Stop a Cat Sleeping in a Litter Box

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by Steven Thomas

stop cat sleeping in litter box

If you want to stop your cat sleeping in their litter box, then this article will help.

It can be a frustrating problem for many cat owners.

In almost every case this behavior is down to some from of stress or anxiety with your cat.

The litter box, and more importantly the scent is what attracts your cat to a place of known safety.

How To Stop Your Cat From Sleeping in the Litter Box?

It’s not uncommon for cats to sleep in their litter boxes, but it’s not ideal as it can lead to hygiene issues and potentially health problems.

Here are some tips to discourage your cat from sleeping in their litter box:

  1. Provide a cozy and comfortable alternative sleeping spot for your cat. Consider getting a cat bed or a soft blanket in a warm and quiet corner of the room. You can also try placing a cardboard box with a soft cushion inside for them to sleep in.
  2. Make the litter box less inviting as a sleeping spot by keeping it clean and fresh. Scoop out waste daily and replace the litter regularly.
  3. Move the litter box to a less appealing location. If your cat is currently sleeping in the litter box because it’s in a warm and cozy spot, consider moving it to a cooler and less comfortable location.
  4. Increase your cat’s playtime and exercise to tire them out and encourage them to sleep in their bed rather than the litter box.
  5. Provide your cat with plenty of stimulation and enrichment. You can rotate toys, offer puzzle feeders, or place a bird feeder outside a window to give your cat something else to focus on.

Below, I’ve added some common reasons why your cat could be sleep in the litter box.

These suggestions might help you resolve the issue further.

What Causes a Cat Sleeping in a Litter Box?

Some cats may try and do this from a very young age. Other cats who have never done this before, may suddenly have a change in behavior, and they start sleeping either in, or close to their cat litter. There are quite a few reasons for this change in behavior.

There are 6 main reasons why cats start sleeping in their cat litter box. I have shown these below with an explanation of each reason.

Moving Home

Moving home is the most common reason. For a cat this is a huge change in the environment as everything will be new. In their previous environment they will have figured everything out and also known and understood their territory. Cats also believe that when they understand and know their environment, that it belongs to them, and they become rulers of that domain.

Suddenly they are brought to a new place where everything is different and nothing is the same. They have not marked that territory, they do not understand their new terrain and they are extremely cautious.

As a result they will go to what is most familiar, until they figure out their new and strange environment. This is of course not the only reason for this sleeping in the litter behavior, however, it is certainly one of the most common. The good news is that as they get accustomed to their new surroundings, then this behavior stops pretty quickly.

Pregnant Cats

Any cat who is getting close to having a litter of kittens is likely to find a safe place to give birth, and a safe place for her new kittens. That is especially true if you have some type of enclosed litter box. In addition to that, litter boxes in the home are usually placed in a quiet and out of the way position, making them even more ideal for a birthing cat.

The important thing to understand about that is that if a cat does give birth in a litter box, it is highly likely that she will get sick or her kittens will get sick. Given the number of diseases inside a litter box, this is not an ideal situation.

There is a pretty simple method available to avoid that from happening. A simple cardboard box and a blanket is all that is required to give her a safer and more hygienic place to have her litter. You can of course keep that close to the litter if you need to.

Some cat owners prefer to have a cat birthing bed. These are not too expensive but a box and blanket will do the job just fine.

Your Cat Has Been Scared

Another key reason is if your cat has had a scare somewhere else in the home or even outside of the home. This will be difficult to figure out as you probably will not have seen what actually happened. Something as simple as a scare from a passing car may be enough to induce this anxiety.

This is the most difficult behavior to work out and sometimes you may never know the exact reason. In most cases a cat who would never have slept in a litter box suddenly starts that habit, then if they are not pregnant, it is most likely they have got a fright somewhere.

The solution to this is to make a small bed or move their bed a little closer to the litter box. After that you may need to encourage them to rest on that. They are likely to be in an anxious state so it may take some time and patience on your behalf.

King of the Castle Syndrome

There are a few cats and they are classed as the dominant cat. So if there are 2 or more cats in your home, then it is possible that one cat may dominate the box to prevent the other cats from using it. They are simply showing this dominant nature and letting the other cats know who is the boss.

At the other end of the scale a timid cat, one that gets bullied may end up sleeping in the cat litter box, as that is the only time that he or she can actually get into it. A simple solution to this problem is to have a couple of cat litter boxes and this almost always quickly deals with this well known problem.

Shelter Cats

Any cat that has been living in a shelter may display this litter box problem. That is because they will try to find that safe space and especially if they are timid or shy. It is worth keeping an eye out for this type of behavior. Most cats coming from a shelter have probably already been through a lot.

When they arrive in your home they are in a very different environment and as you can imagine this will be very strange to them. Almost always shelter cats will need a lot more work than a cat that has been fully domesticated all of their lives.

Typically they view the litter box as a safe area and they will tend to go there if and when they feel any stress or anxiety. Again over time this behavior will reduce but it may take a lot longer.

A Genuine Illness

If you don’t know of a specific reason why your cat has suddenly decided the litter is the best place to sleep, then it is wise to take the cat to the vet. That is because it could be down to some type of illness.

The most common of those are a urinary tract infection, some type of gastro ailment, pains in the joints meaning they don’t like to get in and out of a box, and dysuria, a common cat urine infection complaint.

So as you can see there are a number of reasons why your cat may start sleeping in the litter box or close to the litter box.


I hope this post has given you some ideas to stop your cat from sleeping in its litter box.

The best way to combat this is to train them to sleep elsewhere, like a cat bed or blanket on the couch.

However, it’s also worth a visit to the vets to make sure everything is fine.

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Steven Thomas
Steven has been studying cat behavior ever since adopting two stray kittens in 1996. After rescuing many homeless cats over the years, he developed the skill of finding new homes for cat lovers seeking to adopt. About Steven

1 thought on “Stop a Cat Sleeping in a Litter Box”

  1. Hi, my kitten started sleeping in her litter box. I’ve had her indoors since November 2020. She never did this until now. Is she afraid of something
    Thank you


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