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Why Do Cats Sit In Their Litter Box – 6 Reasons

As cat owners, we have all had that moment where we go running around our house looking for our cat. They are not in their usual hiding places; perhaps they found somewhere new? All that matters is finding them, so you know they are not lost. Then you realize they have been sitting in their litter box this whole time. Not going to the bathroom, just sitting there watching you frantically look for them. This behavior is relatively common in cats. So, why do cats sit in their litter box?

A cat sits in its litter box for a variety of different reasons. These reasons can range from simply being comfortable to feeling unwell and needing medical attention.

Every cat will have different reasons for wanting to sit in its litter box. It is essential to understand why your cat is doing it to determine if it is normal, non-harmful behavior or trying to signal to you that they need help.

6 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Sitting In Their Litter Box

There are several common reasons as to why your cat likes to sit in its litter box. Understanding these possibilities will help you to identify them quicker if and when your cat exhibits these behaviors. The faster you can determine the cause, the faster you can get them help if they need it. Fortunately, most of the reasons as to why your cat likes to sit in their litter box are not harmful, so it will be something they can continue doing, as long as you are okay with it.

1. The Litter Box Is Their Safe Space

Cats are always going to find their little safe spaces in every home. For many cats, this safe space is their litter box. It smells familiar; it’s small and enclosed, so they cannot be surprised by something coming towards them. If you move frequently and have moved the same litter box each time, they might be especially drawn towards this litter box because it has been the most consistent safe space for them.

2. They Need Some Alone Time

Sometimes their litter box is the only place they can go to get away from everyone. Especially if you are in a home with many people and/or many pets, your cat will look for somewhere private to hide and recharge.

3. Defending Their Territory

Some cats will become very territorial over their litter box, which will be why they sit in it and choose not to leave it. They want to stay in their spaces so they can defend themselves from any unwanted intruders. This behavior is more commonly seen in houses with multiple cats. Usually, one cat will decide the litter box is theirs and will act more aggressively towards the other cats that try to use it.

4. They Could Have Dysuria

Dysuria is an illness that affects your cat’s ability to urinate. This illness could cause blood in their urine, frequent urination, or urination inconsistently, all of which would cause them to sit in their litter box for long periods. It is essential to seek medical attention for Dysuria as soon as possible as combatting the illness can lead to nausea, fatigue, and exhaustion in your cat.

5. Trying To Pass A Kidney Stone

Kidney stones can be excruciating and challenging for your cat to pass. Several complications could occur. These stones can cause blockage in their urinary tract and can lead to infection. This blockage can cause kidney and heart failure within 24 hours in the most severe cases. Get them to the doctor immediately if you suspect your cat might be trying to pass a kidney stone.

6. Variety Of Medical Reasons

While Dysuria and kidney stones are the most common medical reasons as to why your cat is just sitting in their litter box, there are a variety of other issues that could cause this behavior. Your cat could have a gastrointestinal issue that is causing them to defecate more frequently.

Consulting your veterinarian and changing their diet can solve this issue rather easily. Or, if you have an older cat, they may be starting to experience arthritis, and jumping in and out of the litter box has become more painful. You can remedy this by getting them a litter box with lower edges, making it easier for them to get in and out of it.

Why Is My Cat Laying In Their Litter Box

Your cat is likely lying in their litter box because they find it a comfortable and relaxing place to lay. This is especially likely if you see them calmly lying down in there; you may even find them purring. For many cats, their litter box serves as a safe space to find seclusion. They can relax and recharge before having to be social again. 

You should be concerned about your cat lying in their litter box if it seems they are distressed and uncomfortable. Sometimes when cats are not feeling well, they will lay in their litter boxes, just in case they get sick, so they are already in the proper place to vomit or have diarrhea. If you notice your cat panting or meowing differently than they usually do as they lay in their litter box, take them to their veterinarian to get a professional opinion. It is likely they need some help feeling better.

Why Does My Cat Sleep In Their Litter Box

Cats typically sleep in their litter boxes if it is a behavior they learned in childhood. For many cats that grew up in a multi-pet home, their litter box was the only place they could get some peace. Or, if you move them frequently from home to home, their litter box may be the most familiar space, so they are more comfortable falling asleep easily.

As long as your cat seems comfortable and peacefully resting, there is no need to be concerned about why they are sleeping in their litter box. If you are okay with it, then it is a behavior they can continue to keep up. However, if you are concerned about them laying in the dirt of their litter box and tracking it more through your house, you may want to start taking steps to discourage that behavior. 

Is My Cat Sick If They Spend A Lot Of Time In Their Litter Box

There is a possibility that your cat is feeling sick if they spend a lot of time in their litter box. Gently pull them out of the litter box and conduct a visual inspection to confirm this. Take note of if they fought you or yelled when being pulled out and if it was different from their usual behavior as if they are in pain. Look for any cuts, lumps, bumps, or abrasions causing pain and discomfort.

If they physically look okay, massage down their neck and slowly down the rest of their body to feel for anything out of the ordinary, like swelling or cysts. Pay attention to how they react as you massage down their body. If they suddenly jerk or get tense in a particular area, that may be the source of the discomfort. Or they might start to growl at you when you get close to certain areas to warn you that there is pain.

Once you have confirmed that something is wrong, take them to a veterinarian for further medical advice. The sooner you take them, the better, as there can be various medical reasons that cause them to spend more time in their litter box. Some of these reasons have a simple remedy and short recovery time, while others can be more serious and possibly life-threatening. The quicker they are treated, the quicker they will be feeling better. 

What To Do If Your Cat Keeps Sitting In Their Litter Box

Even if your cat is not experiencing a medical issue, you probably still want to get them to stop sitting in their litter box. There are a couple of things you can do depending on what is causing this behavior in your cat.

If they are sitting in their litter box because it feels safe, try looking for any current stressors. Did any routines recently change? Environment change? Things like this can stress your cat out, and they will seek out a safe place to stay. You can help ease them out of their litter box by trying to remove anything anxiety-inducing in their environment. You can also create other small spaces to become their new safe space by using cat beds, blankets, and some catnip to entice them over.

Your cat might be bored and turning towards their litter box for entertainment. To fix this, you can get them more interactive toys. Schedule some time in your day to play with them to give them the stimulation. Then they will be less likely to sit and play in their litter box. Plus, you can get battery-operated toys for them that will move around and keep them entertained even when you are not home!

If your cat is getting territorial over their space, you can help reduce this behavior by keeping them on a strict schedule with a solid routine. Territorial cats tend to do better with a more rigid routine. They don’t have to stress out when they get to eat because they trust you to take care of them due to how consistent the schedule has been. Also, giving them their own unique sleeping spot will help them to leave the litter box alone.

If you suspect your cat is feeling sick, immediately getting them to the veterinarian is essential. It could be something simple that is easily fixed, but worst comes to worst; it could be a life-threatening medical issue. Time is of the essence, so get your cat to the doctor’s office as quickly as possible to get any treatment they need.

Things To Consider

Some cats will also use their litter box to go into labor. Pregnant cats will always find a safe, quiet, and secluded space to give birth so they can relax and focus on their kittens. Often, their litter box provides the perfect environment.

If your cat has chosen to give birth in her litter box, then it is perfectly fine to keep her there. Keep the environment temperate for her and add some towels and blankets outside of the litter box, so she has somewhere to lie if she chooses to come out. She will likely spend some time in their relaxing after her kittens are born, but after a day or so, she will want to come out to a more comfortable space with her litter.