Sleeping in the Litter Box

by Claire
(Florida)

I just adopted a four-month female kitten from the Humane Society. I have had her for four days and she has been a happy, loving, kitten, always jumping up on my lap to be loved, which I do.


From the first day, she has used her covered litter box without a problem, eaten her food and drank her water, also played when I play with her, but today, she started using her litter box for a place to get to sleep.

I keep her box very clean and do not leave any elimination in the box but remove it shortly after she uses it. She has a comfortable bed, and loves to sit on the dining room chairs which I allow her to do, and also jumps up on the window sill in my bedroom and has basically, the run of my apartment.

The only restriction is my computer desk and the dining room table which I will spray her with a small spray of water if she goes on them. She has not been on the dining room table, but is still not trained with the computer desk. Also noticed that she is sneezing and one eye is watering.

Why does she choose to lie in the litter box rather than all the other comfortable places she can use or in my lap. I am totally at a loss as to what is causing this behavior. Any ideas?? Please help!!

My thoughts: You're giving her lots of good care, so it's puzzling. I've seen this behavior, but never in my cats. I have not found much information about it, and none of the books I have on cats seem to mention it (I have about 10 books).

Sleeping in the litter box may simply be a sign that she is not feeling right. Whether it's a physical problem, or perhaps just the stress of her recent moves, it's hard to say.

Cats will sleep in the box when they feel stressed, frightened, or intimidated, and you'll often see cats at shelters doing this.

Call the vet about the sneezing and the watery eye. It's very common for kittens to be ill from exposure to sick cats at shelters, and then begin showing symptoms at home.

She may need to be treated, and at the very least, you should have a phone consultation to see what the vet thinks. Mention the sleeping in the litter box.

Keep a close eye on her behavior patterns, eating, drinking, and box usage and note if anything changes.

The covered box may be giving her a sense of security that she is not getting in other parts of the house. If she's not feeling good, that may just be an additional factor.

Most of us probably don't want to recover from illness out in the open! We'd rather be hiding some where... so would she.

The places that you've offered her may be comfortable, but they may not seem as safe. Cats often like an area surrounded on three sides (or at least 2), and preferably, up high (think cave-like).

Try to create an area for her that is all at once safe, somewhat hidden, comfortable, and away from the box. If she seems to want your company, spend time with her in that place, then let her sleep if she will.

It's possible that she doesn't appreciate the spraying behavior modification technique, and this is stressing her as well. Some cats don't respond well to it.

A firm "no" (without being so loud that you make her afraid of you) is often enough to teach a young cat when you're not pleased. If you spray and use "no" at the same time, you may be able to reduce the frequency of the spraying, and eventually just using "no" will give her the idea.

If you have any other animals in or near your place, or she's been scared by any noises or people in the neighborhood, this may also explain why she feels a little off and is sleeping in the litter box for comfort.

It usually takes cats quite some time to adjust to a new home, so it may also just be a matter of time. She's been through a lot in her young life.

I hope that helps!

-Kurt

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Jul 29, 2014
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Not many ideas.
by: Anonymous

Evidently this is somewhat rare as the comments are thin and not much good except the one thing that comes through. See your vet. E Curry

Aug 12, 2010
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cat sleeping in litter box
by: lomiri8

I also have a new kitten who is sleeping in his litter box. Everything else is fine. The problem is that we have 2 kittens and the other can use the box if he's sleeping in it. He is a very happy kitten. Your idea of the comfort from the semi enclosed area sounds like it just might hit the nail on the head. I'm going to put his bed in a little box tonight I'll let you know how it turns out.

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Aged cat sleeping in kitty litter box

by Kat
(Dublin)

My cat is 13 years old now and when I moved into a new apartment over a year ago she insisted on sleeping with me every night. She'd previously always been an aloof cat so I figured it was because she was moving into a new place without her sister who had died several years before.

As time passed she moved on to other places, the window and also the space under the sink but still insisted on my attention as much as possible, meowing at me from where she was perched even if my lap was free for her to sit on.

She eventually sat on me less and less, returning to her old aloof nature, preferring to remain where she was until three days ago.

I just put this down to her old age until she is all of a sudden insisting in sleeping in her kitty litter box. She has never done this before, and is quite content for me to go up to her to pet her and all, but I'm worried about this new behaviour.

She has been acting more skittish recently, but with no new addition to the household or anything I can think of that could stress her, I am at my wits end to know what to do. Please help.

My Thoughts: I'm sorry to hear that your kitty is having troubles, Kat. Whenever I hear about a cat sleeping in the litter box my concern is always that it's something more than behavioral.

If it were my cat, I would contact my veterinarian as soon as possible and make sure it's not a medical problem.

