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:

In the "litter box problems" section, another reader mentioned that their cat was sleeping in the litter box. This behavior is usually 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 2 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 a 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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