Your cat’s litter box is a bin—that’s often stinky—where your cat does its business.
Since cats are relatively hygienic, it may surprise you to sometimes find your cat lying in their litter box.
You may wonder if your cat’s feeling ill.
To help you determine if you need to bring your cat to the vet, it’s worth knowing some of the reasons why your cat may decide to lie in their litter box.
Here are 10 potential reasons why your cat is lying in its litter box.
Why Is My Cat Lying In The Litter Box? (10 Potential Reasons)
1. Claiming Or Protecting Territory
One reason why your cat may be lying in the litter box is that they’re claiming their territory.
If you have other cats in the house, especially, it’s not uncommon for some cats to lie in the box to keep others from using it.
Because cats pee and poop in litter boxes, they associate it with their own scent.
In their minds, that area is now their territory.
Animals use different methods to mark their territory.
Some spray urine while others lay droppings.
A few others have odors that they spread around with glands in their paws.
Cats might claim their territory by urinating.
If the cat feels as though its urine isn’t enough to defend its territory, then it might choose to guard it.
If another cat comes by, it might hiss or charge at it to scare the cat off.
Then it might go back to guarding the litter box.
Cats can do this for other animals, too.
If you have a pet dog, for example, your cat might also feel the need to defend its territory from it.
Even if the other pet doesn’t use the litter box, if it comes near it, then the cat may see it as a threat to its territory.
One way that you can help get your cat out of the litter box is to ensure each cat has its own box.
It’s also worth putting them in different areas.
This ensures that the territories don’t mix, and each cat has its own space.
Cats may sometimes lie in the litter box to protect their territory.
Some cats don’t like a lot of attention or affection.
They can be quite independent and often prefer to do their own thing.
If there are other cats around that are playful, then they might also want some privacy from them.
To get that privacy, a cat may choose to lie in their litter box.
It might choose the litter box for a few different reasons.
The first is that it knows the other pets are likely to avoid the area.
Cats, especially, are sanitary and don’t like to be around the area where they urinate and defecate.
Even dogs, who sometimes eat poop, prefer to avoid those areas if they can help it.
Your cat may realize this and choose to lie in the litter box because they know the other pets are unlikely to go there.
That allows them some privacy.
Another reason they might choose the litter box is that they’re usually tucked away in hidden areas.
Most pet owners don’t like to have a litter box in the open for everyone to see.
The smell, alone, can be off-putting to have in the kitchen, the living room, or even the bedroom area.
Because of this, many pet owners put litter boxes in the bathroom, in basements, or even in an unused closet.
These are areas where there isn’t a lot of traffic.
If your cat is trying to hide from other pets, children, or even you, then they might choose the litter box.
There isn’t a lot of activity around it, so the cat feels a sense of privacy there.
If you want to get your cat out of the litter box, then you should create a private area for them where they can hang out unbothered.
That might mean putting a cat tree in the bedroom or having a little den that they can access in the far corner of the house.
Cats sometimes lie in the litter box to get some privacy.
Another reason your cat might be lying in its litter box is that it feels safe there.
Some animals find their own scent comforting.
When they’re surrounded by their own scent, they feel safe and secure.
Your cat may happen to find the scent of its own urine and feces comforting.
This isn’t necessarily the best behavior, however, and it could indicate a larger problem in your household.
For example, it might indicate that your cat is a victim of bullying.
If there are other cats in the house, then it’s worth watching them to see how they treat each other.
It isn’t uncommon for one cat to become more dominant.
They might bully the other cat to make them submissive.
If you have several cats, then it’s even possible that the larger group may bully one cat.
If your cat doesn’t feel safe because of the other cats, then they might hide in the litter box to feel safe.
Yet, other cats aren’t the only thing that can make your cat feel unsafe.
Children can do that, too.
Children can sometimes have a difficult time understanding how to be gentle.
They’re still developing their motor skills.
As such, they may play with your cat a bit roughly.
Cats can’t handle rough play as well as dogs can.
They might become terrified of the child.
To hide from them, they might lie in the litter box.
