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.
Conflict. If there’s a new significant other now sharing the bed or if the cat has been having trouble bonding with one of the cat guardians, he may eliminate on that person’s side of the bed. This mixing of scents may be self-soothing to the cat and may also be a way of trying to communicate information about himself.
Appealing Substrate. Sometimes it just comes down to the fact that the particular comforter or blanket material texture is very appealing, especially if the current litter box conditions aren’t. The type of bedding may be the perfect softness or texture for elimination. From a cat’s point of view, it meets the requirements of litter – soft, absorbent and clean.
Unexpected Change. In the case of a move to a new home, the cat may be having trouble with the new litter box location. The cat guardians’s bed is a source of familiar and comforting scents. Even renovation or just household upheaval could result in the cat choosing to eliminate on the bed. If the cat doesn’t feel safe in the house (maybe due to the addition of another cat), he may choose to camp out in the cat guardian’s bedroom for safety. When it comes time to eliminate, the soft bed meets all requirements and has that elevation benefit for added safety.
Reclaiming Your Bed
After you’ve had the cat to the veterinarian and have also carefully re-examined the cat’s litter box set-up, it’s time to look at what environmental factors could be contributing to the problem. If it’s a textural issue, try switching to a different type of comforter. Look for one that has a completely different feel than the current one. You may even have to keep your bedroom door closed during the day to limit access to the temptation of being on the bed. To limit the risk of more damage done to the bed should the door be open, you can keep a shower curtain liner on top of it.
Normally, I advise cat guardians not to conduct play sessions on the bed because it may send a mixed message to the cat about pouncing and soliciting play during the night. In the case of a cat eliminating on the bed though, it may help to do a little playtime there so he starts to view the location as somewhere fun and positive. You can also offer treats in that location.
Address multicat issues. The cat may not feel safe enough venturing out of the bedroom in order to get to the litter box. Make sure you have an adequate number of boxes scattered around and work to improve the relationship between the cats. This can involve providing more resources, increasing hiding/perching options, and in some cases, you may need to do a reintroduction of the cats.
Address conflicts the cat may have with other family members. If the cat is having trouble bonding with a new significant other, then it’s time to set up a program where that person starts doing the feeding, treat-giving and some of the playtime. This will help change the cat’s association with the new person.