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Why does my cat sleep in the litter box?

Updated November 21, 2016

Some cats suddenly start sleeping in the litter box. Owners are understandably perplexed about the cause and wonder how they can eradicate the problem while ensuring their cat stays healthy and hygienic. A cat spending much of its time in the litter box surely is spreading all kinds of bacteria around the home, so a solution must be found.

First Signs

Some owners first notice their cat becoming nervous, anxious or shy; this cats may gradually start sleeping in its litter box. In other cases, a cat may start toileting elsewhere and no longer want to use its litter box for defecation and urination. This may begin before the cat starts using the litter box as its bed. However, some pets do carry on using the litter box for toileting--even when they are also sleeping in it. The animal soon ends up smelly and unhygienic as well as being a generally unhappy, depressed pet.

Causes

The usual cause of a cat sleeping in its litter box is stress or anxiety caused by environmental change, such as an increase in household activity or new members in the home. The litter box feels like a safe place to sleep; it's high sided, smells only of the cat, and is usually in a place out of the way of family and busy feet. The problem can also begin when a cat is confined to a space with its litter box, as the box starts being seen as a potential sleeping place; covered boxes appear especially cosy.

Veterinary Help

You should always seek veterinary help for any unusual behaviour in a cat, especially if the cat begins toileting elsewhere in the home; this can indicate a urinary tract infection or other physiological problem, although in most cases the cause is behavioural.

Home Environment

The best way to stop a cat from sleeping in its litter box is to de-stress the home. Think about what may have changed in the home to incur stress behaviours and change them back. Stress-prone felines need a quiet and calm home and should have plenty of privacy.

Provide Safe Places

Give your cat other safe places to sleep and enjoy. Tall cat trees and climbers are effective behavioural aides; high-up places help cats feel safe. All cats love cardboard boxes and things to hide in. Provide as many safe spaces as you can. Try providing a pet carrier with high sides and comfy pet bedding, to be used solely as a bed. Keep other animals, guests and children away.

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