Waking up to my cat peeing on my bed has by far been one of the worst experiences of my life as a pet parent.
I explicitly remember one night, looking Beau straight in the eyes and getting excited that he was coming to get cuddles. After a brief moment, I realized that Beau wasn’t actually coming for cuddles, but instead, he was using this opportunity to release his bladder. Luckily for me, that wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I knew exactly what I had to do.
I’ve personally had a lot of experience with cats peeing outside of their litter box. Thinking about it, all of our cats have had pee troubles at least once in their lives, though not all of it was chalked down to regular kitty antics. That being said, some cases were a lot simpler or straight forward than others.
In general, it’s a good idea to keep a log or journal of your cat’s litterbox behaviour, especially if they are going outside of the litter box. This will help you identify what the problem may be and whether or not it is a health concern or a behavioural problem.
That being said, not every instance where your cat pees outside of their litterbox is a reason to call for alarm. So, let’s break down the reasons your cat may have picked up this nasty habit and what you can do to fix it.
NON-HEALTH RELATED REASONS
As mentioned, not every reason a cat may pee in your bed is going to be a troublesome or health concern. Cats are very strange beings who want things in their own particular manner.
Similar to how two cats may not want to be treated the same way, two cats may not like using the same type of litterbox or litter as each other.
These preferences are usually easy to pinpoint as they commonly appear within the first few months of adopting a cat. However, as the cat’s surroundings change their preferences may change as well, meaning that you may have to make some lifestyle changes for your cat out of nowhere because they no longer like what you are providing.
AN UNCLEAN LITTER BOX
You’re not the only one who hates the smell of a litter box. Imagine having to use a washroom that’s already been used and the toilet doesn’t even flush. Gross, right?
Well, many cats will actually refuse to use a litter box if it is not cleaned regularly. Cats may even develop the habit of peeing outside of their litter box if they are used to it being unclean. For that reason, it’s extremely important that you clean your litter box at least once a day.
It’s also a great general rule to have an extra litter box per cat. So, if you have 2 cats it’s a good idea to have 3 litter boxes. 4 cats? Have 5! This will ensure that your cats always have a place to go and will raise the chances that the litterbox they use is clean. Not only that, some cats are actually pickier about the places where they go #1 and #2. Our cats, for example, will use one litter box only for poo and the other two to pee. Interesting eh?
If you live in a small apartment and cannot have multiple litterboxes or are unable to scoop for your cat frequently enough, I strongly recommend buying an automatic litterbox. Although these litterboxes do come at a premium price, some are highly efficient and will clean up your cat’s mess as soon as they are out with little to no waste of actual litter. Truthfully, I’ve been waiting for some brands to make their way to Canada so I can buy one for my mom so she doesn’t have to bend down and scoop after her little one anymore.
Litter boxes should also be washed out every time they need to be refilled. This helps lower the risk of bacteria spreading and will also raise the chances of your cat using the litter box.
As is with most things, litterboxes also have a limited lifetime. Although it would be lovely to keep your litterbox for decades and not have to purchase a new one, this again raises the risk of health and safety. It also increases the chance of the litter box retaining foul smells from urination or defecation. That being said, there isn’t a “vet recommended” amount of time you should keep a litterbox, but if your cat isn’t using it even though you’re keeping it clean, this may be the issue.
THE WRONG TYPE & SIZE OF LITTER BOX
You’d be surprised how many cats are picky about the kind of litter box they use. I don’t blame them, I actually have toilets that I prefer using based on the height and size of the bowl and I’m sure if you think about it, you do too!
Type of Litter Box
Beau, our eldest, refuses to use litterboxes that have a door attached to them. Hooded litterboxes he will use, but if you add the door to the mix it becomes an absolute “no-no.” Although we’re not certain why we think it probably has something to do with the way the door swings as Beau can be a bit flighty. That being said, we’ve had to remove all the doors from our litterboxes to ensure that Beau will use them.
To be honest, I personally don’t blame Beau for not liking the litterboxes with doors, especially because smells must get trapped in there. Though many litterboxes have places for carbon filters, there’s something to pooping in an enclosed space that is offputting to me. While you may not smell what’s going on in that litterbox, your little one definitely does!
There are a few different types of litter boxes that are currently available on the market, but our personal favourite is the top entry litter box. They give your cat privacy, reduce the smell of poops, have no doors and greatly reduce the amount of tracking caused by litter.
Size of Litter Box
Cats may also be picky about the size of a litterbox, even if it is a pan litter box. This is especially true for larger cats who find it difficult to fit into or fit comfortably in a smaller pan/litterbox.
