Cats love to do things we don’t want them to do. Sometimes they pee in places they shouldn’t. But if your cat peed on your bed, is that bad behavior, or is it beceause your cat is sick?
Why do cats pee in places they shouldn’t? It can be a sign of bad health, e.g. bladder stones or a UTI. It can also be related to stress or anxiety, causing a urinary tract issue without a clear reason (idiopathic cystitis). Your cat may feel uncomfortable using its litter box for a variety of reasons, like the size of the box, the location of the box, and whether it was taught to use the litter tray properly. To tell why your cat is peeing on your bad, check whether it is spraying or urinating normally, and talk to a vet.
The guide below first describes all the reasons why your cat might pee on your bed, before looking at what to do when it does (and how to clean it up).
Why Is My Cat Peeing on My Bed?
There are several reasons why your cat might be peeing on your bed. Identifying the cause and correcting it should stop the behavior.
What you should avoid is categorizing inappropriate toilet habits as ‘bad behavior’. Your cat isn’t being ‘naughty’ or trying to annoy you. It could be unwell, as you’ll see in a moment. Or it could be feeling insecure, feel unable to use its litter tray, or never have learned to use one in the first place. All of these reasons make sense to your cat, even if they don’t to you, and punishing your cat to ‘teach it a lesson’ won’t work. It will even be counterproductive, in that it will make your cat dislike you.
So, let’s dig a little deeper than just calling this bad behavior—why do cats pee in inappropriate places, like on the bed?
FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease)
Inappropriate peeing can be a sign of several kinds of health issue, most of them related to your cat’s urinary tract. FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) is an umbrella term that refers to several kinds of urinary health issue, and this is the most common cause of the behavior.
The urinary tract comprises several separate parts. It begins with the kidneys, which filter waste products and excess water from the blood. These travel down two tubes, one from each kidney, to the bladder. The bladder stores the resultant fluid, mixed to form urine, until the cat is able to pee. It then travels down another tube to the urethra. It’s possible for FLUTD to affect any part of the urinary tract.
The most common issue that affects a cat’s urinary system is bladder or kidney stones. These form when urea stays in the kidney or bladder for too long. It forms small crystals that accumulate into bigger stones. These stones can then become dislodged and block the tubes that connect the system together, meaning your cat can’t pee.
Alternatively, these stones may scrape and damage the urinary tract. When this happens, bacteria that enter through the urethra can then enter the wound. This causes localized swelling which can further block the urinary tract. The bacteria can also proliferate and enter the bloodstream, spreading around the body. This is a UTI.
All of this can lead to your cat peeing on your bed because your cat no longer controls when it goes to the toilet. You will notice your cat frequently trying to pee in its litter box, but it can’t force its pee paste the obstruction. What eventually happens is urine builds up until the pressure becomes so great that some gets past the blockage and dribbles out.
Stress & Anxiety
The general diagnosis FLUTD also includes a condition called idiopathic cystitis. This is where your cat experiences pain urinating, and displays inappropriate toilet behaviors, despite there being no clear physical cause. It’s thought that the underlying reason is stress although the precise mechanism by which it occurs isn’t known.
This causes the exact same symptoms as other kinds of urinary tract disease: obvious pain, trouble peeing and so on. But there’s no surgery or antibiotic that will cure the condition. Rather, the best way to deal with the problem is to help your cat relax in one of various ways:
- Give your cat quiet time on its own away from you, anyone else in the family, and any other pets
- Allow it to eat and go to the toilet somewhere that it feels relaxed
- Give it a bed where it can sleep without being disturbed, which will over time come to smell like your cat
- Use products like Feliway which may reduce stress, and offer things like catnip to let your cat have fun
Cats can also pee in unusual places because of stress for another underlying reason. Cats use their spray to mark their territory. Spray is the same stuff as pee, the difference being in how the cat pees. Spraying is when the cat approaches a vertical surface and lets loose a small spray of pee, wheras peeing is… Well, peeing. Cats can spray because they feel insecure and that they have to mark their territory.
Other Health Issues
There are also other health issues like diabetes which can cause trouble peeing.
Dementia can occur in cats, and this can cause your kitty problems when it has to go to the toilet. Cats experience mental decline in the same way that we do, as small plaques (scars) form in brain tissue, damaging working memory and recall. Your cat can quite literally forget where the litter tray is and how to access it.
Your Cat Never Learned to Use a Litter Tray
Not all cats take to litter training equally well. There’s a critical period in a cat’s life between 2-7 weeks, where the kitten learns everything it needs to know in later life. It will learn how to play fight, and how to fight for real, with its litter mates. Its mother will teach it to groom itself. It will learn whether people are to be trusted or not, and cats that have no experience of humans at this time, or negative experiences, will always distrust people.
