Why do Cats Lay in Litter Box?

why do cats lay in litter box

Believe it or not, it’s not that unusual for some cats to hang out in the litter box, even when they aren’t using it. If your cat is laying in the litter box, there may be a lot of reasons for the behavior, and some of them may be cause for concern. So let’s look at the reasons cats lay in the litter box.

Personal Reasons that Cats Lay in the Litter Box

The cat got distracted

Some cats are very efficient with the litter box, and get in and quickly do their business and get out. Some cats spend a long time digging and pawing and messing around in the litter box, and eventually get distracted and just stay in there for a while.

The cat got sleepy

Kittens, in particular, will fall asleep where ever they happen to be, even in the litter box.

The cat is comfortable

Some cats seem to just enjoy laying on the sandy surface of their litter box.

Social Reasons that Cats Lay in the Litter Box

The cat is anxious

Some cats spend extra time laying in the litter box because they are anxious, and it smells familiar and comforting to them. Often cats that are in a new environment or experiencing stress will spend extra time in the litter box and be reluctant to come out.

The cat is playing

Cats often enjoy playing a game where they hide and then pounce out to attack their humans, other cats, or imaginary aliens. For some cats, the litter box is a good place to hide and prepare to pounce on someone.

The cat is being aggressive or territorial

Some cats lay or stay in a litter box as an act of aggression against other cats or pets, as a way of displaying ownership and keeping anyone else from using it. Instead of “king of the hill,” they are being “king of the litter box.”

Health Reasons that Cats Lay in the Litter Box

The cat has digestive, kidney, or bladder problems

If a cat is experiencing pain, difficulty urinating, constipation, frequent urination, or other health problems, they may stay in the litter box because they are having trouble going, or because even when they do go, they need to go again right away.

The cat is pregnant

As with humans, pregnancy in a cat can press on their bladder and make them urinate more often. A pregnant cat may also think that a litter box is a comfortable, private, safe place to have her kittens (which it isn’t).

What to do if Your Cat Lays in the Litter Box?

If your cat suddenly starts laying in the litter box when they haven’t in the past, it could be a sign of a medical condition, and you should take them to the vet for a checkup.

If your cat is healthy, but spends a lot of time in the litter box, here are a few things you can do:

Give the cat a cat bed

If a cat is laying in the litter box because it is comfortable and familiar, a cat bed may provide the same feeling of comfort, while being a little bit more sanitary.

Give the cat a cat house or a box

If the cat is laying in the litter box because they are anxious and want a safe space, a box is the perfect answer. In fact, studies show that boxes help cats reduce anxiety and manage stress.

If you have a litter box, particularly if it’s covered, and your cat is spending a lot of time in there, it could simply be that your cat needs a box. Boxes are also great places for cats to play, so a box might help keep a cat out of the litter box in multiple ways.

Get more litter boxes

If your cat is laying in the litter box as a sign of aggression or dominance against other cats in the house, solve the problem by making sure you have a litter box for every cat you have. It may not stop the bossy cat from dominating a litter box, but it gives the other cats alternatives and reduces competition between the cats in the house.


Laying in the litter box is not always a sign that a cat is unhappy or distressed; some cats seem to simply like it in there more than others. It’s not always a cause for concern.

But if it’s a change in their normal behavior, or a response to a new and stressful situation, then it’s a good idea to take it more seriously. When in doubt, leave a cardboard box on the floor and see if the cat prefers to spend time in a cardboard box than in the litter box.

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