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Why Is My Cat Sleeping in the Litter Box? 7 Reasons & What to Do About It

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat sleeping on a litter box

Litter box behavior can be puzzling to humans. Most of the time, cats 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 using the bathroom 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 their litter box, and that familiar smell can be comforting. This is especially true if you have just moved or adopted a new cat—the litter box is probably the first place that smells like “home.” Added stress can 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 By: Dikova Maria, Shutterstock

2. Territory Guarding

If you have a multi-pet household, the litter box may be subject to a territorial dispute. Your cat might decide to move in so no one else can use their box. This might come 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 add another litter box. 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 have a covered or high-walled litter box, it might feel comfortable and cozy because it’s an enclosed space. Like large cardboard boxes, 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. Providing another, cozier hiding option nearby might tempt your cat away from the litter box if that is the case.

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

4. Kittens May Be Still Learning

Adult cats generally prefer some separation between their bathroom space and their living space, but this is all new for kittens. If you have a small cat, they will likely explore and play until they are tired and fall asleep wherever they are comfortable and nearby.

If that means passing out on top of the litter, your kitten won’t care. As long as you have 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 are scared due to stressors in the home, fleeing to a covered litter box might be a way to hide until things calm down. If that 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 use something non-traditional like a pellet or sawdust litter, your cat might initially be a little confused. Many litters are relatively comfortable to sit on but will not have the smell your cat associates with the restroom. However, you can use a 50/50 mix of old and new litter types for a few weeks until your cat is used to the new brand.

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Last Thoughts

With so many reasons to sleep in the litter box, it is 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 several reasons to sleep there, it is usually a temporary or easily solved problem.

Make sure your cat has plenty of comfortable places to rest, and chances are they will adopt someplace else as a nap spot before too long. However, if your cat is showing other signs of illness or there is no obvious explanation, reach out to your vet.

Featured Image Credit: pp1, Shutterstock

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