Cats, as those who know them well, have mainly two, so to speak, obsessions: sleep and cleanliness. They dedicate to sleep between 16 and 20 hours a day and not by chance, if it is common to bathe the dog, it is much less so to subject the cat to the same treatment. They also avoid, as a rule, dirty places. And yet, sometimes, it happens to find Kitty asleep on the sand on which it does its needs; a place which is certainly not the best place for cleaning. Why does the cat sleep in the litter box, then? There can be many reasons.
The first thing is that it is necessary to specify is that, for a cat, staying so long in the dirt is not a normal behavior, and that it is more than possible that behind this there are important reasons to investigate.
This is not always the case, however.
For example, if the cat has been used to this from an early age, it is not unusual for it to maintain the habit even as it grows up. In addition, a stray cat that has only recently been inside the walls of a house could choose the litter tray as a place to rest, as the grains of sand closely resemble the soil, a type of soil that belongs to the outdoors. Even in a cat who is used to going out and taking out his needs, which therefore dirty the litter tray little or not at all, the occurrence is not worrying.
When, on the other hand, Kitty has always slept in her kennel and starts to move around in the litter tray for her long sleeps, it’s worth staying alert as it could be health reasons or behavioral discomfort that lead her to make this choice.
Medical and physical reasons can be: old age, pregnancy and digestive, urinary or joint problems.
No matter how well our kittens grow old they respect us and remain charming and bewitching, their minds deteriorate just the same. The elderly cat may experience a syndrome known as “involution depression”, characterised by a certain loss of learning ability and the reappearance of childish behavior. In this case, it’s not strange that Kitty has bizarre ways of doing things, such as sleeping in the litter box.
The freshness of the sand could also be attractive for a cat suffering from cystitis, abdominal pain and digestive disorders in general. Lying down on the fresh sand offers a momentary relief and helps to counteract the heartburn or bladder that you might experience.
Also, if Pussycat’s favourite places are all in fairly high places and he suffers from arthritis, it could be tiring for him to reach them. That’s when bedding becomes a good alternative.
Finally, if you’ve adopted a female cat that’s about to give birth, it’s not impossible that she might consider litter as the perfect place to give birth to her offspring: after all, litter is a semi-closed space, like a box, and it’s often located in a secluded place, where there’s little traffic. Two characteristics that make it a place perceived as safe by the future mother.
If we want to connect why the cat sleeps in the litter tray with motivations related to behavioral disorders, we must first of all remember two things: the first is that, as already explained, the litter tray represents a safe place for Kitty because of its structure and its position, and the second is that a similar behavior is always a sign of stress of some kind.
It is then only a question of understanding what is disturbing him.
What is he afraid of, Kitty, to go and take refuge in a place that feels calm and peaceful?
If the cat who exhibits this kind of behavior is the last to arrive in a house where other cats live, make sure that his hairy brothers are not bothering him or, even worse, are not “bullying” him.
Or paradoxically, on the contrary, the cat who feels like the king of the house and the “top dog” among the residents with fur and tail, could choose just this way to mark his superiority: after all, sleeping in the litter box prevents other cats from using it.
The reason could reside, in reality, in anything that upsets the balance, social or otherwise, of the house. Even the arrival of a child can, for example, put Kitty in crisis.
The question “Why does the cat sleep in the litter box?” therefore has many possible answers.
What to do? How to act?
The advice is always to consult your vet. The health problems mentioned can be dangerously exacerbated if neglected; and a good vet can also provide behavioral advice.
In the meantime, the best advice is to do everything possible to reduce any stress our four-legged friend may be under.