I highly recommend buying a larger litterbox from the start, not only because it can hold a lot more litter, but because it raises the chances of your cat using it at any weight or size. The only time I would use a smaller litterbox or pan is if the cat is too young or small to climb up to the larger box, though there are actually plenty of large litterboxes with low lips.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your litterbox is twice the size of your cat so they can comfortably turn around, move and dig. If you are getting a hooded litter box it’s also a good idea to get one with a tall roof rather than a short one to make sure that your cat can comfortably stand and squat in it.
We actually have a litterbox Beau got too tall for so we’ve removed the lid since and just use the base pan.
THE WRONG TYPE OF LITTER
In my experience, clay litter is the worst. It’s dusty, my cats go through it quickly and it actually makes my cats sneeze fairly frequently. That being said, my cats will always go for the litterbox with World’s Best Cat Litter over any clay litter we’ve bought.
I’ve actually tried over a dozen litters at this point, and I’ve noticed that there’s a hierarchy of litter in our household. We always have about 2 or 3 different types of litter in our apartment at a time. Similar to our cats’ preference to what litterbox they use for what type of business they’re doing, they also have a preference for what litter they do their business in.
That being said, it isn’t necessary to have multiple types of litter in your apartment as we do. There is usually at least one type of litter your cat will feel comfortable doing all of their business in, but it may take some time to find (if you are unlucky.)
Cats may also change their minds on what litter they like using a few times over the course of their life, especially as products change in quality and texture. That being said, cats may also prefer different litters based on their age category as dustier litters are going to cause more sniffling and sneezing for geriatric cats.
In my personal experience, I’ve found the most pushback with clay litters, scented litters and silica litters. So, if you’re currently using either and your cat is giving some flack over it, know that you’re not alone!
THEY’RE SCARED OR STRESSED
Stress is a huge factor in a cat’s life. It’s actually one of the leading causes of some of the illnesses cats can get. Stress is so powerful, it can even change the pH of a cat’s urine (which I will cover later in the health-related section.)
Because cats are so small, they experience the world in a much more intense manner than we do. Loud sounds are louder and quick movements are extreme.
A scared or stressed cat may choose not to use a litterbox because of associations to that litterbox. For example, if your cat is constantly watched over or hunted by another cat while they are using the litter box they may relate that litterbox to danger and no longer use. (Similar to the door situation we experienced.)
Stressed or scared cats may also pee or defecate on the spot if there is something to startle them. It’s for this reason that you may want to strategically place your cat’s litter box in a low traffic quiet area so they can peacefully do their business.
Cats may also urinate in their sleep if they are scared or stressed. We had this issue with Kalista when we first adopted her. Because she was new to our household, she was too scared to pee in her litter box at first, and as she was sleeping she would wet herself. At first we thought she had a health problem like a urinary tract infection, however, we soon learned it was due to her holding her bladder all day out of fear.
If you notice your cat is always on edge, make sure that you provide them with plenty of safe spaces to hide. These can include things like cat trees, cat beds or even blanket forts. Anywhere that’s cozy and preferably higher up, so your cat can see everything that’s happening in the room.
Another option is to find music that your cat enjoys and can relax to. Music has really helped in our household, especially with Kalista. Whenever we see her getting strung out we play calming music and she will immediately begin to purr. Music is especially great for cats who are left alone for extended periods of time, similar to leaving the radio on. [Click here for a Spotify Playlist for Calming Music for Feline Anxiety & Stress]
Some pet parents also use a product called Feliway to resolve stress-related issues. Feliway is a vet-recommended product that diffuses pheromones to help calm a cat down. Although it is vet recommended, results have varier from user to user. I’ve personally never seen a difference in my cats, though one of our vets said Beau did extremely well with it after his operation. We’ve also had friends who have used it and have sworn that it helped them with litter box bad behaviours. so it’s worth a try! You can also see if your vet has any sample packs for you to take home as oftentimes Feliway will drop off samples at the vet.
Cats are also sensitive to small changes in the household, such as a change in your schedule, their feedings or even a new cat. When we adopted our second cat, Kalista, Beau got so stressed he gave himself a urinary tract infection. Beau started peeing everywhere, even though Kalista had been in our home for about a month at the time. The oddest part is, Beau and Kalista were already cuddling and getting along by that point, but some things just take time to fester.
Take a quick look at your life and see if anything major has changed, even if it was just rearranging your furniture. Your cat peeing on your bed might just be their way of telling you that you have a poor interior design choice.
