—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
Inappropriate elimination remains one of the most frustrating problems cat parents face. When it comes to urinating on personal possessions, like your clothes or your bed, it seems to strike a different chord and feel like a personal attack.
First, please know, your cat is not peeing on your bed out of spite. There is no research to show that cats or dogs display the spite emotion. But there are many other reasons why your cat is displaying this behavior, with stress and insecurity being the most likely. Let’s dive in.
Rule Out Medical Reasons First
You can do all the work and training you want, but if your cat is having a medical problem, you will never fix the problem unless you address their health. Medical reasons cats go outside the litter box include:
Your vet can diagnose a UTI through a urinalysis, and will sometimes suggest a urine culture for confirmation on what type of bacteria is present. The treatment is an antibiotic.
Stones and crystals are typically diagnosed through blood work and a urinalysis. If stones are suspected, your vet will want to do a radiograph to confirm. Treatment is a diet to dissolve the crystals or stones, but sometimes, surgery is needed to remove them.
Seniors spend even more time sleeping than younger cats, and when they wake up, they may have to go so badly, they don’t have enough time to make it to their box. Kidney disease is diagnosed through a blood test, comparing the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) to the creatinine.
There is no cure for kidney disease, but it can be managed with fluids (subcutaneous or intravenous), kidney-specific diet (low in protein, phosphorus, and sodium), oral medications, and some other treatments.
They may also suggest X-rays. There are some meds that can help with pain, and joint supplements can also be an option, but getting your cat to a healthy weight is also crucial. Talk to your vet about your cat's individual needs. It's a good idea to have pet steps for your bed along with a low profile litter box close by.
A cat with all of these symptoms combined with old age may have some level of dementia, and you will likely need to do your best to set up a cat bed near their litter box so they have easier and quicker access.
Getting in and out of the litter box or jumping down from a bed could be painful, which is one reason your cat may pee on your bed. If your cat is declawed, talk to your vet about a claw repair surgery. Diagnostics are used to see if there are any bone fragments left from the declaw (a recent study showed this happens in 63% of declaw surgeries).
If fragments are found, a vet will clear them out surgically. This will help your cat with pain. When surgery isn’t an option, you can consult your vet on options to manage chronic pain long-term.
Clean & Protect
No matter why your cat is having elimination issues, make sure to clean all stains with an enzymatic cleaner. You want to make sure your cat doesn’t still smell their business, or they are likely to be repeat offenders. Follow the directions on the bottle for how to treat the stain.
Keep your mattress safe by using a mattress protector. You’ll want one that’s waterproof, antimicrobial, stain-resistant, and machine washable.
House Soiling 101
Once you’ve ruled out medical issues, the next step is to determine the type of elimination. House soiling involves emptying an entire bladder onto a surface, whereas spraying or marketing involves only releasing a small amount of pee at a time (not the entire bladder). The reasons for each are different.
Good litter box maintenance and management will fix most house soiling and even some stress marking issues. Before we look at the reasons for house soiling, the basics of good litter box setup and management are:
- Correct number of boxes, 1/cat + 1
- Correct sized box, 1.5x length of cat's body
- Appropriate litter, most prefer unscented clumping clay
- Placed in quiet, calm areas with multiple exit routes
- Clean boxes, scoop 1-2x/day; dump entire box and clean with mild detergent preferably 1x/week, but a minimum of 1x/month
Now, we'll discuss common reasons for house soiling:
Sometimes litter box aversion comes from the cat associating something traumatic with the box. This could be a loud noise, another cat bullying them, or even severe constipation or diarrhea while they were using it previously. If litter box aversion is from trauma, you’ll need to get a new box, try a new location, and encourage use and reward the cat with treats.
To test, put litter boxes in a number of areas, and see which box they use the most. Keep in mind that it’s best to have at least one box per floor. If you have seniors or any cats with mobility issues, be sure to put a box in the room(s) where they spend most of their time. The easier you make for them to use it, the more likely they are to use it!
Then you want to put a large square piece of the fabric they like in their litter box with a handful of litter. Every few days, decrease the fabric size, and increase the amount of litter. Continue this until you’ve successfully transitioned them to litter.
If your cat prefers smooth surfaces, like tile, you’ll do the same thing, but without the fabric in the box. Simply put a handful of litter in a litter box, and increase the amount every few days.
One of the most likely reasons your cat is peeing on your bed is due to stress or anxiety. The cat has a need to mark their territory in order to feel secure and claim items. Now, anxiety can cause inflammation in the bladder called idiopathic cystitis.
It's believed the stress causes hormonal and chemical imbalances resulting in inflammation. Although it's a physical condition, not a lot is known about it, and the best management so far is managing stress. Your cat can still be stressed and not have idiopathic cystitis.
Many times stress marking is the result of a new human or pet in the home. In this case, the cat is peeing on your bed because they’re insecure and want to claim a space as their own. There are a number of things you can do to help your kitty feel more confident. Here are a few things to try.
A cat going outside the litter box is frustrating, but now you know what to do. Always rule out health issues, properly maintain litter boxes and work on making your kitty confident and comfortable.
Birken, Allison. BeChewy.com, Why Is My Cat Peeing the Bed?.
Cornell University. Cornell Feline Health Center, Chronic Kidney Disease.
Delgado, Mikel Maria. What Your Cat Wants, Declawing: A New Study Shows We Can't Look Away.
Downing, Robin. VCA, Arthritis in Cats.
SoftPaws.com, Why Do Cats Pee on Their Human’s Beds?.
PetMD, 5 Reasons Your Cat is Peeing the Bed.
Article by Elizabeth Italia 🙋♀️
Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist