How to Stop Your Cat from Peeing on the Bed: Advice From a Vet

HOW TO STOP CAT PEEING ON BED - bengal cat standing on a bed with white duvet covering and pink bedroom walls

Discovering your cat has turned your bed into its personal bathroom is not only frustrating but deeply concerning.

If you find yourself dealing with this unwelcome behavior, you’re not alone. Many cat owners face similar challenges, and like them you are probably wondering how to stop your cat from peeing on the bed.

Understanding the common reasons behind this issue is the first step in solving it, and fortunately, there are effective strategies to address it.

Read on to discover the possible reasons behind this behavior, including medical issues and behavioral issues. Learn how to prevent future incidents and keep both you and your cat happy.

Understanding the “Why”: Common Reasons Cats Pee on Beds

Cats may seem mysterious, but when it comes to inappropriate urination, there’s always an underlying cause. Understanding the ‘why’ can shed light on this distressing behavior, making it easier to address and rectify. 

Reasons why cats pee on beds can be generally grouped into four categories: litter box issues, medical issues, stress and anxiety, and territorial behavior.  Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Litter Box Problems

Cats are particular about their litter boxes. Several factors might be at play if your cat is avoiding theirs:

  • Location and Accessibility: If the litter box is placed in a high-traffic area of your home or in a spot that is hard for your cat to access easily, they may feel less inclined to use it regularly. It’s important to consider your cat’s preferences when choosing the location for their litter box to make sure they feel comfortable and at ease while using it.
  • Cleanliness: Cats are clean creatures and may avoid a dirty litter box. Cats have a strong sense of smell, and they are very particular about where they relieve themselves. Litter boxes that are not cleaned regularly will cause your cat to seek out alternative spots like your bed or carpet.
  • Litter Box Type: Cats can have preferences when it comes to the type of litter box they use. Some may prefer open-top boxes, while others feel more secure in covered ones. Large cats may avoid the litter box if it is too small to comfortably use, and cats with mobility issues might not  be able to get in and out of a high-sided litter box. Self-cleaning litter boxes are popular with cat owners, but some cats may not like the noise or movement, causing them to avoid it.
  • Not Enough Boxes: Cats value privacy. In a multi-cat household, the rule of thumb is one litter box per cat, plus one extra. When boxes are shared, scents mingle, and territorial disputes can occur, leading to one or more cats seeking alternative spots to relieve themselves. By providing multiple options, you reassure each cat of its own space and reduce the chances of competitive behavior.
  • Dislike of Litter Type: Some cats may be picky about the texture or scent of the litter. If the litter you’re using doesn’t appeal to your cat, they might avoid the box altogether.
How to Stop Your Cat from Peeing on the Bed - drawing of a large striped orange cat sitting forlornly in a black litter box

Medical Issues

Sometimes, the root of your cat’s avoidance of the litter box is not behavioral but medical, which is why it’s so important to pay close attention to their health. 

Here are some of the medical problems that might be causing the trouble:

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): UTIs can make urination very painful for cats, and they might start associating that pain with their litter box which leads them to avoid it and find other areas to urinate instead. Signs of a bladder infection could include frequent attempts to urinate, producing little to no urine, and meowing loudly in the litter box due to discomfort.
  • Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease is common in older cats and can lead to increased thirst and urination. Cats that need to urinate frequently may not always have time to make it to the litter box so instead go in the nearest spot – which sometimes happens to be your bed. 
  • Bladder Stones: Like UTIs, stones can cause significant discomfort when urinating. They can even lead to blockages, which are dangerous and require immediate veterinary intervention.
  • Idiopathic Cystitis: This is a catch-all term for inflammation of the bladder without a known cause. Cystitis causes significant discomfort, and cats may associate the pain with their litter box, leading them to avoid using it.
  • Diabetes: Undiagnosed diabetes can cause increased urination. A cat with uncontrolled diabetes might not make it to the litter box in time.
  • Incontinence:  Older cats or those with spinal cord injuries may experience incontinence, meaning  they are unable to control their bladder. Cats with incontinence may not be intentionally peeing on your bed, but instead, they are unable to control it and have accidents. 