YOUR CAT MAY WANT TO RE-MARK
Cats, being the territorial beings that they are, tend to pee in the same places over and over again. Both Beau and Kalista have a favourite part of their litter boxes that they pee in. So, every day we don’t actually need to search or scoop indefinitely in the litter to find their pee. Instead, we just have to scoop the same area and whammo there it is!
If you don’t properly clean your cat’s urine with a urine destroyer, the chances of them re-soiling your bed are increased.
I highly recommend using a urine destroyer before washing your bedsheets in the regular wash to ensure that there are no hidden pheromones still there. Cats have a much more acute sense of smell than we do, so even though we might not smell the urine… they sure do!
After you’ve washed your bedsheets thoroughly, I recommend placing some of your cat’s favourite toys on the area where they are marking. This will help your cat understand that this is an area that they don’t want to soil and instead should keep clean.
THEY HAVE INCONTINENCE PROBLEMS
Incontinence is extremely common for young cats who have been recently spayed and geriatric cats. Although incontinence can happen anywhere in your house many cats will choose your bed as that’s the place where they feel extremely safe and/or it’s where they spend most of their time sleeping.
Incontinence is something that cannot really be battled from home, however, there are some surgeries and hormones that can be used to aid a cat.
What do I mean by that? Well, unfortunately sometimes spayed cats develop a weak bladder than requires hormone replacement therapy. If the therapy does not work a vet may recommend surgery to stop the incontinence. That being said, the last I learned about the surgery it was considered fairly risky and not always effective, so I would highly recommend spending to a few vets about their thoughts on the matter.
A vet may also recommend injecting collagen into the urethra to block the urine from seeping out. This is a fairly harmless procedure, although it needs to be repeated every 18-months.
THEY HAVE A URINARY TRACT INFECTION
I’ve definitely had loads of experience with this one. Both of my male cats, unfortunately, got urinary tract infections by the age of two.
As mentioned, urinary tract infections can be caused by stress, but they can also be caused by the food you’re feeding your cat. While a type of food may be marketed as premium and may have some of the best sounding ingredients, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best for your cat.
pH or acidity levels play a huge part in the wellbeing of your cat. Whether or not a cat’s urine is too basic or too acidic, crystals may begin to form.
The most common form of crystal to form in cats is called struvite crystals and will commonly cause blockages in male cats. If blockages become too extreme or frequent a vet may recommend a surgery called a perineal urethrostomy, which in essence is shortening the urethral channel and widening it to ensure that your cat can pee out the crystals.
That being said, female cats can also experience blockages and may have to undergo the same surgery, although the procedure is a bit different for females.
Not every cat who has a blockage will need to undergo a PU Surgery, especially since complications and risks tend to be fairly high. Instead, a vet may recommend a urinary specific food that will help balance out the pH of your cat’s urine. The most common foods being Royal Canin S/O or Science Diet C/D. Commonly these foods should help decrease the risk of crystals forming, although, in our case, Beau still got them on the food due to stress from construction upstairs.
That being said, a urinary tract infection is not a death sentence, although it does need to be taken seriously.
Many cats who experience urinary tract infections will begin peeing around the house as a sign of their discomfort. Places our cats have peed have included: the bathtub, the sink, our couch, our bed, our clothes, and our books.
Urinary tract infections may be paired with blood and 100% have to be treated with a round of antibiotics and urethral relaxants. Unfortunately, this is not something your cat can easily battle on their own and will just lead to more stress and discomfort.
If you assume your cat has a urinary tract infection please take them to the vet immediately. Every minute spent without a diagnosis can increase the risk of a bladder rupture or poisoning from toxins.
Although it can be extremely frustrating when your cat urinates on your bed, it’s not something you should scold your cat over.
Incontinence or improper urination is something that your cat cannot help and is commonly the only way your cat can communicate something is wrong. Remember, your cat is not trying to spite you. They’re not trying to let you know that you’re the worst owner on the face of the earth. They just don’t have the words to let you know, “hey… can you pay attention to me real quick?”
Never scold or hit your cat, especially if they are having difficulty urinating. This will honestly only make matters worse, especially if the cause is from stress. Instead, calmly let your cat know that things will be alright and take your cat to the vet if you assume that this is a health problem.
If you have any pH strips lying around the house try testing out your cat’s acidity levels. It should sit between 6.0 to 6.5. If your cat’s acidity is any higher or lower, consider getting a culture or a urinalysis from the vet. At this time, your vet may also prescribe a round of antibiotics on the spot until results come back in hopes of killing the bacteria that may have grown in your cat’s bladder.
So I’m curious, pet parents, has your cat peed on your bed before? Where else have they peed? What was the reason? Let me know in the comments below.