Why Is My Cat Laying In The Litter Box

As much as we love our cats, some of the things they do are, well, disgusting, and laying in the litter box is one of them. But why does your kitty commit such a faux pas? Experts put it down to illness, insecurity, the need for seclusion, lack of experience, and a need for personal space.

We have compiled an in-depth look into why your cat is lying in the litter box, answering questions like:

  • Why is my cat lying in the litter box?
  • Why is my cat suddenly sleeping in the litter box?
  • How can I get my cat to stop lying in the litter box?
  • Why is my cat lying in the litter box after surgery?
  • Is it normal for cats to sit in their litter box?
  • Do cats go to the litter box to die?
  • Why is my cat sitting in the litter box but not peeing?

Why is My Cat Lying in the Litter Box?

Your cat could be lying in the litter box because of:

  • Illness.
  • Insecurity.
  • The need for seclusion.
  • Lack of experience.
  • The need for personal space.


When your cat’s litter box habits change, take notice.

If your cat is spending more time in their litter box, they may 

  • Have an upset stomach.
  • Feel nauseous.
  • Have trouble going to the bathroom.
  • Just feel unwell.

When we experience these things as humans, one of the “safest” or most comfortable places we can be, is in the bathroom. Our cats likely feel the same way.

Illnesses that often see cats spending an unusual amount of time in the litter box include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Urinary blockage
  • Diarrhea
  • Kidney problems
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal blockage

When your cat’s litter box habits change, the veterinarian should be your first port of call. Although the chances are that it is something easily treatable, there is a possibility that your cat’s illness could be life-threatening.


If you recently brought your cat home or if there has been a significant change in your home life, your cat may be seeking security from their litter box.

Cats do not like change, and when things do change, they can feel very insecure or threatened. In times such as this, your cat will seek out a secure place with familiar scents – somewhere like their litter box.

The Need For Seclusion

Life can be overwhelming, and when things get too much, we look for a quiet space where we can be alone. It is the same situation for our cats and, like us, that quiet place is sometimes in the bathroom!

If they are seeking seclusion, your cat may also show signs of anxiety or frustration.

If you think that your cat feels overwhelmed and seeking seclusion in their litter box, give them time to decompress. You should also note what made your cat feel this way so that you can create a more comfortable environment for your cat in the future.

Lack of Experience

Is your cat still a kitten, or are they new to domestic life? If so, they might be lying in their litter box because they have not quite figured it out yet. In fact, there is a good chance that your cat thinks that you have built them a sandbox or a strange new bed!

If you think that your cat simply lacks experience, continue to work on litter box training with them. PetMD has a great article on how to litter box train your new cat.

The Need For Personal Space

Another reason your cat may be lying in their litter box is that they simply need personal space!

Every individual in your home – pets included – should have a space to call their own where they can recharge. This space may be a crate, a bed, or a whole room.

If you do not give your cat an alternate place to call their own, they might make their litter box their designated area.

If you think that your cat is seeking out personal space in their litter box, try providing them with an alternate spot instead!

Why Is My Cat Sleeping In The Litter Box?

If your cat has never made a habit of sleeping in their litter box but has recently started to, it could be for any of the reasons we previously discussed. In most instances, though, a urinary tract infection or constipation are to blame.

How Can I Get My Cat To Stop Laying In The Litter Box?

Before you can stop your cat from lying in the litter box, you need to find out why they are in the litter box.

You can usually narrow down the cause of your cat’s litter box lounging by asking yourself the following:

  • Has my cat been using the litter box regularly lately? If not, when was the last time they did?
  • Has my cat shown any indication of being ill? For example, diarrhea, vomiting, straining, fever, or any unusual behavior?

If you answered yes to either of these, your cat is likely unwell and needs a veterinary visit.

  • Has anything out of the ordinary happened that could set my cat on edge?
  • Did something startle my cat before they started laying in their litter box?

If you answered yes to either of these, your cat is likely feeling insecure and seeking safety.

  • Have loud noises overwhelmed my cat?
  • Has my cat experienced significant changes in our home?

If you answered yes to either of these, your cat is likely looking for a place where they can feel less overwhelmed.

  • Is my cat still adjusting to domestic life?
  • Is my cat still young?

If you answered yes to either of these, your cat is likely still learning how to use their litter box.

  • Does my cat have a space to call its own?

If your cat does not have their own space, they are probably just looking for somewhere to call their own!

Why Is My Cat Laying In The Litter Box After Surgery?

If your cat had surgery before they started laying in their litter box, go to your vet!

This behavior change may be a sign of infection or your cat otherwise being unwell.

Even if your cat is not unwell, they should not be lying in their litter box, or their incision could get infected or irritated by litter or waste.

Is It Normal For Cats To Sit In Their Litter Box?

Cats do not usually sit in their litter box, they usually squat while doing their business. But senior cats and cats with muscle wasting, hind end weakness, and joint concerns may end up sitting down in their litter box because they cannot hold a squatting position.

Do Cats Go To The Litter Box To Die?

Cats, like many animals, naturally withdraw when they are unwell or when they know that death is close. This instinct to isolate comes from the need to hide from predators that may take advantage of weakness.

Why is My Cat Sitting In Litter Box But Not Peeing?

If your cat is sitting in the litter box but not using it, it may have a urinary tract infection or blockage. Take your cat to your vet as soon as possible, or their infection could travel to the kidneys, or a blockage could have fatal consequences.

How long can a cat go without peeing before it is dangerous?

Your cat should have a regular bathroom schedule, and any time that their schedule changes, there could be a problem, and you should call your vet.

If your cat goes for 24-hours without urinating, the situation is an emergency as they could have a urinary blockage.

Urinary obstruction is a condition in male cats where the urethra becomes plugged, and urine cannot evacuate from the bladder. This type of blockage is usually due to a urinary stone, urinary crystals, mucous, or inflammatory tissue.

Signs that your cat may have a urinary blockage include:

  • Straining to urinate.
  • Mewling while urinating.
  • Small, frequent patterns of urination.
  • Straining without urinating.
  • Mewling out of discomfort.
  • Pacing and general discomfort.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Urination outside the litter box.
  • Vomiting.
  • Lethargy.

Emergency treatment is crucial for urinary obstruction and requires sedation or anesthesia so the vet can place a catheter.

If a stone is to blame, the vet flushes the catheter to send the obstruction back to the bladder where the vet cuts it out.

For mucous plugs, the vet flushes out the plug, then flushes and drains the bladder so there are no more obstructions.

When urinary obstruction goes untreated, the complete urethral obstruction will cause death.

Final Thoughts

If your kitten or newly domesticated cat is lying in the litter box, you can likely put it down to inexperience or overstimulation.

If your adult cat is lying in the litter box, though, it could be a symptom of something more, something that requires veterinary or behavioral intervention.