If you want your cat to feel safe, then you need to address any bullying or rough play that’s happening in your house.
Once your cat starts to feel safe, they’re more likely to come into the open and stop lying in the litter box.
Cats sometimes lie in the litter box because they don’t feel safe.
4. Under Stress
When you’re feeling stressed, one of the ways you might cope is to hide away in a dark, protected, area like your bed or couch.
Cats do the same thing.
When they’re feeling stressed, they also retreat to places where they feel comfortable or safe.
To some cats, the litter box might be a safe or comfortable place.
They might lie there to relax and try to cope with their stress.
They might also choose to lie in the litter box because of the unfortunate repercussions of their stress.
For example, some people tend to eat a lot of junk food when they’re stressed.
They sometimes pay later with indigestion and unpleasant experiences in the bathroom.
Cats do something similar.
If they’re stressed, then they have problems digesting.
They might even have traces of blood in their stool.
Because they’re under a lot of stress, some cats will choose to lie in the litter box since they know that they’re going to need to use it.
If the stress is causing them digestive problems, then they might even be lying there because they feel as though they need to use the bathroom.
Cats can be easy to stress out.
Even something as simple as changing their food or moving their cat tree can cause them stress.
If you want to help get your cat out of the litter box, you should find ways to ease their stress levels.
Keeping them on a routine is one way to do that.
Introducing new things to them slowly is another way to keep them stress-free.
Cats sometimes lie in their litter box when they’re feeling stressed.
5. Urinary Tract Problems
If your cat is lying in the litter box, then it might be because it’s suffering from Feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD.
There are several conditions that fall under FLUTD.
FLUTD affects the cat’s bladder and urethra.
When a cat has FLUTD, it can make it extremely painful for them to urinate.
Some common symptoms include:
- Only being able to urinate in small amounts
- Straining while urinating
- Prolonged attempts to urinate
- Frequent urination
- Crying or whimpering while urinating
- Urinating outside of the litter box
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Blood in the urine
Not unlike a urinary tract infection in humans, it can sometimes come from bacteria.
In this case, a cat can find relief with some medication.
However, FLUTD can result from something as simple as stress.
If the cat lives in a stressful environment, then its body might develop FLUTD.
Since they’re having problems with urination, they may lie in the litter box because they want to ensure that they’re right there when they need to urinate.
If they’re urinating frequently, then they might lie in the box to ensure they don’t have any accidents.
Others may lie in the box because the symptoms of FLUTD are making them too exhausted to leave it.
You can help get your cat out of the litter box by doing what you can to alleviate their FLUTD.
If it’s bacterial, then you can get them medication.
If it’s caused by stress, then you should determine the triggers of the stress and remove them.
When your cat’s FLUTD clears up, they should no longer lie in the litter box.
Some cats may be lying in a litter box because they’re suffering from FLUTD.
If you notice that your cat is lying in their litter box, then it might also be because they’re suffering from diarrhea.
Cats get cases of diarrhea just like humans.
Also, like humans, there are numerous reasons why they might have diarrhea.
Because the cat doesn’t want to soil themselves or miss the litter box, they might choose to lie in the box until they’re feeling better.
If you notice that your cat has diarrhea, then you should monitor them.
While a bit of diarrhea now and then isn’t a cause for concern, if it lasts for several days, then it could indicate a larger problem.
You’ll also want to make sure that your cat gets plenty of water.
Diarrhea makes one lose a lot of water.
If your cat isn’t drinking water to make up for it, then they can become dehydrated which can make things even worse.
There are several reasons for diarrhea in cats.
Some of the less concerning reasons have to do with stress and diet.
If your cat is feeling stressed, then it might have diarrhea.
Once the stress is gone, the diarrhea should subside.
A change in diet can also make them have diarrhea.
If the new food is rich and they’re not used to it, then their bodies might have some digestive problems for a bit.
It’s also possible that the cat might be suffering from a food allergy.
The allergy could be causing diarrhea.
On the more serious side, your cat could have some sort of virus or bacterial infection.
It’s even possible that it has a parasite.