I've done some research on this behavior and most of the information I've found from experts is for specific situations where a cat is heavily stressed or ill. Some cats will run and hide somewhere if they're stressed or ill, sleep all day in one spot, and so on.

Sleeping in the box may be a way to help your cat feel safe. It has also been speculated that it may be a way to help regulate body temperature.

Here is an answer from a veterinary technician on a similar question...

Cat sleeping in the litter box

There have been several other readers who have said their cats have done a similar thing.

I hope that helps a little. Please let us know how she makes out.

-Kurt

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My cat was sleeping in his litter box

by Joyce C
(Long Island, New York)

My 18 year old cat was not feeling very well. One day when I came home from work, I found my little guy sleeping in his litter box.

I found it strange, but he was eating and drinking so I thought all was OK.

The next day when I got home from work he was still sleeping in his litter box.

Now, I got concerned, I went on the computer and asked "why would my old cat sleep in his litter box"... The answer was, your cat has either a U.T.I. or Kidney Failure... "LISTEN TO YOUR CAT."

I immediately took my boy to his Doctor, who looked at me and said, "It's Time. Your cat's kidneys have failed..." When the process was over, half of me felt dead too!

My cat bought me so much happiness and I am forever grateful for all the time we had together...

Moral of this Story, listen to your cat, if he acts different or strange in any way, please know he/she is trying to tell you something...

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Oct 05, 2014
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R I P Puddy
by: megg

Thank you. My young cat is doing the same thing and I WILL listen to her and take her to the vet now! She is eating and drinking like you said so I thought this to be a fleeting quirk. So glad I found your comment!

Nov 07, 2012
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Puddy
by: Kurt (Admin)

I'm sorry to hear about Puddy. Thank you for sharing your story and giving her a good life and lots of love. RIP Puddy.

Nov 07, 2012
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:(
by: Anonymous

I had my baby, Puddy, for 7 years. One day she started urinating on my bed and in soft places. I took her to the vet who told me that Puddy didn't like her litter any more and wanted something softer/finer.

So I changed her litter and didn't seem to have any more problems. About a month later we moved from Louisiana to California. During the 2,000 mile journey she started laying in her litter box.

I figured she was just stressed from the trip and didn't associate it with anything else till I read your post, because she didn't do it after we moved.

However, about 3.5 months later we had a small earthquake. She immediately started breathing heavily and acting strange.

I waited two days to take her to the vet because my mom and husband kept saying she'll be alright, she's just stressed from the earthquake. But they weren't around to see how bad she was at the time, and I finally decided enough was enough.

I took her to the vet. By the next day we had been to three veterinary facilities, spent $1,600+, only to find her lungs were filled with fluid and she had a lung tumor. They said that surgery would have bought her a year at best, and she would still have to have fluid removed from her lungs every day or two (at $200-$300 each).

She was worth every penny. But I couldn't put her through all that just to drag out her suffering for a few months or even a year so I could have her company.

Looking back at videos I took of her, I think I can see that her labored breathing built up gradually. The earthquake probably just jolted her into filling her lungs faster suddenly. She had been through small earthquakes before, so I knew something was different.

There were times before where I thought she seemed to have some slight trouble breathing. But I kept dismissing it as my imagination since nobody else seemed to be able to tell.

Yes, when your cat behaves differently, please view it as a red flag. Putting my baby down was the absolute hardest thing I've ever had to do.

And it's extremely difficult trying to push out every thought every day of 'what if' or 'if only I had done that' so as not to be overwhelmed and always beat myself up. I miss her so much. :(

Jan 18, 2012
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Thank you
by: Kurt (Admin)

Thank you, Joyce, for sharing your story about your cat with us. Your cat's story is a lesson for us all -- observe and react when we see changes. I'm sorry for your loss.

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My neutered male sleeps in his litter box

by Aunt Vivian
(Kansas City, MO)

My mixed-breed, medium-haired, orange tabby, neutered, very loving, year-old tom sometimes sleeps in his litter box. I find this very distressing.

He is technically the only cat in our household but there are 2 cats downstairs (also neutered toms) he's related to and we let them visit and play sometimes.

We feed him well but he's quite thin. Because his coat is smooth and healthy and his teeth are white and strong and his eyes are clear, I don't think its any major health problem.

Could it have anything to do with his mother dying when he wasn't quite weaned?

What can I do to keep him happy and healthy?

Thank you so much for your time.

My Thoughts: Other readers have mentioned that their cat was sleeping in the litter box (or just lying in it). This behavior is often a sign of stress. Either due to a weakened condition, illness, or a perceived threat, your cat retreats to a "safe" place.

