Cats are usually the cleanest animals in the world but what can you do when your cat suddenly starts to go to the toilet in your bed instead of in the litter tray? What could be the underlying cause and how can this unpleasant habit be broken? Here, you will learn the reasons behind this undesirable behaviour, how to help your cat in this situation and how you can protect your bed from the cat urine.
Every cat owner who has already experienced this situation knows that cat urine has a dreadful smell. Of course, there are special cleaning products which you can use to clean your mattress and get rid of the smell, but it is likely that this won’t be an isolated incident. What happens when your cat refuses to use the litter tray and sneaks off into your bedroom to do its business time and time again? Simply closing your bedroom door isn’t a long-term solution because your cat will probably find another cosy corner where it can relieve itself. You need to understand the causes behind this behaviour in order to get to grips with the problem.
Why do cats wet the bed?
In actual fact, there is usually more to it than just an unpleasant habit. When your cat suddenly starts to use the bed as a litter tray, this is often a sign of stress, insecurity or illness and must be taken seriously. In these cases, the cat will deliberately seek out its owner’s bed to go to the toilet. This might seem surprising but there is a reason behind it. For the cat, the bed is the perfect alternative litter tray that is not only absorbent and soft but is also a safe retreat where it can do its business. The scent of its owner is reassuring and makes it feel safe and secure. The fact that the bed is high up instead of on the floor like a normal litter box, makes this sensitive creature feel safer. But why does your cat suddenly feel unsure about its litter tray? Why is your cat looking for security in your bed?
Could illness be the reason behind this habit?
Before you start looking for the root cause in your cat’s state of mind, you should take your cat to the vet to check that it is healthy first. In some cases, this unwelcome habit can be caused by a physical ailment. Illnesses in the bladder or the kidneys, such as cystitis, kidney problems or urinary tract stones are all potential explanations. The constant urge to urinate and the upset caused by the pain mean that the cat retreats to the bed where it feels safe and secure and the absorbent and comfy mattress makes it feel like this is a good place to relieve its need to urinate. Your vet will examine your cat and find out whether it has one of these illnesses. Your vet will also test your cat’s blood and urine. This is the only way you can be sure that there is nothing physically wrong with your cat. If these tests show that your cat is ill, treating the illness will often solve the other problem. The pain while urinating will disappear with the help of antibiotics, other medicine or a change in diet and your cat will get used to using the litter tray again after a while. The negative association of the litter tray with pain will be broken down over time.
When stress and fear lead to bad habits
On the other hand, if your cat is healthy then psychological reasons are probably behind these episodes of peeing in your bed. Don’t worry, it isn’t always due to a deep psychological trauma but can be down to what may seem like small details. Cats are creatures of habit and are very sensitive. Even small changes to its daily life, routine or surroundings can make a cat feel stressed and want to seek refuge in your bed. A renovated or rearranged room, a new piece of furniture or getting rid of the old sofa, a new, strange-smelling rug or an out of the ordinary experience such as fireworks on New Year's Eve can upset your cat and frighten it. Sometimes even a freshly washed blanket that doesn’t smell like it used to or a scented candle at Christmas can be enough to bother your cat. There are, of course, bigger, unmissable incidents that can cause your cat lots of stress, such as, moving to a new house, a family member moving out, a new baby arriving or a new pet moving in. Furthermore, changes in your behaviour can unsettle these sensitive creatures. For example, you might have less time for your cat because you have a new job or a new partner. Sometimes boredom or being alone often can cause strain on the cat’s psychological wellbeing.
Make your cat feel secure
To encourage your cat to start using its litter tray again instead of your bed, you should think about how to reduce your cat’s stress and how it can regain that lost feeling of security. If it is all down to a new laundry detergent or a strange smelling candle, this can easily be remedied. But what about when the new situation can’t easily be changed? In this case, you need to help your cat get used to the new surroundings, new furnishings, new partner, new member of the household or new routine because of a new job and different working hours. Be patient with your feline friend and don’t expect this unpleasant behaviour to be dealt with from one day to the next.
How you can reduce your cat’s stress
Once you have found the reason for your cat’s change in behaviour you can help it to become more familiar with the new circumstances. Give your cat lots of love and attention at this time. Scolding your cat because it has made a mess in your bed will be counterproductive. Wetting the bed is almost always linked to insecurity, whether your cat is under psychological stress or is suffering from a physical illness. This doesn’t mean that you should stroke your cat when you catch it in the act as this would also be unhelpful. In this case, you can express your disapproval with gestures and the tone of your voice. However, if you try to reprimand your cat at a later point, your cat won’t understand that this is in reference to the mess in the bed.
To help improve your cat’s sense of security, special plug-in diffusers can help. These use synthetic versions of the pheromones that cats produce naturally in their bodies which support the cat’s general well-being. The pheromone that a mother cat gives off while feeding her young sends a subconscious message that everything is alright and the kittens can relax. These are herbal remedies used for relaxation which settle your cat in a natural way. For safety, always consult your vet before giving your cat something new.
Feliway® can help you to create a comfortable environment at home and reduced stress-related behaviour in your cat!
How to protect your bed from cat urine
The only mid and long-term solution to these ‘accidents’ in your bed is to create a comfortable atmosphere and to wait patiently until your cat is relaxed and ready to use the litter tray again. In the short-term you can take certain measures to protect your bed and prevent your cat from urinating there. You can use a waterproof mattress protector which can easily be washed in the washing machine. Another solution could be to cover your bed every day, for example, with a foil emergency blanket (found in a first-aid kit), a waxed tablecloth intended for a garden table or simply some newspapers. Cats like soft and cosy places so they will soon run away from a hard surface or something that makes a rustling noise and look for a more peaceful loo. Another possible solution is to move your cat’s food bowl to your bedroom near your bed. Cats don’t do their business where they eat. To be extra sure, you can even put the food bowl on your bed, but you will also need a waterproof cover there to protect your bed from food scraps.
Sometimes the litter tray is the problem
When you can rule out both psychological and physical problems for this issue with your cat, there could be a third possible cause for the change in your cat’s behaviour: the litter tray itself. Whether your cat disliked the litter tray right from the beginning or started to prefer using your bed as its new toilet after a while, it could be that your cat doesn’t like the litter tray. Some cats don’t like closed litter trays, for example. The litter itself could be an issue. Have you changed litter recently? What kind of litter do you use? Perhaps you could try to use a different type. In addition, a strong-smelling cleaning product that you use to clean out the litter box can also make your pet dislike the toilet. A toilet that is cleaned too often or is located in an inconvenient place in your home can also be rejected by your cat.
Is this a case for a cat behavioural therapist?
Sometimes it requires some intuition to get to the bottom of this unpleasant behaviour. We can easily overlook small changes that are of little importance to us. However, for your cat these could be a trigger for suddenly going to the toilet in your bed. Try to empathise with your cat and pay close attention to the signals it gives off. Your cat needs you during this time and it will greatly appreciate the extra attention. Make relaxation a priority and avoid anything that could make your stressed cat even more unsettled. Sometimes the problem will resolve itself after a while. If your cat continues to use your bed as its toilet and you can’t get the problem under control yourself, you should absolutely get advice from an expert. There are cat behavioural therapists who can help you and your cat in this situation. This way you will be able to live together without any worries!
Read more about bad hygiene in cats!