Why is my Cat Urinating on My Bed?

Soiling outside the litter box is an ongoing problem for cat caregivers because the issue is rarely simple.  Jane P. recently wrote us about this sort of behavior from a senior kitty named Gigi-Mo.  Jane writes:

She’s a very lovable 13-year-old female who appears healthy and lively. Every few weeks she pees on my bed when I’m in it. This has been happening for about 12 months. I’m finding it very difficult to keep changing the bed as I’ve gotten older and suffer with arthritis. I have two other cats of similar ages. I Can’t understand this behaviour, as I’ve not experienced it with any other cats I’ve had. I tried keeping her out of bedroom, which means shutting out all three cats and my male cat then keeps me awake by crying and scratching the door until I let him in. They’ve always been allowed to sleep on my bed. Help Please!

Jane, any time a cat soils outside her litter box, they're having some sort of problem.  Usually, there are multiple issues that contribute to the behavior.  The bed is key here because it's the center of the household for cats.  It holds a significant concentration of your scent, so it's where they often feel the most relaxed and secure.  But it can also be the cause of conflict in multiple cat households.

Since Gigi-mo is getting older, your first order of business should be to determine whether or not she has a urinary tract problem.  If she has bladder stones, a lower urinary tract infection (UTI), or an incontinence problem, she could be either relaxed enough in the bed to release, or she's trying to show you that she's in pain.  Once Gigi gets a clean bill of health from her veterinarian, you can proceed with your detective work.

Before we go much further, we suggest you read this post on why cats generally soil outside the litter box and this post on the link between improper urination and security.  

If the problem isn't related to illness, it's usually related to stress.  Something may have made Gigi feel insecure and she's using her urine scent to help her to feel better.  When exploring potential issues, bear in mind that cats are much more sensitive to scents than we mere humans are.  Try to think like Gigi might think about the situation.  For cats, scents occupy physical space in the same way that big, colorful smoke bombs would to us.

Is there competition from the other cats for prime positions on the bed?  When did the most recent cat join the family?  In particular, think about the first time Gigi urinated on the bed.  Were there big changes in the household around that time?  New family members?  New furniture?  Even new cleaning products can create problems.  

It's possible that after doing it once, she has repeated the behavior because her urine scent is still present on the matterss and laundered bed clothes.  Be sure to clean both with a good enzymatic cleaner in order to completely get rid of Gigi's urine scent.

Next, observe how the cats in your house interact.  Are there enough prime sleeping locations for everyone?  Is there competition for resources?  We recommend you read this post on how to keep the peace in a multi-cat household, and don't forget how subtle cat communication is.  There could be a full-out war going on in your house and all you'd see would be the cats ignoring each other.

Your goal, Jane, should be to discover what's bothering Gigi, as something most certainly is.  While you're on the case, you can use an artificial hormone product such as Feliway to help treat Gigi's stress and alleviate the symptoms for now.  Test a little on your bed clothes first to make sure they won't stain, then spray a little on the area where Gigi usually sleeps.  That should provide enough stress relief to stop her improper urination until you can home in on the source of her illness or insecurities.

 
 

We know how frustrating this sort of problem can be, Jane.  Many cats lose their homes over issues like this.  We hope that you'll take the time to try and understand what's bothering your feline friend.  With a focused effort and a keen eye on the behavior of all the cats in the household, we believe it will become clear.  We wish you and Gigi-mo all the best!