A cat peeing on bed covers and throws can challenge even the most experienced cat owners. Cat behaviorist Clare Hemington answers that all important question: Why is my cat peeing on my bed? And gives you practical tips and advice to stop your cat peeing where it shouldn’t.
- Home remedies
- Why is my cat peeing on my bed
- Medical issues
- Litter box woes
- Litter box solutions
- Breaking the habit
- Kitten troubles
- Removing cat pee & smell
The causes of a cat peeing in the bed can include anxiety or stress, medical problems and litter box issues. Urinating in inappropriate places can become a habit so its important that you identify the cause and treat the problem quickly.
Cats peeing on your pillows and duvets can be very frustrating, and it’s hard not to lose your temper. Perhaps you’ve bought your cat a brand-new cat bed and he decides to thank you by squatting in it and taking a pee. You might even discover that your cat has been peeing in the dog’s bed!
Any of these scenarios can really affect your relationship with your cat. It’s frustrating when you have to keep washing the soiled items over and over again. The last thing most of us need is extra work.
A quick internet search for ‘My cat peed on my bed’ or ‘Cat urinating on bed remedies’ produces all sorts of information. Some of this might be useful, but some of it can actually make things worse.
You might have heard of home remedies such as putting tin foil, citrus peel, or pepper on the soiled area. In my experience, cat simply ignore these and carry on peeing in the same place.
You might even decide to shut the bedroom door or throw away the dog bed. The poor old dog will have to sleep on the floor. However, this may move the behavior to another location, and you’ll upset the dog for nothing. And it doesn’t address the reasons why your cat is doing it in the first place.
Why Is My Cat Peeing on My Bed?
If you understand why your cat is peeing on the bed, then you can look for ways to stop it. Then, you can start rebuilding your relationship with your cat. It can be a slow process with no easy fix, but you’ll get there in the end. All you need is a few useful tips.
Is there a medical problem?
The first thing to do is check that there are no underlying medical conditions. Whenever your cat’s elimination habits change, the first thing you should do is take your cat for a veterinary checkup. This is because there is sometimes a physical reason for their behavior. They might have a bladder infection and kidney stones, which can make cats urinate in some very unusual places.
If your vet finds no physical cause, then we can start addressing the problem from a behavioral perspective. Let’s look at one of the most common causes for peeing in the wrong place. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to fix.
Litter Box Problems
If you find yourself asking, ‘why is my cat peeing on my bed?’ the first place to look is always the litter box. So often, this is the cause of the problem. A few changes to your daily routine, or even just moving it, can make the difference.
Cats have very particular requirements for their indoor toilet arrangements. They are more likely to develop inappropriate elimination behavior if things do not meet their approval. For example, the litter box might be too small or covered with a hood. Or, your cat might see it as too dirty or, believe it or not, too clean.
Maybe you have filled it with a litter they find uncomfortable. Perhaps the cat litter contains a strong-smelling deodorizer. Perhaps it’s shared between several cats or has a plastic liner that he absolutely hates. What if it’s in a noisy or busy area: face it, you like a bit of privacy in the bathroom, so maybe your cat does too!
What if it’s located too close to your cat’s food. Who wants to go to the toilet next to where they eat? As any cat owner will tell you, our feline friends can be very temperamental. If something isn’t right, they’ll let you know!
Stress: Frightened Cats Pee on Beds
It isn’t always easy to tell if a cat is suffering from stress or anxiety, but either can make inappropriate urination more likely. Common causes of stress are the introduction of another cat, or other pets. And moving home.
However, even if stressed, a cat will use their litter box provided some conditions are met. And we’ll talk about those in a moment.
The Cat’s Perspective
When dealing with the unpleasant reality of soiled duvets and pillows, its important to try to look at things from your cat’s point of view. Remember, cats never pee on your stuff to make you mad. There’s always a reason and the answer often lies in that litter box
But why did my cat pee on my bed!
As we saw, if your cat thinks that there is something wrong with the litter box, they will seek alternative sites. It’s almost like they have a mental checklist they work through when they want a suitable toilet.