It will also learn how to use a litter tray. Older cats can be taught too, but it takes longer, and mistakes are more likely. Your cat may have learned how to litter train late, or never been trained at all.
If that’s the case, your cat’s peeing behavior will be different to that described above. It may pick somewhere else in the home to pee, and that could be your bed; but your cat won’t produce a small dribble, as is the case with FLUTD. Nor will it leave behind a small amount of pee on a vertical part of your bed like the headboard as in spraying. Rather, it will just pee!
Your Cat Feels Like It Can’t Use Its Litter Box
Your cat may also feel uncomfortable using its litter box for one of several reasons.
The problem could be the box itself. It could be difficult for your cat to get into, and when it’s in there, the box is too small for it to sit comfortably. It could be lined with a kind of litter that your cat doesn’t like the feel of under its feet. Or it could be awkward to access. Your cat should have a wide tray it can easily stand in that doesn’t have high walls, but which is sheltered enough that it feels secure.
There’s also the issue of where the box is. Cats don’t like going to the toilet in places where they feel insecure. A wild cat wouldn’t want to go to the toilet somewhere that it could easily be attacked by a predator, or by another cat. So if you have more than one cat, one may be pestering the other when it wants to ‘go’. You should always have at least as many litter boxes as you have cats to avoid this problem.
Or, the litter tray may be dirty to such an extent that your cat doesn’t want to use it any more. Your cat has to walk into it, and it doesn’t want to step in any of its messes on the way in or out.
What to Do When Your Cat Pees on Your Bed
There are two things you have to do when your cat pees on your bed. These are cleaning up the mess your cat has left behind, and figuring out why it peed there in the first place.
Figure Out Why (Contact a Vet)
Your cat’s health should be paramount and this behavior could be related to poor health. As such, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as you can.
It is possible to roughly work out what’s wrong by looking for symptoms of ill health. Dementia for example can cause yowling, and peeing around the house, not just on the bed. Stress and anxiety can also be spotted through other symptoms like defensive body language and hissing. The problem is that if you accidentally diagnose the wrong issue, you will go on to treat the wrong issue. You could therefore be treating your cat for anxiety when the real problem is a kidney stone, or treating it for a kidney stone when the real problem is that it never learned to use a litter tray.
The vet on the other hand can perform real scientific analysis. A urinalysis can tell the vet whether your cat’s urinary tract is infected, for example; an X-ray can show a kidney or bladder stone as clear as day. Working with your vet you can then treat the condition correctly. It’s for this reason that we recommend taking your cat to the vet whenever you notice concerning behaviors or symptoms of ill health. Fixes for the above problem include:
- UTI: antibiotics tailored to the bacteria present will kill the infection.
- Kidney or bladder stones: surgery can remove the stone if it’s caught before it’s in the urethra.
- Diabetes: a carefully managed diet can control your cat’s blood sugar and help it lose weight (if necessary).
- Stress/idiopathic cystitis: providing a calmer environment can help, although idiopathic cystitis has no known physical cause.
- Dementia: cannot be treated, but guided end-of-life care can make your cat happier and give you precious moments with your pet.
Follow your vet’s advice in all regards.
My Cat Peed on My Bed… How Do I Clean It?
You should make every effort to clean the cat pee from your mattress, even if this is just a one-time problem. Cat pee stinks, and doesn’t stop stinking over time.
- Strip the duvet cover and sheets, and anything else that got peed on. Wash these as you normally would e.g. in the washing machine.
- Pop on some gloves and soak up any residual pee in the mattress with a towel.
- Rinse the area with water. Pour several cups of water over the pee spot. This should dilute the pee and make it stop smelling so bad.
- Pick up any more moisture with another towel.
- Rub in some of your favorite cleaner. You might prefer home remedies, but good old fashioned hydrogen peroxide solutions (cleaners that contain bleach) are best. You can add in whatever scent you prefer later, e.g. an essential oil. Let the cleaner soak in.
- Allow your mattress to dry out. Add baking soda to hasten the process. Get rid of it by vacuuming it up when the mattress is fully dry. The bad news is that this could take a few days.
You could also consider using a wet vac if you have one or can rent one. Follow the instructions that come with it.
Once your mattress is fully cleaned, you should take steps to a) stop your cat peeing there again, and b) to protect your mattress. Keep your cat out of your room by shutting the door so that it physically can’t get in there. Consider fitting a waterproof mattress protector too, so that if the worst does happen, the mattress itself won’t get dirty; it’s easy to launder a sheet or a duvet, but much harder to keep a mattress clean, and much more expensive to replace one.