by Geoff Williams
“Why is my cat peeing on the bed?”
Discovering you're lying on sheets soaked in cat pee may be the only time you've been awake in bed and wished you were having a nightmare. But, alas, cat urination on your mattress is one of those dilemmas that some pet parents deal with.
As you might expect, a cat micturating on your bed is sometimes due to a medical problem.
"If a cat is urinating out of the litter box, problems like bladder stones and a bladder infection, both of which cause severe inflammation and an urge to urinate, should be ruled out," says Adam Eatroff, DVM, DACVIM, staff internist and nephrologist and the director of the hemodialysis unit at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals, based in Los Angeles.
But while it might be a biological problem, says Dr. Eatroff, cats usually pee on a bed due to an issue that is rooted in anxiety and stress, which can affect several hormonal and chemical balances in the body. This is commonly referred to as idiopathic cystitis; that is, inflammation of the bladder with an unknown cause.
"Idiopathic cystitis is likely caused by hormonal imbalances and is best prevented by reducing stress in the environment," said Dr. Eatroff.
First, see your vet to make sure your cat is not suffering from an infection of the bladder or urinary tract. If your cat gets a clean bill of health and is still peeing on the bed, here are five possible reasons why your cat is using your bed as a litter box.
The Litter Box Isn't In a Good Location
Think about how you do your own bathroom business. You have a door you can shut. You've probably got the room decorated with knickknacks. Doesn't your cat deserve some privacy and pleasantry, too?
"Perhaps your litter box is in a busy area, or it’s next to a noisy appliance like a clothes dryer, or one that turns on at random times like a furnace," says Paula Garber, a certified feline training and behavior specialist based out of Briarcliff Manor, New York, and who runs Lifeline Cat Behavior Solutions.
Or maybe the cat box was in an ideal spot but as the years have gone on, it's not so convenient any more.
"Maybe the litter box is in the basement, but the cat spends most of his time on the second floor of the house. Cats can see well in low lighting but they do need some light to see. If the litter box is in a dark place with no light, a cat might be less inclined to use it, especially in a multi-cat household," Garber says.
There could be other location issues as well, Garber says. Maybe your cat has to pass the dog's favorite resting spot on the way to the litter box and is frequently chased. Or perhaps, Garber says, "Maybe the litter box is tucked into a closet with no escape routes to avoid another cat that enters."
You Need More Cat Litter Boxes
Even if you have a couple of litter boxes, it still may not be enough.
Some cats prefer to urinate and defecate in separate litter boxes, and some cats will not share a litter box with another cat," Garber says. "A good general rule is to have a litter box for each cat in the home, plus one more, and to provide at least one litter box on every level of the home."
Probably not what you want to hear. Yay, more cat litter to clean. But that’s better that than constantly cleaning your bed sheets, right?
Multiple litter boxes is especially a good idea for kittens, Garber adds. "Like children, kittens’ control over their elimination is not fully developed, so they need multiple, easily accessible litter boxes to help prevent accidents," she says, adding that you should "never scold or punish a kitten or cat, especially when she’s in or near her litter box. This will create a negative association with the box and she will avoid it. For the same reason, never use the litter box as a place to trap a cat to administer medication, trim nails, or get her into a carrier."