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Why Does My Cat Pee on My Bed?

Cat Peeing on a Bed

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:

  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) - Cats often will go in and out of the box, strain to pee, pee in more tiny puddles as opposed to one giant puddle, or even have reddish/brownish urine because there is blood present.

    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.

  • Bladder Stones & Crystals - In some cats, minerals stick together in the kidneys and form crystals or stones. They can be extremely uncomfortable for your cat, causing inflammation of the bladder, pain, and even cause a blockage down the road. Because your cat is uncomfortable, they may pee in random areas of the home.

    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.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease - Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when the kidneys lose function over time (it often comes with age). Cats with CKD, even in early stages, have increased thirst and urination. Although it can appear in younger cats, it’s more common in older cats.

    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.

  • Diabetes - Cats with diabetes have excessive urination and thirst, and they are usually obsese. This combination will make it difficult for your cat to wake from a deep nap, realize they have to pee, and quickly make it off the bed. Your vet will diagnose diabetes after viewing a blood panel and urinalysis with high levels of glucose. The best treatment is insulin therapy.

  • Arthritis - Cats get arthritis just like humans, and 9 out of 10 cats over 10 have arthritis in at least one joint. Arthritis can making jumping up and down and going in and out of the box difficult. Vets will diagnose arthritis based on symptoms and a physical exam.

    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.

  • Dementia - If your cat is older, it’s possible they fall asleep on your bed, wake up from a deep sleep, have to pee and forget where they are, or can’t hold it long enough to get down. While there is no treatment for dementia, it’s important to look for other symptoms like excessive meowing, confusion, looking at walls, or gazing.

    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.

  • Paw & Back Pain From a Declaw Declawed cats are 7-10x more likely to go outside the litter box. The removal of the claw also involves removing bone, ligaments, and tendons, forcing the cat to walk on a joint. These cats must modify their gait to do everything, and studies show they have more back and paw pain than non-declawed cats.

    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:

  • Litter Box Aversion - Your cat may not like their actual litter box. Most cats prefer uncovered boxes, so if the box is covered, try uncovering and see if that helps. Make sure the box is large enough. Other things to consider are the material (plastic, biodegradable, stainless steel, etc.) and shape. To test, put two or three different boxes next to each other and see which your cat prefers. And always keep the boxes clean.

    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.

  • Substrate Aversion - Your cat doesn’t like the type of litter you're using. Most cats prefer unscented clumping litter, so it’s usually a good idea to start with that. To find out what your cat prefers, line up 2-3 litter boxes, each with different litter, and see what your cat uses the most.

  • Location Preference - Your cat doesn’t like the location of the box. Do you best to position the box in a quiet, calm area (not next to a washing machine, furnace, or garage door), where the cat will have multiple exit avenues if they have to jump out of it for any reason.

  • 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!

  • Surface Preference - This means your cat prefers a surface over the surface of their litter. If your cat is peeing on your bed, they may prefer soft textiles over hard litter. To adjust, you’ll need to block your cat’s access to the surface they like.

    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.

    Stress Marking

    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.

  • Give your cat one-on-one playtime and affection on your bed. You’ll want your cat to feel loved and also drain some nervous energy with play. Try to play with your cat 20-30 minutes a day and reward your cat with verbal praise and treats. You can also show tons of affection on the bed. This will transform the bed into a spot that they naturally claim, instead of one they have to claim.

  • Give most feeding and playtime responsibilities to the new person in the home. This will help your cat build a bond with the new human and increase their confidence, making them feel less threatened.

  • Make the bed unappealing. Since your cat likes the soft material of your comforter, try covering your bed with something else when you aren't sleeping. A shower curtain, foil, or even shallow plastic totes can work. This is only temporary until your cat stops the behavior for a prolonged period of time. Many anti-scratch sprays have scents cats don't like, so you can always try those too.

  • Use calming products. Calming collars can be very effective in relaxing your cat. You can also try plugging in pheromone diffusers near your bed.

  • Talk to your vet. If you are out of options, talk to your vet. If your cat has any bladder- or urethra-related issues, the short-term use of a vasodilator, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, or pain med can help. Sometimes managing the inflammation allows you to do the other things I mentioned, and they're more effective because your kitty isn't in pain.
  • Conclusion

    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.



    Sources:

    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  🙋‍♀️
    Cat Behavior & Fostering Specialist

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