Is Your Cat Sleeping in the Litter Box? Here’s Why and How to Stop It

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 05/07/22 •  12 min read
Kitten in bowl

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

I adopted an indoor cat named Maisy earlier this year and she’s taken to it quite well.

She’ll sleep in her bed, play with toys, and even greet me when I get home at 5:30 pm. However, she has one annoying habit that I can’t get rid of — the kitten sleeps in her litter box!

Why would a cat sleep in its litter box for crying out loud!

It is frustrating. The cats seem to like it in there and that area of the house gets smelly.

There are several reasons why she might be using the cat box as their bed.

Reasons like illness, stress, or even boredom can contribute to this behavior. But is this all there is to this trait?

Would you like to stop your kitten from sleeping in the litter box?

Don’t worry, I’ve discovered tips that will help you with this problem and make you an expert on fixing it instantly.

Why is my cat suddenly sleeping in the litter box?

1. Illness: Rule out Sickness!

The health and comfort of your cat purely depend on you.

Surprise! Surprise!

But cats don’t have nine lives, meaning their health and welfare are squarely upon you and your veterinarian.

Observe and understand your cat’s normal litter box routine.  Determine how much water he usually drinks as an increase or decrease in the consumption can be an indicator of an underlying illness.

Once you are dialed in on your cat’s litter box habits, it will be easy to detect diarrhea, constipation, and potential urinary tract problems in their early stages.

Get to know the normal volume and color of his pee and poop.

If your cat is sleeping in a litter box looking sick, the first assumption you should make is that your cat is ill and quickly have her examined by her vet to rule this possibility out.  

You don’t want your cat lying in the litter box sick.

Observe if there are any other accompanying symptoms such as:

Note down these symptoms as they will help your veterinarian arrive at a quick and accurate diagnosis.

Pro tip: Preferably go for a veterinarian who personally owns cats. Personal experience has proved that I relate better to cat owners.

A visit to the vet will determine if the cat has a urinary tract infection that could be causing her to sleep in the kitty box due to the increased urge to urinate.

Remember that your relationship with the veterinarian is more than just an annual visit for vaccinations.

Urine samples will be used to help diagnose any feline urinary tract infections, diabetes, and kidney disease, which can easily crop up unnoticed.

2. Stress:

If your cat is in a stressful situation long enough, he will turn from being playful and healthy to fearful and nervous.

You may ask, what would your cat possibly stress about? Doesn’t he just eat, play, and sleep all day long?

Unfortunately, your cat may encounter many negative things that affect his familiarity, therefore upsetting him.

These stressors cause your cat to retreat to a comfortable, safe spot and that, unfortunately, may end up being the litter tray.

This is because it is a more familiar surrounding and feels more like home.

Some common stress inducers both indoor and outdoor that may result in your cat laying in litter box include:

To ensure your cat feels safe to step out and return to his normal self, get a quiet and safe cat sleeping cardboard box. This is a place where he can rest and hide until he feels comfy and regains his normal behavior.

Watch this 1-minute video on why your cat loves hiding in the litter box

3. Pregnancy: Did I miss my Periods?

You may not have planned it, but what happens if you discover that your cat is pregnant? You probably delayed in having her spayed or you’ve adopted a pregnant stray.

In the first few weeks, there will be little to no signs of a pregnancy except for an increase in weight. Even this, you’ll probably just assume she is binging too much on Papa John’s Pizzas…lol!

Around the 3rd week, your cat may experience morning sickness by vomiting and poor feeding.

This however lasts only a few days. The gestation period of a cat is 65 days.

An expectant cat will be looking for a safe, protected spot to have her kittens and that may be the litter box. This usually occurs when the cat is close to delivery and she can’t find a more suitable place that’s away from traffic and safe for her kittens.

This unfortunately can end up causing the kittens to fall sick.

The solution involves taking her to the veterinarian for confirmation and to receive prenatal care services.

Your vet should give you a proper schedule of the number of visits needed based on your cat’s health assessment.

4. Territorial Guarding: I Don’t Feel Safe Out There!

Territorial aggression is vital in the outdoor feline world because it keeps cats safe and alive. Your indoor cat will display this same innate behavior when he feels his territory is being invaded.

Your kitty will display territorial aggression when:

While territorial aggression can be displayed towards other canines, human beings, and felines, other cats are usually the primary target.

It can be displayed in overt ways or in subtle ways such as guarding the litter box of your cat sitting in the litter box.

Your kitty may sleep in the litter box to avoid being denied access by a bully cat or to your surprise, your sweet kitty might be the bully!

 “Shy cats make good victims and will avoid and/or hide from bullies at all costs, even if this means restricted access to food, water, litter boxes, and human attention.” Karen Overall

5. It’s a kitten, and they are yet to learn!

Kittens are still trying to figure everything out and your kitten sleeping in the litter box is not abnormal. Be patient with the learning curve.

They will normally ape what the mother is doing in terms of using the litter box.

However, if you acquired a new baby without its mother, the first step will be litter box training.

Once he has learned how to use it effectively, then he will outgrow the strange behaviors where your kitten thinks the litter box is a bed to sleep in.

