Cat Sleeping in Litter Box

by Michael
(London, UK)

Why is my cat sleeping in the litter box? I have personal experience of this….er no it’s not me sleeping in the litter..

I have seen it happen on two distinctly different occasions. However, the underlying conditions were the same: anxiety caused by the presence of unknown cats and/or a change in surroundings.

On the first occasion I was at a cat show in London, England. In fact, it was at Olympia in central London as I recall and the show was run by the National Cat Club, which I think is the oldest cat club in the world but I may have that wrong.

The cat was a gorgeous grey tabby British Shorthair cat sleeping in his or her litter box within a cage waiting to be shown. It looked odd to me at the time, which is why I took the photo. I also liked the grey coat against the grey litter and the comparison of textures. The year was 2008:

Grey tabby British Shorthair show cat sleeping on grey litter at a cat show

I quite like the photo even if I did take it myself (with a relatively inexpensive digital camera).

The other occasion was at my home and it concerned my elderly lady cat, Binnie. I had recently introduced Charlie a three legged cat who used to live with my mother who had died. I took him on knowing that it might be complicated etc.

Binnie, who by the way is now used to Charlie and accepts him, at one time started to sleep and rest in her litter box. This was a classic case of a “cat sleeping in litter box”, a Google search phrase.

As can be seen both circumstances are essentially the same.

The cat sleeping on his or her litter is seeking the familiarity and therefore comfort of its own surroundings in its smell, the smell of its litter to alleviate the anxiety caused by the presence of a foreign cat. The cat is retreating to a place that is friendly and the most obvious is the strong smell of itself through its urine and feces. As we know smell is a major factor in a cat’s life. They almost “see” through smell and confirm and check through smell. Does you cat join you when you are on the toilet!? Mine does – same underlying principles.

Scent exchange is based on similar principles. Cats rub against us when they greet us and they do the same when greeting other cats sometimes (in a colony for example). They are depositing their scent on us to make us more friendly to them. Head butting is a version of scent exchange.

Like us, cats seek a “comfort zone”. For us it is familiar surroundings, people and activities. The same applies to the cat.

The “problem” (it is not really a problem) should fade away gradually as the cat becomes more relaxed with the other cat(s) and surroundings. Plenty of TLC from us should speed things up such as extra play and grooming.

Associated pages:

Tail up!

Cat’s Hug (new window)

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From Cat Sleeping in Litter Box to Why Do Cats

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Cat Sleeping in Litter Box

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Nov 29, 2010
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Some Cats like clean boxes
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

I loved your story, Ruth, about the cats and your shoes. I’ve found, though, that not all cats like stinky litter boxes. Both Sadie and Abby refuse to use a stinky litter box.

Sadie would just run to me and keep tapping my leg until I followed her to the box, at which time she’d look at the box, then at me again and wouldn’t budge. As soon as the box was clean, she’d use it – then expect me to scoop it all over again right away.

Abby will meow incessantly until I follow her to the bathroom where she will sit in front of the box and meow louder until the box is scooped. She’ll watch me scoop/change the litter, then she’ll leave the room.

Sheesh! Guess I’ve got another Diva on my hands, LOL!


Nov 15, 2010
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Litter box odors not a problem for cats
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

Michael has made the point that it’s only cat owners who find litter box odors offensive. Cats probably like a stinky litter box, because it smells like them. Monty also likes to come into the bathroom when we’re using it and sniff around. The doorknob doesn’t latch properly, so there’s no keeping him out– he just pushes the door open. I try to explain to him that I don’t sniff around him while he’s using his litter box, but maybe he wonders why I don’t.
I visited a friend this weekend and her cat found my shoes by the door, obviously smelling traces of my cat on them. He rubbed against my shoes and even laid on top of them for quite awhile. I wondered if Monty would notice. Sure enough, Monty sniffed my shoes with interest for a long time when I got home. It’s like those cats can send scent post cards to each other, and though they’ve never met they are aware of each other.


Nov 15, 2010
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Interesting …and….
by: Susie Bearder

…I LOVE that photo too. Works as an abstract.


Nov 15, 2010
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Comfort in the familiar
by: Barbara

Yes I agree that the litterbox is the comfort zone, I had experience of this on the day that our lovely Popsy came to live with my late husband and me, she’d had an unsettled few weeks being moved from house to house until John found out and took her in,on that first evening she stayed in the back of her covered in litter tray for a long time, thankfully she was coaxed out by a saucer of tuna and a hairbrush.



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