Cats may spend more time in the litter box or even sleep there due to a health problem. If you see this behavior, I recommend visiting your veterinarian to make sure there is not a serious medical explanation. However, if health issues are ruled out, there are several behavioral reasons your cat may be hiding or sleeping in the litter box.
Consult Your Veterinarian to Assess
If your kitty is suddenly frequenting the litter box more or perhaps napping in it, she may be trying to tell you something. There are multiple medical reasons that can explain why your cat may be sleeping in the litter box, some of which are serious and potentially life-threatening. Your veterinarian will likely run tests such as bloodwork, urine tests, and imaging like x-rays or an ultrasound.
One of the most common reasons a cat starts spending more time in the litter box is a urinary issue. For example, your cat may have a urinary tract infection, stones in his bladder or kidneys, or inflammation due to stress.
Your veterinarian will check for these conditions by performing tests on your cat’s urine to search for crystals. If your vet suspects your cat may have stones in his bladder or kidneys, he may recommend x-rays or an ultrasound.
Perhaps the most serious possible underlying medical issue would be a urethral obstruction, which prevents a cat from passing urine. Cats who suffer from this condition, also referred to as “blocked cats,” are often neutered, male cats. This occurs when a stone or mucus plug prevents a cat from urinating. A blocked cat is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Signs of urinary disease in cats:
- Straining to urinate
- Vocalizing while urinating
- Visiting the litter box more frequently
- Urinating inappropriately outside of the litter box • Bloody urine
Other Diseases Causing Increased Urination in Cats
Other conditions, such as metabolic diseases, can cause cats to spend more time urinating in the litter box.
For example, cats with an overactive thyroid gland have a faster metabolism. Excess levels of thyroid hormone have widespread effects on the body, including increased drinking and urinating.
Another common disease which can make your cat urinate more is chronic kidney disease. Cats with chronic kidney disease are less effective at filtering their blood. As kidney function declines, cats cannot concentrate their urine as well. Therefore, these cats often consume more water and produce more urine.
Your cat may also exhibit increased urination due to diabetes. Cats suffering from diabetes have too much sugar in their blood and urine. The extra sugar in their urine increases the amount of urine these cats produce.
With hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes, cats will typically have additional symptoms to help you and your vet reach a diagnosis. Bloodwork will tell your vet more about your cat’s kidney function, and electrolyte and thyroid levels to help identify the underlying cause.
Is Your Cat Constipated?
Another reason your cat may be spending more time in the litter box is constipation.
Constipation is more common in cats who are dehydrated or overweight. If you notice your cat is spending more time in the litter box but not producing as much feces, he may be constipated.
Pregnant Cats and Behavior During Labor
If your cat is pregnant and spending more time in the litter box, it may be a sign she is going into labor. In the first stage of labor, pregnant cats become restless and may go back and forth to their beds. However, if your cat does not have a regular sleeping place, she may use the litter box instead.
Behavioral Reasons Your Cat Is Sleeping in the Litter Box
After ruling out health issues with your veterinarian, we must consider behavioral causes for your cat sleeping in the litter box. When determining the reasons, history is extremely helpful in identifying the underlying cause. Observing your cat’s urination, defecation, appetite, energy level, and more.
Your Cat May be Stressed
Cats are very sensitive to stress but bear in mind, your cat’s definition of stress is likely different from yours. For example, moving to a new home or introducing a new cat into the household may cause your cat to behave differently. Your cat may be using the litter box as a hiding place, especially in multi-cat households where territorial behavior is more likely. Therefore, it is important to provide cat beds and other appropriate hiding places, such as a cardboard box.
Additionally, as a general rule of thumb, the number of litter boxes in the home should be the number of cats in the household plus one.
Young Kittens and Litter Box Training
Young kittens may sleep in the litter box if they are not yet potty trained. It takes time to train a cat to use the litter box but there are a few tips to help make the process easier.
Tips to Train Your Kitten to Use the Litter Box:
- Choose a litter box shallow enough for your kitten to access
- Be consistent about the type of litter you use; cats may be sensitive to changes in scent and texture of the litter
- Consider unscented, clumping litter rather than clay litter which may be dusty
- Set up the litter box in a quiet area where your cat can have privacy
- Avoid putting the litter box near your cat’s food and water