Cats that aren't properly weaned or properly socialized as kittens may have added emotional and behavioral problems. Lots of attention and providing a safe environment can help.

While clear and bright eyes, a shiny coat, white teeth, and good looking skin may indicate health, it is still possible that your cat has an underlying health condition.

If he eats well but is very thin (ribs can be easily felt or worse, seen), then he may have an illness causing a metabolic condition. This could be many things, including feline diabetes. Have you noticed an increase in thirst and urination? A behavior change or change in other habits or routine? These are some things to watch out for.

I would certainly check with the vet no matter what to be sure that his thin state is normal, and include the box sleeping as a possible symptom.

At the same time, I would look for stressors that may be causing the problem, and give him a "safe" area that he can go to when he feels stressed.

Do you notice a correlation with certain events and his sleeping in the litter tray? Does it happen right after visits from the two cats downstairs?

It could be that while he's willing to interact with them (and may even enjoy it), tensions may exist and his territory may be threatened. He then seeks comfort in the box.

It's common for cats to feel threats to their territory, even from roaming cats outside. You may never see these cats, but your cat knows they're there.

A couple of suggestions:

Contact your vet and make sure there's nothing physical going on.

Provide a safe place other than the litter box. All cats need a safe place to retreat to and recover from stress and illness.

A cat tree, cat condo, cat bed, and so on are good items to place in a room or corner of a room for your cat to use as a sanctuary. Or, it could be something as simple as a cardboard box with a blanket inside.

Make sure he gets plenty of extra attention and exercise. Interactive play sessions with toys are good for this. Most cats really like fishing pole toys. They also seem to like it when people play along with them. I mentioned on my homemade cat toys page that old belts and felt pads from furniture make great toys.

Monitor events and see if you can find a stressor that triggers the sleeping in the box. Feliway has been shown to relieve stress and calm cats down. You can use the diffuser or get the spray and spray it around the house. This may help him to feel more secure.

I hope that helps!

-Kurt

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My cat has begun to sleep in the kitty box

by Theresa
(St Augustine, FL)

I bought a new litter and since then she has begun sleeping in the box.

My Thoughts: Cats often rebel against change, and may become stressed by it. The litter box is one of the most important items in a cat's life, so it's not hard to imagine that there is some sensitivity there.

When you make major changes in your cat's life (such as new litter brand or type, or a new litter box), you should give your cat the right to choose and make the change slowly.

When changing litter:

You should normally not change litter and boxes/box types at the same time. When you do change the litter brand or type, do it slowly, mixing the two together. You do about 80 percent old, and 20 percent new to start.

Then, increase the amount of new litter over several days/weeks until you have 100 percent new litter in there. If problems occur, go back to the old litter.

When changing boxes:

Leave the old box in place, and put the new box up. Use the exact same litter type and brand in the new box as the old. See if the cat accepts the new box. Once she begins to use it regularly, you can move the old box. If not, try a different new box, and so on.

Before I continue, I will say that I've never seen or heard of this behavior in a cat that was not deeply distressed or ill. Cats in shelters will sleep in the litter tray because they're stressed, fearful, or ill. So, my first reaction would be to call the vet and get an opinion.

My second reaction would be to put everything back the way it was and try to make the transition slowly. Let your cat decide what's right for her. If she immediately stops sleeping in the box, then you know what the problem was.

My third reaction would be to see if, coincidentally, something else is happening (or happened) to create additional stress on your cat. Then, work on both making your cat feel more comfortable, and removing the source of the stress.

I hope that helps. Good luck with her and please update us on her progress.

-Kurt

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Mar 18, 2009
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Stressed kitten
by: chyle

A kit kat settling into its litter is very stressed and attempting to control the smallest corner of its world, which is all it feels capable of. Spend some extra time socializing the babe. Playtime is recommended.

What has changed in your home to make your kitten guard a small territory with such voracity? New pet? Move? All of which can throw an existing kit cat (especially a young one) into distress.

Be glad that you're not dealing with an older cat who tend to exhibit their displeasure with "MARKING behavior" that can compromise bedding (yours), shoes, keyboards and anything the babe sees as important to you.

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My cat is lying in the litter box

by Ron C
(Wellford, SC USA)

My cat is lying in the litter box. Also she has a black line across the top of her nose, and is not interested in eating or drinking.

My thoughts: I'm sorry to hear that your cat is not feeling good. I'm not sure what the black line is, but the other things you mentioned would concern me.

In my experience, cats often lie down in the litter box when they're stressed or ill.

Your cat is also exhibiting two more signs of stress or illness... not eating and not drinking.

If she were my cat, I would call my vet as soon as possible. Most vets I've dealt with say if your cat is showing signs of illness and refuses to eat or drink, it's time to get medical help.

