Why Does My Cat Use the Litter Box When I Use the Toilet?

As cat owners, we are all very aware of our cats’ incessant need to go to the bathroom with us every time we go, but there are not many behavioral scientists or cat owners out there who can provide us with any answers as to why. Even more confusingly, cats have a tendency to use their litter box when we use the toilet. Although this phenomenon is mind boggling to humans, there are a few logical explanations as to why this occurs.

So why does my cat use the litter box when I use the toilet? The most likely reason is because their litter box is located in the bathroom and a familiar smell draws them in, but it could also be because their litter box is located in the bathroom and feel safer relieving themselves whenever you’re near. 

In this article, we’ll discuss a variety of reasons why your cat might use the litter box when you use the toilet, as well as some litter behavior and helpful hints to make your cat feel more secure when you’re not around to accompany them while using the bathroom.

The Many Different Factors

Black cat in the litter box
Black cat in the litter box | image by Laura LaRose via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

There are many unknowns when it comes to learning about cat behaviors, but there are a few behaviors that repeat often enough that cat owners have formed their own theories on the subjects. One of those theories is derived from a cat’s need to constantly follow their human to the bathroom; and to take it even further, it includes their need to relieve themselves at the same time as their human.

There are a variety of reasons why cats feel the need to engage in this simultaneous behavior, and we are going to discuss a few of those below. Here are 4 reasons why your cat uses the litter box while you use the toilet:

1. Your cat’s litter box is located in the bathroom and the familiar smell draws them in.  A cat’s sense of smell is infinitely more sensitive than that of a human. So one can imagine that as they follow you to the bathroom to do your duty, they are drawn into the bathroom by their own scent wafting from the litterbox stationed in that same room.

It is not a far stretch to assume that cats will follow a familiar smell of their own. Also, like humans, when presented with the opportunity to relieve yourself, more often than not it makes more sense to take advantage of the opportunity presented.

2. Your cat feels less vulnerable when you’re near. Cats are natural born predators who have spent their entire lives honing their hunting skills. But because of their size, they know that at any moment they could be presented with a territorial battle.

Because cats would normally use the great outdoors as their method of waste disposal, it strikes a little fear in them to be using a small litter box in a confined space such as a bathroom. Like humans who might be afraid of the dark because of their inability to see, cats feel the same vulnerability while using the litter box.

It’s understandable why a cat would feel more safe using their litter box in the bathroom if you are present to make sure they are safe. Cats and other natural pack animals find safety in numbers in these situations, and that includes instances like litter box usage.

3. The kind of litter box you have might be causing this behavior. Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t really care about their privacy when using a litter box. In fact, some cats prefer using a litter box that is in an open area because they consider it to be a part of their territory in the household.

If the litter box is enclosed, it could make the cat fearful of the fact that they do not have an exit strategy. It’s important to notice your cats body language and attentiveness when they’re using the litter box, as negative cues may be a sign that your cat does not feel secure using the litter box you currently have in the home.

4. Cats want your undivided attention. Your cat may ignore you when they call them, but do not be fooled; they want your undivided attention. Your cat could be following you to the bathroom to use the litter box when you use the toilet because they want your attention.

Cats are intelligent creatures who have probably recognized that you are less distracted when you use the bathroom, and therefore it is the perfect time to join you on your journey to relief.

Litter Behavior

Between their stellar sense of smell, their predatory nature and their need to be clean, cats can sometimes be fickle when it comes to using the litter box. If they’re following you to the bathroom and using the litter box while you use the toilet, it could be because they feel insecure about their current potty situation.

Below are some tips and recommendations that might help your cat feel more secure about bathroom time.

Choosing a Litter Box

Cat stepping out of litter box
Cat stepping out of litter box

There are a ton of options when it comes to choosing a litter box for our cats, and it makes it nearly impossible to find the right fit. However, if you pay attention to your cat and learn what they like and dislike, you should be able to find that fit after a little trial and error. Some things to consider when looking for a little box are:

– Size – Make sure you are selecting a litter box that is big enough for your cat. Your cat should be able to turn around in the box without causing an accident outside of the box. As a general rule: the bigger the cat, the bigger the box.

– Depth – This characteristic is mostly determined by the cat’s size as well. In order to allow enough space at the top for the burying process, you will need to make sure the litter is deep enough in the box to provide ample space for waste to be covered, while also not overfilling the box. If you find that a large amount of litter is being spread around outside the litter box, you have probably filled it with too much litter, and should reduce the amount in the future.

– Covered or Uncovered – This is absolutely determined by each cat’s preference, regardless of the benefits a cat owner might see. Although a covered litter box is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and perhaps retains the loose litter better, it could cause some problems for your instinctively predatory feline.

Some cats will enjoy the privacy of the enclosed litter box, while others might find it makes them anxious because there is only one escape route; which isn’t ideal in the case of an attack. Cats are constantly thinking with a predatory mindset and this could lead to some issues with an enclosed litter box.

If you notice that your cat is avoiding potty time, you might try uncovering the litter box to see if it makes a positive difference in your cat’s usage.

Choosing the Right Litter

There are a few options when it comes to choosing a litter for your cat’s litter box. Depending on what your cat needs or likes, it’s important to do some research behind each kind of litter to determine which kind is best for your kitty. Here are a list of some of the more common types of litter you can choose from: 

  • Non- clumping (clay)
  • Clumping
  • Sawdust/ Pine or recycled newspaper pellets
  • Flushable

Choose a Location 

Cat inside the box
Cat inside the box

When choosing a location for your litter box, it’s important that you put it in a place that is easily accessible for cleaning, convenient for your cat, and is placed on a hard surface. Firstly, by putting the litter box in a place that is easy for you to get to, you are more likely to make sure it stays clean.

In turn, your cat will be happier to experience less bad smells, and frankly, so will your house guests. Secondly, it’s just as crucially important that the litter box is accessible to your feline 24 hours as day; as they may need to make a quick run to the litter box at any given time.

Finally, it’s important that you find a hard surface to station the litter box on so that it will not only provide stability for the litter box, but for your cat as well. If the litter box is wobbling on its surface, it may cause a negative impression on your cat, which in turn might result in your cat finding a different place to relieve itself.


Our curious cat friends have made a habit out of following us to the bathroom when we go to use the toilet, and sometimes to even join us in the act. So it’s logical to conclude that cats are drawn to the bathroom if they smell their litter box is in there, but also for a variety of other reasons as well.

Although most actions by cats remain a complete mystery, especially this one, there is still comfort in knowing that they will follow us just about anywhere.