Why Does My Cat Lie in the Litter Box?

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Pay attention to your cat's bathroom behavior.
Image Credit: Carlina Teteris/Moment/GettyImages

From pouring themselves like liquid into tiny boxes to zipping through the house crazily in the middle of the night, cats are prone to unusual antics. A sudden change in your cat's bathroom behavior is always something to pay attention to, and a cat laying in the litter box can be his way of telling you something's wrong.

It feels nice in there

Cat's prefer to use a litter box in an area they feel safe and comfortable, according to The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine (OSU-CVM). If there is a lot of activity in your home, your cat might find their enclosed litter box to offer just the privacy they need for an afternoon catnap. There are a variety of enclosed boxes to choose from, where the cat enters from the top, like this one by Iris USA, so they can feel completely enclosed (and it comes with a matching scoop!). Others open on the side, like the Petmate Booda Dome. One unique thing about this one is that there are some grooved steps to walk on as the cat exits, which helps remove the litter from their paws before they hit the floor. There are even some really nice side-entry cat litter boxes hat look surprisingly like pieces of actual furniture, like the Zoovilla Hidden Kittle Litter Loo that looks like a side table.

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Make sure to provide somewhere safe to take a nap as an alternative to your cat laying in the litter box. Cats prefer high perches, according to OSU, where they can look down on their surroundings, and nothing can sneak up on them. A climbing tower or a nest box placed securely on top of a refrigerator or closet shelf can also make an excellent alternative to lying in the litter box if your cat's lacking security. Homemade cat climbing towers come in such a huge variety of styles, from these hollow hexagon shelves to a medley of shelves and steps that can turn your living room into a cat climbing wall.

Your cat might also be unfamiliar with the type of litter you're using if you've recently switched to soft litter, such as those made from wheat, corn, or recycled newspaper. Clay litter can feel cool during summer months. She might just like the feel of a clean litter box, enjoy napping in an enclosed space, or feel secure because it smells like her, according to Purina.

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If you suspect your cat just likes the feel o the cat litter, you could try changing the litter you use. For instance, if you use traditional clumping clay litter, try one made of pelletized paper like the one made by ExquisiCat that comes in a pine scent. The fragrance alone might be enough to change the way your cat feels about hanging out in the litter box. Another litter alternative is the sWheat Scoop, which are small pellets made from biodegradable wheat. The change in texture could make your cat move along more quickly.

He's bullying another cat

Competition for resources such as food, sunny perches, and toys are the most common source of feline conflict, according to OSU-CVM. Not all cats are open to sharing a litter box with others, preferring their own domain.

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Subtle clues like your feline stretching out in his litter box and glaring at all intruders who approach are indicative of his unwillingness to share. If you're using one litter box for two or more cats, this territorial show will likely cause the unwelcome cat to relieve himself somewhere else. This could be in a laundry basket, on a bedspread, behind a couch, or other undesirable places around the house.

It's not unusual for the victim cat to develop cystitis, according to OSU-CVM. The urinary tract condition can involve urinary tract bleeding, crystals, and pain. Relieving stress by enriching the environment is one of the strategies recommended by International Cat Care to help felines recover from the condition.

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He's hiding out

Getting a second litter box doesn't always solve the problem. If you didn't catch on to the problem right away, the victim of bullying might develop a preference for urinating at a specific location or surface that makes her feel safe, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A victim cat might also not feel safe entering his litter box if it's placed where the bully has access to it, or he doesn't feel like he can make a quick escape. Community Concern for Cats recommends having one litter box for each cat that you have — plus one extra — placed in separate locations around your home, so cats have the option to avoid each other.

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Don't leave a cat that's a target for more dominant kitties home alone with them. Put the bullied cat in a room where he has all the resources he needs — food, water, litter box, toys, and sleeping area — when you're not there to supervise.

He's telling you something

Cats are pretty stoic creatures until they get too uncomfortable to hide it. A cat hanging out in its litter box could have diarrhea, urinary tract pain, or other issues that cause it to feel like it needs to be close to its potty spot at all times.

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Cats are notoriously fastidious in their restroom habits, so if your pet starts spending more time hanging out in the litter box, it's likely time for a vet checkup. Obesity, arthritis, painful urination, and other conditions that limit your cat's mobility can all cause it to spend more time sleeping — even in its litter box. Contact your veterinarian for advice as soon as you notice a significant change in behavior.

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