- Is it in the right place? Check
- Do I like the litter? Check
- Is nobody else around? Check
Soft Beds and Cat Pee
What is it about our bed that’s so attractive? How on earth can a clean, freshly made bed suddenly become a toilet? Why do cats pee on beds anyway? We are back to the mind of the cat.
When we are looking for an answer to the question: why do cats pee on beds, or pillows, the answer often lies in the texture. In most cases, beds have a soft and plush yielding surface. This makes them perfect to sleep on, but it also makes them super comfortable underfoot. What a great place to pee! A five star toilet! One other thing about your bed, in the mind of your cat, is that your scent impregnates the bed. For insecure cats, this is wonderfully reassuring and makes them feel safe.
Think about it for a minute – sometimes your cat pees on your bed because they love you. You make them feel safe! That’s the main reason why yelling at them can make it worse! Compare your bed to the tiny, shared litter box, next to a noisy washing machine, with uncomfortable litter. As far as your cat is concerned, it’s a no-brainer! Why not have a luxury pee!
She feel great relief when she can empty her full bladder in such a fantastic place. Pleased with herself, she might just choose the same spot the next time she gets the urge.
Why is My Cat Urinating On its Own Bed?
For humans, peeing on your own bed is very strange. However, it sometimes makes perfect sense to your cat! The reasons why your cat might start peeing on his own bed are the same as those that cause her to pee on your bed. Let’s just run through those again, quickly:
- She feels that the toilet facilities are below par and need some improvement.
- There are other cats around. How can you expect her to pee without any privacy?
- Physical and emotional changes to the environment mean that she is stressed and wants somewhere safe to pee.
My Cat Peed In Her Brand New Bed
What if your well house-trained cat pees on the cat bed you’ve just bought for her. How ungrateful after you went to all that time and effort. But, just think for a moment. Are you sure she even knows it’s a bed?
Perhaps she actually thinks that it is a new toilet. It’s the best toilet ever because it is so soft and comfortable underfoot. How delightful! In our human minds, we know the difference between a litter box and a cat bed! In a cat’s mind, things are different. She can’t read the label, after all!
It’s actually pretty logical when you think about it. Many traditional cat beds are roughly the same size and shape as a litter box. Like litter trays, they may be enclosed or semi-enclosed.
If she pees or poops in it once, and the bed remains in the same place, she will see it as an extension to her existing toilet facilities. In other words, she will continue to use it.
Really, the only way to change that is washing the bed and moving it. We will give you some great advice on getting rid of the smell later. Now, let’s look at the dog bed. What did the poor old pooch do to deserve cat pee in his bed?
Cat Peeing On Dog Bed
Why isn’t the dog going in his bed? Why is he standing there looking at it forlornly? Wait a minute, the cat’s peed on it. Why did she do that? Again, let’s look at this from your cat’s perspective. Just like the cat’s own bed and your bed, dog’s cosy blankets are probably a lovely soft texture, and give your cat a comfortable toileting experience.
It’s also much bigger than the litter box, and is located somewhere discreet. Maybe the dog’s bed provides a nice open space where your cat has a 360-degree view so she can see any approaching threats.
From a cat peeing on bed perspective, what’s not to like? She isn’t doing it to annoy the dog, even though it’s tempting to think so! Now, we understand why she is peeing on beds, so why don’t we look at a few ways we can stop it.
How to Stop Cat Peeing on Duvet
In theory, your cat can ‘unlearn’ the habit of peeing on the bed. However, don’t forget to look at the reasons we gave above. We’ll look at breaking the cycle in a moment but first let’s make sure that your cat’s toilet facilities are ideal.
Where To Put Your Cat’s Litter Box
When looking for the perfect place, choose somewhere that’s private and away from busy areas and noisy machines. Avoid placing an open litter box next to a window or cat flap, so that your cat doesn’t feel threatened by the presence of other cats.
If you have more than one box, it’s best to resist the temptation to place them side by side, as your cat will simply view them as a single latrine.
Finally, make sure the box is well away from your cat’s food and water. Like humans, cats prefer not to eat food placed next to a toilet!
We’ve found the perfect place, so what about the perfect litter box. Is there even such a thing?
Litter Box Shape and Size
Ideally, a litter box should be rectangular. It should be one and a half times the length of your cat measured from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail. For most cats, that’s a minimum of 22 x 17 inches (49.5 x 38 cm). If you have a big Maine Coon or other giant breed, you might need something bigger.