I hope that helps and I hope your vet can help her heal quickly.
-Kurt

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Cat sleeping in her litter box

by Ashley
(Wareham)

My Cat Momo won't stop sleeping in her litter box even after she uses it. Just a few days ago I noticed I have been seeing my cat less and less.

Today I found my 13 year old Momo sitting in her litter box. I topped it off to her just having to go but hours later there she was still in there and now she was laying down in her own waste.

She wouldn't come out. This all started when I had a new roommate move into my room.

She was doing fine with the addition of two dogs and a new cat but now since the new roommate she won't leave the litter box unless I block it off after pulling her out of it. I don't know what to do.

My thoughts: I'm sorry to hear that Momo is having problems, Ashley. It sounds like your kitty has had to adjust to a lot of changes in her life. Cats hate change!

And they need enough space to be able to time share with the other creatures they live with. If the other creatures in the house don't understand time sharing space, then the cat has to adjust and that causes stress.

Cats may sleep in the litter box when they're highly stressed or depressed, but also when they're ill. The arrival of a new roommate may have been her breaking point, or it may be that she has an illness and the new roommate is a coincidence.

If your vet clears her, then I think it's highly possible she's depressed over her world being infringed on and she feels threatened. Assuming it's not a health issue...

Cats like to be in control, so whenever possible, you want to give them the choice to be alone or be with a person or other animal. You want to do whatever you can to make your cat feel "normal" and in control.

Does Momo have sufficient space so that she can be alone? Did she have a favorite spot or two that is now usually occupied by other creatures?

Can you arrange it so that she can reclaim that space or give her another space to herself?

What about climbing furniture such as cat trees? With two cats, you may need 2 cat trees if there's a battle for high ground.

If she prefers to spend time on the ground rather than up high, can you set up a cave-like space for her? My cat Priscilla used to use the pillows on the bed as a cave. Teddie would hide under the comforter.

Perhaps you can set something up or simply get her a cardboard box to hide in.

Does she have a scratching board or post? Rub catnip on it if she reacts to that and encourage her to use it twice a day. It relieves stress and stretches the muscles.

Get her a catnip plant (I'm sure you've read about placing the catnip inside a bird cage by now) or some cat grass to chew on.

How many litter boxes do you have? With 2 cats, you should normally have 3.

Does your cat get enough exercise? People, cats, dogs... we all need it and it can help alleviate stress.

Do you play with her a lot? I would spend 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening playing with her.

Does she have a favorite toy? Try that first, and also get her some new cat toys. Most cats love toys like Da Bird... feathery flying things. Others like to chase ball toys or rolled up paper -- go with what she likes.

Hide treats around the house for her to forage. It helps bring out that hunting instinct.

I hope that gives you some direction. Please update us on what you try and how she's doing.

-Kurt

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May 09, 2012
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Listen to your Cat
by: Anonymous

I believe your cat is trying to tell you something. Please take her/him to vet. I hope your cat is OK, but, you might want to check for U.T.I. and the cat's kidneys. When a cat acts different in any way, they are telling you something. "Listen to your Cat." I know this because my cat did the same thing.
Good Luck and Best of Health to you and your Cat. :)

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Cat suddenly sleeps in litter box

by Amanda Day
(Spokane, Washington)

All of a sudden my indoor-outdoor one year old cat will only lay by the litter or in the litter box. He even sleeps in the litter box. We move him to his fav chair and fav spot on our bed and he runs right back to the litter box.

He is going to the bathroom outside. Today my husband accidentally let him out so I can't monitor him. He is fixed. I've had many cats with many quirks but have never seen this!

My Thoughts: I'm sorry to hear that your cat is acting strangely, Amanda. I would check with the vet as I suspect he may have a medical problem.

If he has a blockage, he needs help right away.

The only time I've seen or heard of cats doing this is when they are ill or stressed, or they are clinging to the litter box (something familiar) because they're afraid of their environment.

Unless there is something going on in your house that is stressing him or making him fearful (construction, loud noises, new guest, new pet, change in routines, etc.), I think he may need medical help.

I hope that helps and please keep us updated,

-Kurt

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Oct 10, 2014
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by: Mary Caydler

When my cat would sleep in the litter box, he showed when I took him to the vet that he had a bad urinary infection. He could not pee he had to have medication and treatment. Recommend you take to vet.

Oct 10, 2014
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Take him to the vet!!
by: Anonymous

Yes, I think you must see a vet right away. My cat did this shortly before he died. He was 20 years old and had been ill for quite a while. I told myself that doing this reduced his trips to the litter box, which had become difficult, but I felt a chill around my heart. DO seek help soon- your cat is young.

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