Cats can display strange behaviors at home but nothing is more unusual than a cat sleeping in its litter box. You may wonder why your feline is doing this. The following 5 reasons explain why cats sleep in their litter boxes: the litter box gives the cat safety and comfort that he can’t find anywhere else at home, territorial issues with other cats that result in litter box confinement, stress issues, illness (usually urinary issues), and as a way to cool down its body during hot weather.
The cat feels safety and comfort in the litter box
It may be that your cat just loves its litter box so much that he likes to chill or sleep in it. For example, my cat used to chill for long periods of time in her Litter Robot 3 just because it was always so clean and fresh, she couldn’t help it. I had to teach her not to do that (she triggered unwanted auto cleanings all the time due to this). When cats love their litter boxes they adopt them not only as a toilet but also as a bed or a house that provides safety. The following are the reasons why your cat may love its litter box to the point of sleeping or chilling for a long time in it:
- Clean and fresh litter at all times
- Soft sandy litter that the cat loves
- The shape of the litter box
- The box is enclosed providing security, similar to a cat house.
How to help? Get an extra litter box (the same litter box your cat uses) and set it up as a cat bed, placing a soft fluffy blanket that will provide a soft feel on your cat’s paws. If your cat uses a hooded litter box, buy a cat house and place it in a quiet area of your home. This will give your cat the privacy he desperately needs. You don’t need to buy an expensive cat house, sometimes a collapsible cube cat house will do the trick.
If your cat takes naps in one of those self-cleaning litter boxes that stay fresh and clean at all times don’t blame him. Just call your kitty as soon as you see him laying down there and put your cat in its bed. If your feline stays there give it a treat. That is what I did with my cat and it worked. The other option is to distract your cat with a game when you see him ready to take a nap in the litter box.
Inter-cat territorial conflicts
Inter-cat aggression happens when cats feel their territory threatened. A cat sleeps in the litter box as a way to claim it so the other cat doesn’t use it. This action avoids the other cat from leaving its scent in the box. The scent is a huge deal in a cat’s life. According to Cat Behavioral Associates “cats have about 200 million scent receptors in their nostrils and human have about 5 million” Imagine how important scents are for cats. The cat’s scent-marking and scent-detection are constant in a cat’s life. Accordingly, the cat feels much more comfortable with the scents he recognizes which helps him to identify the territory as its own which makes him feel safe. Sleeping in the litter box is a behavior commonly found in cat shelters where cats share a confined space and litter boxes provide safety and security.
How to help? If you have two or three cats, make sure to provide one litter box for each cat and place them in different rooms if possible.
When each cat has its own litter box and one feline still sleeps in its
If your cats have their own litter box and one of your kitties still sleeps in its litter box it could mean its territory in the house has been reduced to the point that he only feels safe in its litter box. According to Ohio State University threatened cats spend much more time away from the family or in areas of the house that other doesn’t use when a dominating cat is present, and this includes the litter box. If your cat sleeps in its litter box and it’s being bullied by the other feline, this is a serious issue that you need to address as a cat owner.
How can you help? You need to redefine the cat’s territorial limits, expanding the dominating cat’s territory by installing a cat door or other means that will lead the bully cat to new areas, so the confined cat can claim more territory as its own. This alone can stop your cat from sleeping in its litter box.
A very stressed cat
The cat litter box is the place where the cat identifies itself due to the scents of its body. It is the core territorial place for a cat and also a safe place, representing something similar to a den for a wild cat. When a wild cat is threatened it retreats into its den immediately and it stays there until the threat is gone. Domestic cats have some of this behavior and they can retreat into their litter boxes for a long time if they feel a frequent threat or stress trigger. This leads to a cat sleeping in its litter box.
We already mentioned that inter-cat territorial issues can cause enormous stress in a cat to the point to confine it to sleeping in the litter box. But also a cat retreats into its litter box due to a stressful noisy home, a family member that frequently yells, lack of a place that the cat can claim as its territory, constant furniture move, and others. Stress is one of the main causes for a cat sleeping in its litter box.
What can you do? Eliminate excessive noises at home and loud music, keep a quiet home without screams, loud laughs, or door slams. Cats are very sensitive to noises and constant stressful events could change the chemical structure in the cat’s brain which is irreversible. According to NCBI if your cat has urinary issues, a stressful home or often routine changes in the cat’s life can worsen some conditions such as UTI which makes the cat stay in the litter box even more.
When cats have an illness such as chronic feline idiopathic cystitis, diabetes, urinary tract issues, or kidney problems they need to urinate more frequently. If a cat lays down or sleeps in the litter box it could be a way to stay in there due to its necessity to eliminate often. The usual behavior of a cat with urinary issues is house soiling but some cats stay in the litter box as a way to avoid this from happening. Their urge to eliminate often makes them prefer to stay in the litter box most of the time. If you notice your cat drinking more water or urinating more than 6 times a day, you must consult your Vet.
To cool down
This is a very unexpected reason for a cat to sleep in its litter box but it can happen. Usually, when cats try to cool down in hot weather they take naps in the litter box because the cat litter is cooler than other surfaces in the house.
The solution for this is simple, just place a metal pan anywhere in the house with no litter in it and no blanket and your feline will sleep there to cool down. Another solution is getting a cooling gel mat that will keep your cat cool during hot weather. This certainly will help your kitty, especially if your feline is a long-haired type cat.
You can learn more about what’s the ideal temperature for a cat to keep a comfortable environment for your feline friend during winter or summer.