One day, I woke up to find my Maine Coon cat, Chelle, just chilling in her litter box. Not digging, scratching, or anything. Just sitting there doing nothing. Like what?
After doing more research and talking to my veterinarian about this unusual behavior, I learned it’s potentially indicative of an underlying health issue!
So if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve noticed your cat laying in its litter box and you’re wondering why. In the following sections, I’ll get into the possible causes of this habit and what can be done. Let’s start.
Defining the Behavior
Just what exactly do I mean when talking about a cat staying in their litter box? This is not normal behavior and you will know it when you see it, most likely. But here are some main indicators to watch for:
- Frequent visits to the litter box
- Long periods of time spent in the box
- Seemingly relaxing in the litter tray
- Straining or crying while trying to urinate
- Blood in urine
Now if these signs persist over more than 24 hours, it’s essential you seek veterinary care immediately. But, try not be too alarmed yet; there may also be behavioral reasons behind this.
Reasons Why is Your Cat Laying in their Litter Box
There’s quite a few common reasons why your feline friend might be spending an excessive amount of time in their litter box.
Health issues may cause this unusual behavior. Felines suffering from kidney disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder stones or other painful conditions might associate the relief of pain with their litter box and so spend excessive time there while sick.
Urinary tract disease includes conditions such as cystitis, bladder stones or urinary tract infections. These disorders can make urinating painful for your cat. Consequently, they’ll often linger in their litter box crying, trying to relieve the discomfort.
Older male cats are especially susceptible to urinary disease.
- Cystitis: an inflammation of the bladder
- Bladder Stones: hard masses of minerals that form in the bladder
- UTIs: infections that occur anywhere in the urinary system
Another condition causing cats to lay more frequently in their litter box is arthritis. As cats age, joint pain from arthritis can make it difficult for them to move around comfortably. The soft litter provides some relief from this discomfort, leading them to spend more time there.
Now if a female is laying in the litter box, it could be a happy moment, because she may be pregnant!
Lastly, gastrointestinal issues like constipation or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) compel cats towards their litter boxes too. When dealing with stomach pains or difficulty defecating, a cat’s instinctive response is often to head for its familiar and safe spot – like sleeping in the litter box.
Stress and Anxiety
Your cat could be dealing with stress or anxiety. Cats are known for being creatures of habit—they thrive on routine and predictability. When there’s a disruption to their regular routine, they may start to display unusual behaviors as a result of stress.
A major change in your home environment is a common trigger for feline stress – moving houses, loud noises, introducing a new cat or even changing the cat food brand could send them seeking refuge in familiar territory, which often happens to be their litter box.
Here are some common signs of stress in cats:
- Excessive grooming: If your cat seems to be grooming themselves more than usual, it might be due to anxiety. Over-grooming can lead to patches of hair loss and skin irritations.
- Changes in eating habits: Just like humans, cats can lose their appetite when they’re stressed out.
- Aggressive or withdrawn behavior: An anxious cat might become more aggressive towards other pets or people in the house. On the flip side, they may also become more withdrawn, hiding away from others.
Try identifying any potential triggers for stress—like changes in environment or schedule—and remove them if possible.
In cat land, environment plays a crucial role. The setting in which your cat spends its time can significantly influence its behavior, even down to details like the litter box.
If you’ve ever rearranged furniture around or moved house, you might have seen this firsthand.
Your otherwise calm and collected kitty might start acting out – maybe they’re scratching more than usual, or perhaps they’re spending an unusual amount of time in their litter box. This isn’t uncommon; many pet owners have shared similar stories.
Cats are naturally territorial creatures who thrive on routine and predictability.
When something disrupts that stability – whether it’s as major as moving to a new home or as minor as changing the location of something after cleaning – they may retreat to familiar enclosed spaces (like their litter boxes) where they feel safe.
Here’s how different environmental factors can affect our fluffy pals:
- Space: Cats need plenty of room to roam and play.
- Noise: Loud sounds can cause anxiety and fear.
- Smell: Strong odors may be off-putting or disorienting for cats.
- Temperature: Extreme temperatures can pose health risks and lead to discomfort.
What To Do About Your Cat Sitting in the Litter Box
When it comes to solving the problem of your cat sitting in its litter box, I’ve got some tried and tested strategies. The key is to encourage healthier behaviors, and there are several approaches you can take.
Enrich the Environment
First, let’s talk about creating a more inviting environment outside the litter box. Cats are sticklers for cleanliness, so keeping their surroundings spick-and-span will make them more likely to lounge around elsewhere.
Regularly clean their litter box, their sleeping and play areas; they’ll appreciate it.
Add cat beds, cat trees, a cardboard box with a T-shirt of yours, and more to attract them to chill in a more suitable place.
Address Health Issues
Next up on the agenda is addressing potential medical issues.
If you suspect your cat is in their litter tray due to health problems like urinary tract infections or arthritis, call your vet. This was the issue with my cat. After a round of amoxicillin (3 times a day for 7 days), it cleared up.
Here’s a quick rundown of other symptoms that could indicate health issues:
- Lack of appetite
- Changes in grooming habits
- Unusual aggression
Include Mental Stimulation
Don’t overlook the importance of mental stimulation. Cats love interactive toys and games that challenge them mentally. Try introducing puzzle feeders or laser toys into their routine; it might just be enough to distract them from their odd litter box habit.
Create Safe Spaces
Cats need safe places where they can retreat when feeling threatened or anxious. Providing multiple hiding spots around your home can offer them the safety they crave without resorting to the litter box.
If stress could be causing this behavior, calming products like Feliway diffusers may help soothe your flustered cat.
Like with so many aspects of cat parenting, it’s clear that a variety of factors can influence why your cat might be lounging in their litter tray
First off, stress is a significant factor. Changes in environment or routine can make your feline companion feel uneasy, leading them to find comfort in the familiar confines of their litter box. If you suspect stress, try to identify and eliminate the source if possible.
Health issues and medical conditions are another major trigger for cats seeking refuge in their litter boxes. Bladder stones or urinary tract issues could cause discomfort for your kitty and change their bathroom habits dramatically. If you suspect health problems, seek veterinary advice immediately.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.