If the internet has taught us anything at all, it’s that if there is a box somewhere, and there is a cat near that box, that cat will eventually wind up inside that box. Cats love to sit in boxes, that much is beyond dispute. Only, it seems like the same behavior applies to the box in which they defecate. Most animals choose not to sit where they... well, you know. So when this happens you might find yourself wondering, why does my cat sit in the litter box?
Why does my cat sit in the litter box?
Cats have a number of bizarre behaviors and unlike dogs, whose bizarre behaviors are pretty easy to discern the purpose of, cats like to remain as mysterious as the animal stereotypes seem to peg them. In general, a cat visits his litter box, does his business, and leaves to go about his business of sleeping on your keyboard. This makes sense, as there is very little room in an average litterbox to do anything else.
Every now and then though, your cat might malinger inside their litter box for longer than the five minutes it takes to poop. The thing is, even though this might be a humorous behavior to joke about, it could mean something more serious than mere tummy troubles. In fact, there are usually two reasons why your cat might be hanging out in there: one is because they’re stressed out, and the other might concern their health.
Is my cat sick if they spend too much time in the litter box?
If your cat is hanging around inside the litter box for longer than a few minutes, there is a chance they could be having trouble eliminating solid waste or urine, and that they could be sick. There are ways to tell if this is the case though. If your cat is male, look to see if he is squatting, straining or scratching the litter while producing either very little or no drops of urine. This could mean your cat is constipated or otherwise blocked.
According to PetMD, male cats can actually develop crystals in their urinary tract, which then cause all sorts of havoc with their renal system. The crystals tend to accumulate “down the line” towards the front and block the urine from leaving the cat’s penis. This blockage can be exceptionally dangerous to the cat’s kidneys and if he isn’t taken to a vet, he could perish within 48 hours of the first signs of trouble.
It's rare, but female cats can also get urine crystals. Both male and female cats are susceptible to feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) but this usually occurs if they are overweight or have trouble eating already. Look for cats who seem dehydrated, have trouble urinating, have blood-tinged urine, or cry out when they urinate. More likely though, a female cat who is sitting in the litter box for more than a few minutes at a clip might be suffering from a stomach ailment of some kind.
Cats can experience other problems as well. If your cat catches a cold or flu, they might be going back and forth to the litter box a lot, just like you would if you caught the flu. In these cases, the cat might just want to stay where they are until the dreadful deed is done. There’s nothing wrong with a practical cat. That said, any sign of blockage, constipation, or diarrhea should see you both off to the vet as soon as possible.
Does my cat like sitting in the litter box?
The other main reason for cats lingering in their litter box has to do with their safety. If your cat is stressed, either by external stressors like a new pet, baby, or significant other, the box might be their one true refuge — at least they might see it that way. Some cats will simply hide under the bed or behind the couch where you cannot reach and extricate them. Others might head right for their toilet, where they feel safe and surrounded. Don’t be alarmed though, they’ll find their way out eventually — not from under the couch though... you’re going to have to move the whole damn thing.
Is my cat looking to get away from it all?
There are some cases where your cat kind of wants to be inside the box for privacy. It’s the same reason cats sit in non-litter boxes. They like the safety and security they feel inside those four sides. Recently adopted cats might act this way if they don’t really understand their new surroundings, especially if they are already litter box trained.
For them, it might be more of a security blanket where they can be alone with their thoughts. After all, it’s only really their smells in there, and everyone loves their own brand. Just make sure you clean the box as often as possible. You don’t want them laying in something unpleasant.
Is it normal for a cat to want to stay or play in the litter box?
For kittens, this behavior is kind of normal actually. They are still figuring things out, so the idea of pooping, covering it up, and leaving isn’t quite in them yet. Some kittens will dig and dig, acting as if they will never finish burying their shame, but that’s OK — they’ll get over it eventually. In the end, it could just be that your cat feels safe in there. I know I feel safe in my bathroom. Just make sure you keep an eye on any struggling and stools that might happen to pop up.