In these cases, it’s best to take your cat to the vet for treatment.
By taking care of the causes of diarrhea, your cat can leave the litter box since they no longer feel out of control of their bodies.
Cats sometimes lie in the litter box when they’re experiencing a bout of diarrhea.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell that your cat is suffering from an illness.
However, if they’re lying in their litter box, then this could be a sign that they aren’t feeling well.
Cats are prone to many different illnesses.
Like humans, they can get cancer and diabetes.
If your cat is suffering from either cancer or diabetes, then they might lie in the litter box because they’re exhausted or don’t feel well.
They may feel safe in the litter box or may feel that they need to be close to it in case they have an accident.
Cats can also get a common disease called feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
This is a virus that attacks a cat’s immune system.
It makes them feel extremely ill.
They might lie in the litter box because they’re vomiting or have diarrhea.
The problem with FeLV is that its symptoms aren’t always noticeable at first.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your cat if they’re lying in their litter box.
Your cat may be lying in their litter box because they’re ill.
8. Pleasant Smell
Litter boxes don’t smell great.
That’s caused some companies to make new litter that smells pleasant.
Some of the smells get released after a cat paws around the sand to bury its feces.
If your cat enjoys the smell, then it might choose to lie in the box.
Luckily, there is an easy way to get your cat out of the box in this case.
You can switch to a litter that doesn’t have any smell to it.
Without the pleasant smell, your cat may no longer want to be around that area.
Sometimes your cat may lie in the litter box because they like the smell of it.
9. Cool Area
If you live in a hot climate, then your cat might go to their litter box for refuge.
Litter boxes are typically placed in cool areas in the home.
Most pet owners put them in areas where people can’t generally see them.
Since they’re often kept out of the main living areas in the home, litter boxes tend to be in cooler areas like basements, bathrooms, and dark closets.
Since the area is cooler, it’s attractive to cats who are feeling hot because of the weather.
This might be especially true for cats with long hair.
If you’re living in a hot area without air conditioning, then it’s even more likely that they’ll seek out a litter box to stay cool.
Some cats may even find the sand comfortable.
If you want to get your cat out of the litter box, then you should look at making your home cooler.
One thing you can do is install air conditioning.
There are window units and portable units that can be more affordable options if you can’t afford a huge central cooling unit.
You can also rip out some carpet and replace it with hard flooring instead.
That provides a cool surface where your cat can lay.
Finally, you should consider creating a dark den and adding a fan that blows a light breeze.
This can give your cat a cool and comfortable place to hang out instead of their litter box.
Your cat might escape into their litter box if they’re feeling hot.
10. Digestive Problems
A final reason why your cat might be lying in their litter box is because of digestive problems.
A food allergy is a common reason for digestive problems.
If your cat is having trouble digesting something properly, then they may become constipated.
When they’re feeling constipated, they may feel the need to linger around the litter box until they can pass their waste.
Certain digestive problems might also give them an upset stomach.
If they ate something they weren’t supposed to or ate too much of something, then their stomach might hurt or feel uncomfortable.
To ensure they’re right where they need to be to vomit or defecate, they might choose to lie in their litter box.
Digestive problems might also make them feel lethargic or exhausted.
They may simply not have enough energy to leave the litter box.
Instead, they may just lie down in the comfortable sand and take a nap.
You can help your cat leave their litter box by determining the cause of the digestive problem.
If it’s a food allergy, then you’ll want to replace the food.
If they ate too much, then you might want to try and encourage them to drink water to help break it all down.
It’s even possible that the food that they’re eating is too rich for them to handle.
By making these changes, you can help improve their digestion and make them feel comfortable about leaving the litter box.
Some cats might lie in the litter box when they’re having digestion problems.
If your cat is lying in its litter box, then it may cause you some concern.
Sometimes the reasons are harmless like the cat finds the box comfortable or wants to keep others away from it.
However, sometimes the reasons can be problematic and can indicate that your cat is ill or extremely stressed.
By identifying and removing the reason causing your cat to lie in the litter box, you can encourage them to lie in a more sanitary area.