Stress and Anxiety

Cats are sensitive creatures and can experience stress from changes in their environment or routine. This stress can lead to inappropriate urination as they try to self-soothe. Look for signs of stress, such as:

  • Changes in the Home: Moving to a new house, renovations and loud noises, or even rearranging the furniture can upset your cat.
  • New Family Members: The addition of a new family member, whether human or animal, can cause stress and change in routine for your cat. A new pet, a new baby, or any new people in general can stress a cat. This disruption may lead them to seek alternative spots for urination.
  • Change in Routine: Cats thrive on routine, and any significant change like a new work schedule or changes in household dynamics can cause stress and anxiety.
  • Absence of the Owner: Cats can become stressed if their human companions are away frequently or for extended periods.
  • Illness: Just as humans get stressed when they’re sick, cats can experience the same. If your cat is feeling unwell or recovering from an illness, it may lead them to avoid using their litter box temporarily.

Territorial Behavior

Sometimes the reason behind your cat’s choice to pee on the bed could be marking territory, especially in a house with multiple cats, where establishing dominance can be important.  

Unneutered males and unspayed females are more prone to marking due to hormonal drives. Especially in a multi-cat household, cats may urinate to mark their territory, and your bed might seem like a valuable spot.

Here are some signs that your cat may be marking their territory:

  • Urine Spraying: Unlike regular urination, which happens on a horizontal surface, spraying is done on vertical surfaces like walls or furniture. This behavior can be territorial but also occur in response to stress.
  • Tail Quivering and Twitching: While scent marking with urine, cats will often quiver or twitch their tails.
  • Scratching Furniture: Scratching and clawing furniture, walls, and other objects is another form of scent marking. Cats have scent glands in their paws, so by scratching, they’re also depositing their scent on surfaces.
  • Aggression towards Other Cats: If you have multiple cats and notice aggressive behavior like hissing or fighting, it could be a sign of territorial disputes. 
How to Stop Your Cat from Peeing on the Bed - top view of a grey tabby kitten sitting in a brown litter box filled with white cat litter

How to Stop Your Cat from Peeing on the Bed

Understanding why your cat may be avoiding the litter box and choosing your bed as an alternative is important, but even more important is knowing how to address this behavior.

In this section, we’ll explore practical strategies to prevent your cat from urinating on the bed and foster a stress-free environment for your pet. 

Take Your Cat to the Veterinarian

Trying to fix inappropriate urination without fixing underlying health issues is doomed to failure. The first step in stopping your cat from peeing on the bed is to take it to the veterinarian for a thorough check-up.

Consulting a veterinarian is critical as they can perform detailed examinations, including urine tests and blood work, to identify any underlying medical reasons that might be causing the inappropriate urination. 

These diagnostics help in determining if the issue is related to a urinary tract infection or other medical issue that requires treatment.

With proper diagnosis, managing health conditions effectively through medication, dietary adjustments, or specialized treatments may help to stop the cat from peeing on the bed.

Clean the Affected Area Thoroughly

Cats will continue to use inappropriate places to urinate if they can smell remnants of cat urine there. This is why it is so important to clean your bed and bedding completely so there is no remaining scent to attract them back to that spot. 

Launder all bedding in a washing machine to get rid of the cat pee. It may be necessary to wash  it a couple of times to make sure there is no remaining smell.

If the urine soaked into the mattress, blot up as much of the urine as possible from the mattress using paper towels. Next, apply the enzyme cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions to break down the urine molecules and eliminate the odor completely.

After cleaning, ensure the area is thoroughly dried to prevent mold growth. To protect your mattress from future accidents, consider investing in a waterproof mattress cover which can easily be removed and washed.

Make the Bed Unattractive to Your Cat

One of the easiest ways to discourage your cat from peeing on the bed is to make it an undesirable spot. There are several tactics you can try:

  • Double-sided tape: Placing double-sided tape on your bed can be uncomfortable for cats and may deter them from jumping onto it.
  • Citrus scents: Cats dislike citrus scents, so spraying a citrus-scented air freshener or using citrus-scented cleaning products on your bed can make it unattractive to your cat.
  • Motion-activated deterrents: You can also try placing motion-activated deterrents on the bed, such as alarms or sprays that go off when they sense movement. This will startle your cat and make them think twice about jumping on the bed.
  • Aluminum Foil:  Cats dislike the sound and feel of aluminum foil, so placing it on your bed when you’re not using it can deter them from jumping on it.
  • Use a Waterproof Cover: Cats that urinate on beds like the fact that they can dig at and move the bedding around, which satisfies  their instinctive need to scratch and cover. Throwing a waterproof covering such as a plastic shower curtain over the bed while you are not in it may help discourage this behavior. 
  • Close the Bedroom Door: This is always a good place to start, if you have this option. Admittedly, not everyone has a bedroom door they can close and even if you do, chances are the cat will object – loudly! But if you can manage it, this is an easy win.