This will give him room to move, turn, dig, and choose the perfect spot to eliminate in the box. If he doesn’t have room, he might just look for somewhere else to pee, like your freshly laundered pillows!
What about the type of litter box? Some of us buy covered boxes, partly to keep in the smell, partly because we think that our cat must feel safer. Believe it or not, the opposite is usually true!
Type of Litter Box
An open litter box gives your cat the opportunity to keep an eye on what’s going on around her. This is especially important to her if she lives with other cats.
Think about it. For a cat waiting to ambush someone, where better than waiting outside a hooded litter box, where their victim will be off guard. Covered litterboxes provide the opportunity for fellow cat-mates to ambush the unsuspecting cat when she attempts to get out.
If you prefer a hooded box, you could always try removing the door, allowing your cat to stick her head out and look out for any approaching threats.
Now, what about the litter? We tend to think that litter is just litter, but it really makes a difference to your cat.
Type of Kitty Litter
How do we choose the perfect kitty litter? Don’t forget that your cat’s feet can be delicate, so they might not appreciate some of the cheaper litters that can be very hard and sharp.
Choose a fine, unscented, granular clumping litter. Your cat can rake-around to their heart’s content without feeling any discomfort to his sensitive paw pads.
Avoid using too much or too little litter. A depth of around 3-4cm is usually enough for most cats. You might need a bit more for cats that urinate frequently, or for multi-cat households. It’s a matter of trial and error.
One other question I am asked a lot is how many litter boxes do we need?
Number of Litter Boxes
How many litter boxes should you provide?
Where practical, provide one litter box per cat, plus one in a separate location.
Even if you have only one cat, giving him the choice of two trays is a good idea as some cats like to pee and poop in separate places.
If you are house training a cat and you are introducing litter boxes, you should still stick to these criteria.
Now, we have enough boxes, so how do we clean them?
Cleaning The Litter Box
For a single cat, you should scoop out urine clumps and solids at least a couple of times daily. If you do it more often, that’s even better, especially if you have more than one cat using the same box.
Once you’ve finished scooping, don’t forget to top the litter up to maintain the right depth.
You should use an appropriate litter scoop, because those with large holes make it very difficult to remove all the urine clumps. Instead, try a scoop with holes small enough to ensure that not even the tiniest urine particles ends up back in the box.
Really, you should empty the litter box completely once a week. You can throw old litter away and give the box a good clean with hot water and washing up liquid. It’s best to avoid any strong-smelling detergents or litter freshening products.
Despite all this, she still refuses to use the box. What do we do now?
Avoid Negativity to Stop Cat Peeing on Bed
If your cat is still wary of the box, even after you have moved it and used good quality litter, perhaps it is because she has built up a negative association. You can do a few things to solve the problem. It’s all about avoiding negativity!
Resist the temptation to force your cat into the litter box when you are trying to encourage them to pee in the right place. No matter how gentle you are, the cat will resist and will associate the litter box with this unpleasant (for her) experience.
Firstly, try removing any plastic liners because cats can easily get their claws caught in them. Most cats absolutely hate this!
One little trick that sometimes works is using synthetic pheromones to help her feel safe and less stressed.
Using Synthetic Pheromones can provide a sense of security and reduce anxiety in cats so having a pheromone diffuser in the area where your cat spends most of his time may promote a sense of well-being and reduce stress-related house soiling.
Pheromones don’t always work, but they are sometimes worth a try.
Once you have toilet facilities in order, the next step is to break the bad habit.
Breaking the Cycle
The next step is to minimize stress and if possible, deny the cat access to the area that they have been soiling for a few months. Shutting the bedroom door can stop peeing on bed problems if the litter box issues have been resolved.
But what if your cat is urinating on your bed, but it isn’t feasible to exclude him from the bedroom. In this case, you need to break the habit and stop him seeing soft furnishings as a toilet. The easiest way to do this is by making the bed uninhabitable.
One thing I use is to put storage boxes on the bed, containing a few heavy items to give a bit of weight. Books, a duvet, and pillows work just fine.