6. A newly adopted cat:

A new cat may bring along strange or different behaviors from their previous animal shelter. This includes your cat laying in the litter box.

The stress of moving into a new home may cause your cat to feel more at ease sleeping in an enclosed space that has his scent.

Make a point of getting a comfortable cat bed for him. While buying one, remember that cats generally prefer an elevated ground for sleeping and chilling.

If you place the kitty bed on the floor in some corner, it may remain forever unused. Pay close attention to the fabrics, places, and elevation that your cat goes to and that will give you a good idea as to where to create the comfiest spot for him.

Questions to ask:

1.     Does he like hidden places?

2.     How high does he like to be?

3.     Does he like to nap on fabric that has your scent?

Answer these questions and you will be guaranteed to create the ideal sleeping area for your kitty.

Pro tip: Once you have adopted a stray cat, ensure he is tested for diseases, checked for worms, and is vaccinated.

 How do I stop my cat from sleeping in the litter box?

1.  Remove the stressors from the cat’s environment:

Identify the cause of the stress and modify or eliminate it.

If a stressful situation is coming up soon, such as moving out or a diet change, prepare your cat gradually for the changes ahead of time.

If it’s a diet change, slowly introduce the new food by mixing it into the current diet. Keep increasing the amount of new food with time.

When moving out, packing in stages, and staying calm is the solution. Upon arrival to the new house, keep your cat in one room and allow him to acclimatize gradually.

Rule of thumb: The bigger the change for your cat, the more prep time is needed. Avoid making a sudden change.

In the event of a sudden unexpected crisis such as a death in the family, maintain his schedule as normal as possible. If you notice he is getting overwhelmed by emotions or your cat sits in the litter box but doesn’t pee, increase his playtime.

Monitor his feeding habits and litter box routine too.

I have used interactive toys in the past to keep them distracted from the negative emotions and keep them focused on something rewarding.

Always make sure that he has access to a quiet safe hiding place away from people, other pets, and noise.

Pro tip: Buy catnip which can help your cat get past a stressful situation and jumpstart your cat to life again.

2.  In a multi-cat household, add more litter boxes:

Place extra cat boxes in different rooms in the house to combat territorial aggression where a bully cat may be hanging out in one litter box.

3.  Pet introduction:

When introducing a new feline, follow the proper feline introduction protocol to ensure acceptability and bonding.

4. Veterinary care:

Take your kitty to the veterinarian to rule out or treat any urinary tract infections and any medical problem.

Cat examination by veterinarian

5.  Provide a cat bed:

Create a cozy bed on an elevated ground with one of your worn sweatshirts. This works well where your kitty loves your scent.

If the room is chilly, especially during winter, ensure the pet bed is heated.

The bed should have its privacy and be hidden away from human traffic and noise. This will allow your kitty to enjoy the quiet environment and solve the problem where your cat likes to sleep in boxes.

6.  Eliminate territorial guarding:

To solve this problem, create some breathing room by adding extra litter boxes in different rooms. This will provide variety and eliminate this territorial guarding.

Ensure that each cat has his food bowl and put them in separate rooms if the bullying intensifies during mealtime.

Pro tip: Put a cat collar with a bell on the bully to alert the victim cat of his presence.

The entrance of a new kitty may trigger a feeling that the resources available will be scarce and are threatened.

Proper cat introduction procedure should therefore be followed.

To reduce territorial conflicts, here are steps to take:

1.      Always introduce a new pet to the resident feline gradually.

2.      Neuter the cats as it reduces aggression where multiple cats are involved.

3.      Provide multiple cat litter boxes since the dominant cat will often bully the submissive one from using the litter pan. If possible let each kitty have its litter box.

4.      Create enough entry and escape routes around the litter boxes to ensure that the less dominant cat doesn’t become trapped or ambushed.

5.      Establish a separate feeding dish for each kitty placed conveniently in separate locations.

6.      Use a room diffuser to ease anxiety and reduce the need to be territorial.

7.      If the situation is severe, consult a cat behaviorist to offer a behavior modification program and pet care instructions.

Why is my old cat sleeping in the litter box?

As cats age, they may develop mobility issues. As a result, moving from one place to another is impaired and your old cat will result in sleeping in her litter box.


Bottom line, if you want to make sure your kitty doesn’t sleep in the litter box, being aware of his sleeping patterns and similar actions is the best way to stop this behavior. If you catch him in the act of trying to get up on the edge of the cat litter box, simply push her off, saying “off” in a firm tone.

He will probably try again but with a different action so be sure to remain alert at all times during these sleeping hours.

It’s a difficult challenge indeed when your beloved kitty starts to prefer the litter box over her bed. The first step, as always, is patience. If you can make an effort not to stress your kitty further, it may alleviate some of these issues.

 If you don’t mind having a cat sleeping in the litter box and are okay with spending more time cleaning than you otherwise would be, then certainly feel free to leave her be. But if this behavior is causing you distress or headaches, then follow the steps outlined in the article to solve this problem.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how easy is it to solve the problem of a cat sleeping in the litter box?

Davis Wilkins

Davis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.