because it’s an enclosed space. Just like cats love to sit in any box, many litter boxes provide the perfect amount of space for your cat to feel safe and secure. You’ll also see cats sneaking into open cupboards or dresser drawers for the same reason. If this is the case, providing another, cozier hiding option nearby might tempt your cat away from the litter box.

cat sleeping inside a litter box
Image Credit: SITI AISHAH BASIRON, Shutterstock

4. Kittens May Be Still Learning

Adult cats generally have some separation between their bathroom space and their living space, but this is all new for kittens. If you’ve got a small cat, it will likely explore and play across its whole living space until it gets tuckered out—and then it will fall asleep wherever it is comfortable and nearby. If that means passing out on top of the litter, your kitten won’t care. As long as you’ve provided plenty of other areas to rest, give it a few months, and your kitten will probably grow out of it.

5. Your Cat Enjoys the Privacy

Right along with enjoying enclosed spaces, sometimes cats need privacy. Whether they feel like they’re constantly being watched or they are scared due to stressors in the home, fleeing to a covered litter box might be a way for your cat to hide until things calm down. If this is the case, don’t worry—your cat should come out soon.

cat sleeping in the litter box
Image Credit: ING Studio1985, Shutterstock

6. Pregnant Cat Is Nearing Labor

Pregnant cats have a strong nesting instinct, and when they get close to labor they start to test out safe spaces to give birth. You might find your cat in all sorts of odd areas—from the top of your closet to the litter box—as she figures out the best space to give birth. If you see her napping in the litter box, keep a close eye and provide a comfortable, enclosed “birthing box” if you haven’t already.

7. New Litter Is Confusing It

If you’ve switched your brand of litter—and especially if you’ve switched to something non-traditional like a pellet or sawdust litter—your cat might be a little confused at first. Many litters are fairly comfortable to sit on, and they won’t have the smell your cat associates with the restroom. If this is the case, switch to using a 50/50 mix of old and new litter types for a few weeks until your cat is used to the new stuff.

black kitten sleeping in a litter box
Image Credit: Moncayofoto, Shutterstock

Last Thoughts

With so many reasons to sleep in the litter box, it’s a wonder that more cats don’t end up napping there at some point! If you find your cat conked out in their toilet area, try to think about what may be causing it. Although there are lots of reasons to sleep there, it’s usually a temporary or easily solved problem. Make sure that your cat has plenty of comfortable options for rest, and chances are that it’ll adopt someplace else as a nap spot before too long. However, if your cat is showing other signs of illness, or no obvious explanation exists, reach out to your vet to get their thoughts.

Featured Image Credit: pp1, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database