Why Do Cats Lie in the Litter Box?

Cats are very hygienic and clean animals. They have places to sleep and other places to attend to their toilet needs. However, sometimes, it happens that cats lie in the litter box. What does this mean? Is this normal, or should we be concerned?

Cats may begin to lie or even sleep in their litter box due to stress or physical discomfort. For example, if they feel unsafe, they will look for an area that smells like them. When they hide somewhere quiet, cats feel less vulnerable. Older cats with dementia may be confused and unable to find other sleeping places.

The best way to keep a cat from sleeping in its litter box is to meet its needs.

If the cat has mobility issues, you could provide a ramp, stairs, or a litter box with a flatter edge.

Reduce the stress your cat feels by providing a safe, hygienic shelter. You can also surround her with toys that smell like her, so she doesn’t have to use her litter box as a territory.

So it would help if you tailored the solution to your cat’s specific problem. If your cat has mobility issues, a urinary tract infection, or some other ailment, she may not be able to get out of the litter box.

If going to the bathroom takes too long, she may get tired and sleep there instead.

Cats should not lie or sleep in the litter box for long periods, as they will expose themselves to bacteria and other pathogens.

Why Do Cats Lie in the Litter Box?

Cats are hygienic pets. Most try to separate their toilet, eating, and sleeping areas.

If your cat suddenly forgoes this to nap in their litter box, you can be sure something is wrong.

Whether it is a physical ailment or a behavioral problem, this may be due to the following reasons.

The Cat Wants to Feel Safe

Hiding in the litter box is a common reaction of frightened cats. This is partly because the cat is looking for a protected area that smells like itself.

Cats mark their territory with their urine. The smell of cat urine varies from cat to cat. Its smell is a signal to other cats to stay away.

The smell of their urine can be comforting to cats. It proves this is their home; no other cat wants to intrude.

Of course, a litter box smells too strongly of their feces and urine. Cats are still very concerned with cleanliness and are uncomfortable sitting in filth.

However, they will take whatever they can get if they feel particularly threatened. Instead of another safe territory, cats go to their litter box.

For an older cat that feels unsafe, this is a good choice. Cats feel especially vulnerable when they are sleeping.

If your senior cat is napping here, it’s a clear sign that she’s not just temporarily agitated. She needs help feeling less restless.

The Cat Feels Stressed

Even if your cat doesn’t feel unsettled, she may feel overwhelmed. You may have a new baby in the house, taken in a new roommate, or have a lot of guests.

If you have a new pet, have redecorated the home, or have construction nearby, all of this can be stressful for a cat.

She may want to hide if she feels overstimulated by new sights, sounds, and creatures.

The litter box lends itself to this, as it is often placed in out-of-the-way places. There won’t be many people around, so the cat will have peace.

Also, boxes that have a lid are a good hiding place.

When a cat has two or, better yet, three walls around it, it feels safe. The walls reduce the cat’s blind spot, making it feel more comfortable.

This is even more true if you have moved. Cats take a while to get used to their new home decor.

Their beds, toys, and play areas may be new or thoroughly cleaned, so their familiar smell disappears.

The litter boxes, however, may retain the cat’s odor because urine is difficult to wash out. This makes it easier for your cat to find a familiar piece of home and relax.

Urinary Tract Infections

Cats usually avoid lying in their urine. However, a medical problem might leave the cat with no other choice.

Cats suffering from a urinary tract infection may take a long time to go to the bathroom.

If they get tired or feel they can’t pee properly but still feel the urge, they may lie down and appear to sleep.

If your cat does this all the time, it may seem like they have chosen this spot as their new bed.

Urinary tract infections come from bacteria that enter the urethra and cause painful urination.

Because cats have excellent and extensive grooming habits, they are often resistant to UTIs. However, older cats with pre-existing conditions are 29% more likely to develop a UTI.

How can you tell if your cat has a UTI? Symptoms of a urinary tract infection in cats include:

  • Frequent urination with only small amounts of urine.
  • Tightness when urinating
  • Howling when urinating
  • Urinating outside of the litter box.
  • Blood in the urine
  • Frequent licking of the genitals.

Contact your veterinarian if you think your cat has a urinary tract infection. It’s a painful condition for her of all people to live with, and it won’t go away without veterinary treatment.


Older cats, just like people, can develop dementia. If your cat is disoriented, she may not remember where her sleeping places are.

She may lie down to sleep wherever she is, even in the litter box. If the cat is confused, she may even mistake her litter box for her original sleeping spot, regardless of the inconvenience.

Cognitive dysfunction in cats can be caused by a lack of nutrients and minerals in the diet.

Another cause could be high blood pressure, to which older cats are particularly susceptible.

Cats with dementia often exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Aimless running around the house
  • Wandering around for no apparent reason
  • Random vocalizations

In extreme cases, cats with dementia might lose their vision, orientation, and mobility. If you notice these signs, you should contact your veterinarian.

Mobility Problems

Older cats may sleep in their litter box due to mobility problems.

