Cat sleeping in litter tray

by JB

I have a 13 year old (approx) cat, Poppy, who is my only pet, and she was diagnosed with chronic renal failure around 4 years ago, and with FIV 2 years ago. Despite these conditions she has remained fairly healthy, with a good appetite and only a small amount of weight loss.

In mid-September I went on holiday and left Poppy at her normal cattery where she usually enjoys staying. She was there for 3 weeks, and when I went to collect her she was curled up asleep in the litter tray. I assumed she had got a bit confused between the litter tray and the basket, as the cattery tend to use paper-based litter and shredded paper in the baskets.

The cattery manager assured me that it does sometimes happen to cats in catteries, especially if they feel a little threatened by other cats nearby. When I took her home, this behaviour continued and she is now avoiding her basket which she used to love sleeping in, in favour of sleeping in her litter tray, whether dirty or clean.

When I am at home (and she therefore has the run of the house), she sleeps in various different spots (on the sofa, by patio doors) but when I go to work she is confined to the kitchen and when I get home I will always find her in the litter tray.

On the vet's advice I have tried using a Feliway spray on her basket (and also a Feliway diffuser) but this has made no difference, and I have even tried moving her from the litter tray to the basket but she doesn't stay in it for more than a few seconds.

Could you recommend any other ways of enticing her back into her basket and/or discouraging her from sleeping in the litter tray? I have considered buying an covered litter tray, but since she dislikes being in confined spaces (e.g her carrying box when I take her to the vets), I'm afraid this might discourage her from using the litter tray at all.

Any advice you can give would be gratefully received!

Hi, JB,

It is quite true that when cats are boarding, they sometimes sleep in their litter boxes. They seem to find more security in doing so when they are in a strange place.

One thing that has frequently worked for us in the hospital/boarding setting is to provide another identical litter box right beside the other one, except without the litter. You can put comfy towels or a blanket in the litter box and most often we see the cat begin to sleep in the litter box with the bedding, rather than in the one with the litter.

If that works, then gradually, you may be able to entice her to start using the basket again, but even if she doesn't, at least she won't be lying in soiled litter.

If that doesn't work, try shredded paper, such as the type they used at the cattery, in the second box to see if she will lie in it and use the regular one for her elimination.

Also, make sure you are putting these two boxes very close to each other, almost side to side. If you have not been doing that with the basket, try moving the basket close by first.

If none of that works, you could perhaps try a covered litter pan, although I agree with you that sometimes, cats do not like the covered litters and stop using them. Also, she may still want to sleep in it even with the cover - in fact, she may like it even better because it is cozier although when it is covered it will likely smell more like ammonia and may discourage her.

Also, does she like catnip? If so, try a bit of catnip in her basket instead of the Feliway.

Good luck and my best wishes to you and Poppy. You are a great owner for caring for her with her kidney disease and FIV and boarding her when you are away and doing all the things a cat deserves and need.

Dr. Neely

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