Sudden Sits: Why Cats Lay Down at Odd Times & Places

Whether your cat suddenly lays down in front of you or you find them laying in the litter box, we can help shed some light into why.

Published December 22, 2023
Lazy cat laying down on a radiator

Cats are known for their diverse and often mysterious behaviors, each unique to their individual personalities. As a cat owner, you're likely the one who understands your furry friend's quirks and habits better than anyone else. So, when your cat chooses to lay down right in front of you, when fighting, or when you get close, it's an opportunity to put your knowledge about them to the test.

Ask yourself:

  • What could they be trying to communicate?
  • Is it a request for attention or affection, a sign of trust and comfort, or perhaps something entirely different?

Understanding why they do what they do can provide valuable insights into their well-being and deepen the bond you share with your feline companion.

Why Your Cat Lies Down in Odd Areas

Cat lying down in basket

When your cat starts lying down in unusual spots, it can mean a few different things — maybe they're feeling defensive and ready to stand their ground, looking for a safe and comfortable place to rest, or they could be wanting your attention. By paying close attention to their actions and considering what you know about their personality and habits, you can get a better idea of what they need or want.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they lying in a strategic position, perhaps indicating a defensive stance?
  • Are they choosing soft, secluded areas, suggesting a need for comfort and safety?
  • Are they lying down in places where they can easily catch your eye?
  • Are they laying down around things that smell different — or feel different (like they're warmer or cooler)?

When Cats Lay In the Litter Box

Since cats prefer to stay relatively clean, if they're hanging out in the litter box, it's worth looking into. It may indicate a health concern, such as a urinary tract infection or other discomfort, that associates the litter box with a place of relief. Stress or anxiety can also cause cats to retreat to their litter box, seeing it as a safe and enclosed space filled with their scent. Changes in the household, including new pets, new people, or even changes in their daily routine, can trigger this kind of behavior.

In houses with multiple kitties, a cat might also lay in the litter box to assert dominance over the territory or if they're fighting with other cats. If a cat's environment doesn't offer comfortable, secure resting places, they might choose the litter box to feel safer while they rest

Quick Tip

If your cat wants a safe spot to relax, choose cat beds that are den-like or kitty trees with hideaways.

Laying Down When Fighting

When a cat lays down during a fight or a confrontational situation, it's usually a sign they're being defensive. This position allows cats to use their claws and teeth more effectively to defend themselves. By lying down, cats can use all four sets of claws and their teeth as weapons, making it easier to kick and scratch who they're fighting against, which could be another cat or a different animal. This position also makes the cat's vital organs less accessible, offering some protection during the brawl.

Lying down can also be used as a tactical move, as it might make the cat appear smaller or less threatening, possibly de-escalating the confrontation. Basically, in this case, this behavior is the cat's way of showing submission or a desire to avoid further conflict. It's important to understand that each cat's behavior can vary significantly based on their personality, past experiences, and the specific context of the encounter. It's all about knowing your cat. 

Laying Down When You Approach

If your cat lies down as you approach, it can be a sign of trust and comfort in your presence. This behavior usually means that the cat feels secure and relaxed around you, viewing you as neither a threat nor a source of stress. In cat body language, exposing the belly by lying down can be a sign of vulnerability and trust, as the belly is a very sensitive area.

This behavior can also be an invitation for affection, like petting or belly rubs (if your cat enjoys that kind of interaction). It's important to be attentive to other signals your cat may be giving. Not all cats like their bellies touched, so read your cat's other body language signals to judge the situation properly. 

Laying Down Randomly 

Playing, raising its paws and fighting with ginger cat in bed

They might be inviting you to engage with them, whether it's for petting, playing, or simply to enjoy your company. This behavior may also involve their instinct to mark their territory. Cats have scent glands on their bodies, and by rubbing against the floor or near their favorite person, they're essentially mixing scents. It's one of the ways they claim their space and strengthen their bond with you.

It's also possible that your cat just happens to find that area convenient or comfortable. My cat has this area in the middle of the dining room that, to anyone else, would appear to be randomly chosen. But I know it's where the sun shines, making the spot super warm, and he will plop his body down there whenever he feels like resting. There are other areas where your cat may be trying to keep an eye on you that offer them a good vantage point for all that's going on. 

Understanding Your Kitty

The way your cat behaves changes with a few things, including their current mood, overall health, and the environment they're in. If you find yourself puzzled by your cat's actions, take it as a cue to deepen your bond with them. While it's true that we can never fully understand every thought that goes through our cat's mind, as cat owners, we should learn to understand their basic needs and feelings. Paying closer attention to their habits, responses to different situations, and even subtle changes in their behavior can give you a better understanding of your feline friend.

Trending on LoveToKnow
Sudden Sits: Why Cats Lay Down at Odd Times & Places