For cat and dog beds, take them away indefinitely, and don’t replace them until you have the problem under control. That seems a bit unfair for the dog, but having a bed full of cat pee is even more unfair!
While we’re on the subject of cat smells, how do we get rid of cat pee smell? Any residual smell of urine reinforces the idea that your bed is a fantastic toilet.
How to Get Rid of Cat Pee Smell
A well-serviced litter box shouldn’t give off much of a smell. Clean often and thoroughly, and you won’t have to worry.
However, you can’t say the same for other areas where a cat might choose to pee – your bed, the dog’s bed, or anywhere else. Once a cat urinates on a surface, the smell can linger for a long time. Generally, the quicker you act, the better your chances of getting rid of the smell.
One useful tip – avoid using bleach, because this breaks down into ammonia compounds that smell very much like cat urine. This is likely to reinforce the idea that the location is a cat toilet. In other words, the more you clean, the more they pee!
Instead, soak the urine up with a paper towel then use an enzymatic cat urine cleaner on the soiled area.
Various specially formulated cleaners can remove the stain and tackle the cat urine odor. Some work better than others, so ask your veterinarian or local cat home for a recommendation.
Remember, once the smell of urine becomes ingrained, sometimes nothing works, and you may have no option but to replace the soiled item.
The information above is to help you stop and adult cat from peeing on the bed, or anywhere else other than their litter box. Before we go, let’s just take a quick look at the situation with kittens.
Kitten Peeing On Bed
So, you have a new fluffball who brings nothing but joy. Apart from, that is, peeing on the pillows or the dog’s bed. Why do they do it? How do you stop it?
The answer usually lies in his rearing when he was small. Specifically, did he have access to a litter box? We need to teach kittens toilet habits and condition them. If he has never seen a litter box, it’s no wonder he doesn’t know how to use one!
For example, he may be used to newspaper on the floor. To him, your brand-new litter box or litter don’t look or feel like a toilet. It’s not his fault – he simply doesn’t know any better, so you will have to teach him.
Just maybe, it’s related to the day you brought him home. Think back to when your bundle of joy first came into your house. Many owners place their new little bundle of fluff in the sanctuary of their bedroom. Face it, it seems to be the perfect place. It’s quiet, so kitten can get away from the kids who just want to play. Your bedroom is warm and comfortable, so surely he should be happy in there.
Understanding Your Kitten
However, look at it from the kitten’s perspective. The little thing has just been taken away from his mother and siblings. He’s been placed in an unfamiliar environment and he’s very anxious and lonely. This may be enough to trigger stress-related pee.
One other cause is forgetting to put a litter box in the room. In all the excitement of adopting a kitten, you put it in the bedroom when it was tired. But, you forgot the litter box! It’s actually very easy to do, even for experienced cat owners! If the surface he pees on happens to be the bed then, in his mind, he will associate that location with elimination.
Fortunately the solutions are the same. Provide a well located litter box (or multiple litter boxes if you have a large home) and keep them well maintained. You may need to restrict your kitten to a small part of the house for a while to get litter box training back underway.
At the same time, restrict your kitten from areas where they have peed inappropriately. You may need to do this for a couple of months or more. Kittens learn fast so with good access to well maintained litter boxes you should soon be back on track.
How to Stop a Cat Peeing on Bed Covers – Putting It All Into Practice
If your cat keeps peeing on your bed, his bed, or the dog’s bed it’s worth remembering that each cat is different. There is no one-size fits all solution to the problem, and you have to try a few things. But with patience and persistence you should be able to overcome this unpleasant problem.
For the best results, you’ll need to deny your cat access to your bed or other areas where he has been peeing inappropriately. And at the same time, make his litter box area attractive to him.
With time and patience, you should be able to restore your cat’s proper house manners. If you continue to have problems, don’t hesitate to consult a qualified cat behaviorist. They’ll be able to give you some great advice on how to stop your cat peeing on pillows, bedcovers and blankets.
- 1AAFP and ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling JSFM June 2014
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- Schwartz, 2002. “Separation anxiety syndrome in cats: 136 cases (1991–2000).” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Borchelt et al. 1996. “Elimination behavior problems in cats.” Readings in companion animal behavior.