The most common reason for this is osteoarthritis, which is quite common in older cats. More than 90% of cats over the age of 12 show symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis means that the cartilage that cushions the joints wears away. This causes the bones around the joints to rub against each other. This is very painful when your cat walks, stands or moves.

Osteoarthritis can be caused by normal, expected degeneration of the joints. However, it can also be caused by an injury to the joints, which causes the cartilage to wear down more quickly.

Cats with osteoarthritis have more difficulty getting on surfaces such as window ledges, tables, sofas, or even the litter box.

The cat may prefer to stay in the box rather than climb out in pain. Some cats even avoid going into the litter box and do their business in inappropriate places.

Symptoms of arthritis in cats include:

  • Reluctance to jump up and down or use the stairs
  • More time to sleep or rest
  • Less interaction with owner or other pets
  • Less grooming
  • Excessive grooming of joints
  • Dull claws due to lack of sharpening
  • Irritability to touch

My Cat Sleeps in the Litter Box After Surgery

A surgical procedure can be a difficult time for any cat. Regardless of the type of surgery, you should expect some behavioral changes.

After surgery, cats can be irritable and restless and have difficulty interacting with other cats. They may also begin to sleep in their litter box regularly.

This is usually due to the following reasons:

  • The cat is stressed and insecure: whether due to the vet visit’s stress or the cure’s side effects, your cat will seek a place to hide.
  • The cat is tired: If your cat is feeling lethargic or tired, it may be challenging to enter and exit the litter box. She would prefer to stay put.

The good news is that this habit should subside as your cat recovers.

Meanwhile, move your cat to a cleaner area where she can nap. Provide her with a more comfortable shelter.

Place a cat bed, toys, and food next to or under your bed to keep the cat comfortable.

However, contact your veterinarian if you notice your cat yowling, straining, or otherwise taking a long time to do her business.

Your cat may suffer from intestinal distress, depending on the surgery. This is usually the result of complications from the surgery or the medications she is taking.

My Older Cat Sits in the Litter Box

Perhaps your older cat does not sleep in the litter box but sits there. This may mean that your cat is having trouble defecating.

This is especially common in senior cats that develop bowel problems. It may take longer for the cat to do its business, or it may be in pain and not want to move.

Your cat may also sit in her litter box to get your attention. She is trying to signal to you that something is wrong.

Maybe the litter box needs to be emptied, or she can’t reach her toys nearby.

Is It Bad When Cats Lie in the Litter Box?

You may think letting the cat take her nap where she pleases is okay. This is especially true if she has mobility issues and has difficulty doing anything else.

However, it would be best if you tried to stop this behavior.

Litter boxes are a breeding ground for disease. A cat sleeping in her litter box is more likely to pick up bacteria and infections.

She can also spread germs around the house and pass them on to you and your family.

How Can You Keep Cats from Lying in the Litter Box?

Fortunately, there are ways to get your cat to stop lying or sleeping in her litter box.

It may take patience, a new litter box, or the help of a veterinarian, but it can be done.

Make Sure Your Cat is Healthy

Before you try to change your cat’s litter box habits, rule out the possibility that your cat is sick.

Sleeping in the litter box is a common sign that your cat is sick. Observe your cat and determine if there are any other behavioral changes.

Significant symptoms to watch for are:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • More frequent sleeping
  • Lack of grooming

If any of these behaviors occur in your cat, contact your veterinarian.

Provide Mobility Aids

Mobility aids are a must for older cats. This is true even if your cat doesn’t seem to have much trouble with movement.

Cats instinctively aim to hide their pain as much as possible. With a few helpful aids, your cat will be more comfortable and less likely to stay in his litter box long-term.

Well-suited aids for cats with mobility issues include:

  • Litter boxes with a flatter rim
  • Ramps for litter boxes and other areas of the home
  • Stairs for litter boxes, sofas, and beds in your home
  • Carpeting on sloped surfaces so the cat has a better grip

It also reduces the litter your cat spreads outside the litter box.

Since she no longer has to climb in and out, she can thoroughly clean her paws before leaving the litter box.

Provide a Better Sleeping Place

Cats sleeping in their litter box can be discouraged if better sleeping options are available. Each cat has its own preferences, so trying different cat beds is a good idea.

Cat mats allow cats to lounge and stretch out. Enclosed cat beds allow cats to snuggle up against the bed’s walls. Older cats also appreciate heated beds to relieve joint pain.

No matter what type of bed you choose, make sure your cat’s bed is just the right size. Make sure it is always clean.

Avoid Stress for the Cat

Stress is one of the main reasons cats lie down and sleep in their litter box. Determine what is upsetting your cat, and then eliminate the problem. Or at least try to reduce it.

Energetic children, playful kittens, or loud noises are a common source of stress for older cats.

If this is the case, try to give your cat a quiet place to hide and rest.

Give your cat time to adjust for stress caused by changes in daily routine.

Ensure she gets extra comfort and attention from you, and reduce the number of changes she experiences.

For example, don’t wash the bedding during a move so the cat can notice the familiar smell. And put your cat’s belongings in the same place as before.