Cats are natural born clean freaks, with kittens using the litter box by the age of 3 weeks. Hit or miss bathroom behavior, though, is a wake-up call that something has gone wrong. It's bad enough when she leaves nasty "gifts" under the piano bench, but truly disgusting if she targets your bed.
Peeing or pooping on your bed has very specific triggers. While every cat is different and combinations of reasons may be involved, here are the top reasons why cats turn beds into a litter box.
Why Cats Potty On Beds
- Cat urine is a smelly name tag that also works as a stress buster. Stressed cats use urine like cologne to make themselves feel better so any kind of stress may lead bed-wetting or poopy cat behavior.
- Cats also identify you and your scent as safe and comforting. Sleeping 8+ hours each day means the bedroom smells the most like you. That's why kitty pee-mail gets special delivery to your pillow, especially when she misses you. In fact, while dogs chew up furniture or crash through windows, cats often potty on the owner's bed when they suffer from kitty separation anxiety.
- Other times, cats may target the bed when wrangling over social status. Since you are the most important part of her territory, a cat may decide to "mark" you and your bed as "owned" by her to warn away other cats.
- Finally, beware of bleach in the laundry. For some cats, smelling bleach is invitation to urine mark on top of the bleach smell.
How to Stop the Mess
Your cat is not being vindictive, and she's not mad or mean when she potties on your bed. She's simply trying to self-medicate with self-scent. Shouting, punishment, or other negative reactions increase kitty stress levels and can make the behavior worse. Here's what you can do.
Get a Vet Check
A sick cat can have less control and feel more stress. It's always important to see the vet and rule out health problems before assuming it's behavioral. Veterinarians may prescribe medication to help reduce kitty stress, too.
Out the Odor
Once your cat has pottied on your bed, remove all traces or the smell will tempt her to return to the scene of the crime. Cats smell their "name tag" even when you think it's gone so use a professional odor neutralizer to kill the smell. Effective products encapsulate odors, neutralize them, or changes the chemical makeup that creates the stink. Try switching laundry detergent and avoid bleach. That may be enough to stop further bed assaults.
Neutralize Separation Triggers
Cats pay attention to routine, and associate your jingling car keys, the suitcase, and other preparations as signals you're leaving. Take away their power. Leave the suitcase out all the time, not just before a trip. Toss in catnip toys or treats to make it a positive association. Jingle keys and go in and out of your home several times a day, so your cat learns it means nothing.
Keep Her Busy
Separation behaviors usually happen within the first 10 to 20 minutes of departure. By keeping her engaged during that time, with a puzzle toy or having another family member offer attention, the lonely cat is less likely to mess the bed.
When you know in advance that work hours will change or you've planned a vacation, prepare your cat ahead of time. Cats hate sudden change. Instead, begin 2 weeks before your new routine that keeps you away longer hours. First, return home 15 minutes later for several days, and then 30 minutes later, and so on, until you're on the new schedule.
When you're gone on vacation, cats usually get used to your absence within a few days. You'll want to use these tips when you return home, though. It may take several days for cats to adjust to the old routine having you home.