Make the Litter Box More Appealing

A clean, accessible litter box is critical for encouraging your cat to use it instead of your bed. Here are some tips for making the litter box more appealing for your kitty:

  • Keep it Clean: Cats prefer clean and odor-free litter boxes so scoop out waste daily and change the litter frequently.
  • Multiple Boxes: If you have multiple cats, make sure to provide enough litter boxes for each cat. As a general rule, try to provide one box per cat plus one extra.
  • Location Matters: The location of the litter box can also influence whether your cat will use it or not. Keep the box in a quiet, private area where your cat can do their business without feeling threatened.
  • Try Different Types of Litter: Cats have individual preferences when it comes to litter. Experiment with different types like clumping, non-clumping, scented or unscented, or alternative materials like wood or paper pellet litter to see which one your cat prefers. 
  • Provide Easy Access: Older cats or those with mobility issues may have trouble getting in and out of high-sided litter boxes. Consider using a low-sided box or providing a ramp to make it easier for them. 
  • Change it up Completely: You can try the above tactics one at a time, or you can change it up all at once. Get a new litter box in a different design, buy a new type of cat litter (e.g. if you are currently using clay litter, try one that is made of wood or paper pellets), and put the new cat box in a completely new location (leave the old one in place as an option). Try placing it in the room where your cat spends most of their time to see if that helps. 

Stress Reduction

Consider using feline pheromone products. These innovative products work by replicating the natural pheromones that cats release through glands on their face, communicating signals of relaxation and security

Utilizing feline pheromone products can help calm your cat and address underlying behavioral issues that may lead to bed peeing.

Calming products such as diffusers, sprays, and collars can be strategically placed around your home to create a calming atmosphere that reduces stress triggers for your furry companion.

Create a safe environment for your cat. Make sure that your cat has access to a quiet place where they feel safe and secure. This space should be away from the hustle and bustle of the home, allowing your cat to retreat and relax when needed.

Maintain a regular routine for your cat. Keep feeding, play, and cuddle sessions as consistent as possible.

Spend quality time with your cat. Engage them in playtime and interactive activities to reduce boredom and provide mental stimulation. A happy, well-exercised cat is less likely to engage in destructive behaviors like peeing on the bed.

Seek professional help if needed. If your cat’s inappropriate urination is due to anxiety, medication  or behavioral therapy may be recommended by your veterinarian to help reduce stress and modify their behavior.

How to Stop Your Cat from Peeing on the Bed - AI generated image of a calico cat about to step out of a grey litter box, in a room with grey tiles

Try Behavioral Modification Techniques

Implementing behavioral modification techniques and positive reinforcement strategies, possibly with the help of a behavior specialist, can encourage desired elimination behaviors in your cat.

When dealing with unwanted behaviors like urinating on the bed, it is important to understand the underlying reasons behind such actions. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding your cat when they exhibit the desired behavior of using the litter box, thereby creating a positive association.

Furthermore, desensitization techniques can be employed to gradually acclimate your cat to the litter box by exposing them to it in a non-threatening manner. 

Behavior specialists are experts in crafting customized solutions tailored to your cat’s specific needs and can provide invaluable guidance in modifying behaviors effectively.

Final Thoughts

Remember, patience and empathy are key. Punishing your cat for this behavior will only add to their stress and potentially worsen the problem. Instead, focus on understanding the “why” behind their actions and taking corrective measures.

Cats peeing outside of their litter box, especially on beds, is a sign that something isn’t quite right. By becoming a detective in your own home, you can uncover what’s troubling your pet and work together towards a solution. 

Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to the community! Other cat owners may have valuable insights and encouragement to offer. Remember, you’re not alone in this; there’s a whole community ready to support you and your feline friend on this journey.

Resources

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins DVM PhD.

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.