No one likes it when a cat starts eliminating outside of the litter box but the one place that really is difficult for cat parents to deal with is when kitty starts peeing on the bed. It seems to be the one location most human family members take as a personal insult. As hard as it may seem to understand why your loving cat would suddenly view your bed as a litter box, it has nothing to do with spite or revenge.
Is Your Cat’s Behavior Anxiety Related?
Many times when the bed is the chosen area, there’s a good chance the behavior is due to anxiety. That anxiety can be due to many factors in the environment but before you start running through the list of what might be stressing your cat to the point where he feels he needs to pee on your bed, you first have to check other things off the list.
Time for Your Cat to Visit the Veterinarian
No matter where your cat has begun eliminating, if the location is not in the litter box itself, then the first step is have him checked by the veterinarian. A physical exam, including a urinalysis and any other appropriate diagnostic tests need to be performed to make sure there isn’t an underlying cause for the behavior. Even if you’re convinced it’s behavioral, don’t skip the important first step of ruling out medical issues because you certainly wouldn’t want your cat suffering. Additionally, it’s very common for a cat with a medical issue such as lower urinary tract disease, to avoid the box.
Make Sure the Litter Box Itself isn’t the Problem
It’s time to do a thorough evaluation of the litter box conditions. Let’s start with cleanliness. How often is the box getting scooped? It should be checked and scooped at least twice daily. It can be very stressful for a cat to have to deal with a dirty litter box. When I do consultations I come across many clients who are shocked to learn that scooping every other day isn’t adequate. Imagine if your toilet only got flushed every other day. It wouldn’t be pleasant, would it? For cats, the need for a clean toileting area is also rooted in survival. They eliminate away from their nesting area and then cover their waste so it doesn’t attract predators. Indoor cats retain this same instinct. A dirty, smelly litter box becomes a neon sign advertising to predators. The box should be scooped twice daily and then the litter should be completely dumped and the box scrubbed on a monthly basis. If you’re not using scoopable litter then the scrubbing schedule will have to be more frequent.
Look at the size of the box itself. Make sure you’ve matched the size of the box with the size of your cat. I know having a litter box in the house isn’t high on the list of attractive décor, but don’t skimp by getting a small box just so you can hide it in a corner. Your cat needs to be able to get into it comfortably. Ideally, the box should be 1 ½ times the length of your cat.
Another important thing to consider is whether you have provided an adequate number of litter boxes. You should more litter boxes than you have cats. At the very least, make sure the amount of boxes outnumber the cats by at least one.
Check the location of the box (or boxes). Maybe your cat tolerated it in an unappealing area for as long as he could and then decided he couldn’t take it anymore. Is the box in a noisy, insecure area? Or, is it hidden away so remotely that it would take GPS to find it? Did you move the box suddenly? Cats don’t like sudden changes. The box should be located in a quiet but easy to access area. In multicat homes, boxes should be scattered throughout the house so one cat doesn’t have to cross another cat’s path.
What type of box is it? If the box has a cover, that might be what’s bothering the cat. Some cats feel too cramped in a covered box. Covered boxes also hold more odor inside which can be offensive to a cat’s sensitive nose. In a multicat household, a covered box can become an ambush location because the cat inside the box has no escape route.
Why is the Bed Appealing to Your Cat?
There are a number of reasons a cat may choose a human family member’s bed for elimination, such as:
Elevation advantage. This is of particular appeal in a multicat household or one where the cat may feel threatened. It can also be a household where the cat is bothered by the dog. The elevation of the bed provides more of a visual advantage so the cat can more easily see the approach of an opponent. Since most beds are placed with the headboards up against the wall, the cat has the advantage of not having to worry about being ambushed from behind. He can eliminate on the bed and keep watch for any danger. From the cat’s point of view, the bed meets the requirements of litter because it’s soft and absorbent so when you add the safety element of elevation, it becomes an ideal spot for staying out of harm’s way when nature calls.
Human Family Member’s Absence. Because the bed is an object of concentrated scents of the absent family member, a cat may eliminate in that location if the family member’s schedule has changed or there’s a longer-than-normal absence. It’s not a way of getting back at the person, but rather, a self-soothing behavior that relieves some the separation anxiety. It may be comforting for the cat to mix his scent with the human’s scent.