How to Stop Cats From Lying in the Litter Box

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A cat may spend time in her litter box because she's not feeling well, or she may think it's the most comfortable perch in the house. If your cat is lying in her litter box, the first thing to do is make sure she's healthy. If everything's fine, provide her some more enticing lounging alternatives.

Rule Out Illness

Often, when a cat spends an unusual amount of time in the litter box, it's a clue she's not feeling well. If she has a medical problem, she may sit in the box an extended period of time, straining, scratching litter or squatting in an effort to produce a drop or two of urine -- an indication she's got a urinary tract condition. Extra time in the box can indicate gastrointestinal issues, such as colitis. You may not see your cat scratching and straining, but if she's hanging out in the litter box more than normal, the first order of business is to get her checked by the vet to ensure she's in good health.

Minimizing Stress

If all's well with your cat and there's no medical reason for her litter box loitering, she may be stressed. Some cats are sensitive to changes in the household; new visitors, owners leaving for trips, a new pet or moving to a new home all can make a cat feel stressed, causing her to act out. Your cat may be hiding in a safe place until she feels more secure in her surroundings, and what better place than her familiar litter box that smells like her and is probably in a quiet, out-of-the-way place in the house. If your cat's interesting litter box behavior is stress-related, take steps to minimize her anxiety, including:

  • Providing her a quiet place to stay when visitors are in the house.
  • Engaging in one-on-one play time with her.
  • Provide her with tall cat trees that give her high climbing places to escape to and maintain a watch over her surroundings.
  • Introduce any changes to her routine gradually.

Other Options

Your cat may be litter box lounging simply because it's the most comfortable spot in the house. While it's nice she's relaxed and happy, the last thing she should do is lie about in a dirty litter box. Try coaxing her out of her box by providing her an appealing alternative. Place an identical litter box lined with comfortable bedding, such as towels or a favorite blanket, right next to the one she's favoring. If that's successful, gradually move her sleeping litter box to a location you prefer, or allow her to stay where she is. If she has shunned a formerly preferred bed, move that next to the litter box to see if she'll regain her interest.

Tip

  • If your cat loves catnip, try luring her with a little nip sprinkled in the places you'd prefer her to sleep.

Keeping Her Out

You can try to deter your cat from lying in her litter box, however that carries risks because you don't want to do anything to discourage her from using her litter box when she's supposed to. Hormonal spray deterrents such as Feliway may prove discouraging. A covered litter box may put her off, though it may make her new favorite sleeping spot even more appealing because it's cozy. If you use a litter box deterrent, make sure you set up a new box for her to use elsewhere so she doesn't begin developing poor elimination practices.

Tip

  • Use deterrents as a last effort so you don't discourage good litter box habits in your cat.

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