Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

5 Reasons Your Cat is Peeing on the Bed

Image: Gedzun / via Thinkstock
Image: ysbrandcosijn / via Thinkstock
Image: AlbinaTiplyashina / via Thinkstock
Image: minoandriani / via Thinkstock
Image: vertraut / via Thinkstock
Image: Berliina / via Thinkstock
Image: EvgeniyaTiplyashina / via Thinkstock
Image: Stephanie Deissner / via Thinkstock
Image: kimberrywood / via Thinkstock

“Why is my cat peeing on the bed?”

by Geoff Williams


Discovering you're lying on sheets soaked in cat pee may be the only time you've been awake in bed and wished you were having a nightmare. But, alas, cat urination on your mattress is one of those dilemmas that some pet parents deal with.


As you might expect, a cat micturating on your bed is sometimes due to a medical problem.


"If a cat is urinating out of the litter box, problems like bladder stones and a bladder infection, both of which cause severe inflammation and an urge to urinate, should be ruled out," says Adam Eatroff, DVM, DACVIM, staff internist and nephrologist and the director of the hemodialysis unit at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals, based in Los Angeles.


But while it might be a biological problem, says Dr. Eatroff, cats usually pee on a bed due to an issue that is rooted in anxiety and stress, which can affect several hormonal and chemical balances in the body. This is commonly referred to as idiopathic cystitis; that is, inflammation of the bladder with an unknown cause.


"Idiopathic cystitis is likely caused by hormonal imbalances and is best prevented by reducing stress in the environment," said Dr. Eatroff.


First, see your vet to make sure your cat is not suffering from an infection of the bladder or urinary tract. If your cat gets a clean bill of health and is still peeing on the bed, here are five possible reasons why your cat is using your bed as a litter box.

The Litter Box Isn't In a Good Location

Think about how you do your own bathroom business. You have a door you can shut. You've probably got the room decorated with knickknacks. Doesn't your cat deserve some privacy and pleasantry, too?


"Perhaps your litter box is in a busy area, or it’s next to a noisy appliance like a clothes dryer, or one that turns on at random times like a furnace," says Paula Garber, a certified feline training and behavior specialist based out of Briarcliff Manor, New York, and who runs Lifeline Cat Behavior Solutions.


Or maybe the cat box was in an ideal spot but as the years have gone on, it's not so convenient any more.


"Maybe the litter box is in the basement, but the cat spends most of his time on the second floor of the house. Cats can see well in low lighting but they do need some light to see. If the litter box is in a dark place with no light, a cat might be less inclined to use it, especially in a multi-cat household," Garber says.


There could be other location issues as well, Garber says. Maybe your cat has to pass the dog's favorite resting spot on the way to the litter box and is frequently chased. Or perhaps, Garber says, "Maybe the litter box is tucked into a closet with no escape routes to avoid another cat that enters."

You Need More Cat Litter Boxes

Even if you have a couple of litter boxes, it still may not be enough.


Some cats prefer to urinate and defecate in separate litter boxes, and some cats will not share a litter box with another cat," Garber says. "A good general rule is to have a litter box for each cat in the home, plus one more, and to provide at least one litter box on every level of the home."


Probably not what you want to hear. Yay, more cat litter to clean. But that’s better that than constantly cleaning your bed sheets, right?


Multiple litter boxes is especially a good idea for kittens, Garber adds. "Like children, kittens’ control over their elimination is not fully developed, so they need multiple, easily accessible litter boxes to help prevent accidents," she says. 

Your Cat Doesn't Like the Type of Litter Box You Have

Time to give the feline facilities another look.


"Maybe it’s got a cover that traps odors or constricts her movement so she can’t get into a comfortable position to eliminate without pressing part of her body against the inside of the cover, something many cats dislike," Garber says.


Or it could be a medical issue combined with an ill-fitted cat litter box. Garber says that if your cat has arthritis, perhaps the box's sides are too high, making it difficult to get in and out of.

Your Cat Doesn't Like the Cat Litter

You're probably a fan of one type or brand of cat litter and turn up your nose at other brands. Some cats are the same way, particularly if your little guy thinks the litter isn't soft enough, Garber says.


"If the cat has been declawed, stepping into and digging in cat litter might be painful, so she will seek out a softer substrate."


Garber suggests setting up a cat litter test: Put two cat litter boxes next to each other, one filled with a soft type, Brand A, and the other with a rougher type, Brand B. Whichever litter your cat clearly ends up preferring is your new cat litter. And if you have multiple cats who each prefer different types? Then you can make sure they are each happy with their own boxes and their own litter.


Just make sure the cat litter is truly absorbent. Garber says that the practice of a cat burying his or her urine or feces is because they're hard-wired to hide the scent so that a predator can’t track them.


"This instinct is very strong, as the cat's survival depends on it," Garber says.

There's Been a Major Change In the Household

Do you have a new baby? Maybe a new dog or a new cat? Maybe you have a new job that's keeping you away from the house far more than normal or for different hours than your cat has been accustomed to.


"Cats thrive in an environment that is predictable and controllable," Garber says. "Changes in a cat's household, even those that seem minor and insignificant to us, can trigger house soiling behavior."

Your Cat Needs to Feel Safe

Ultimately, your cat needs to feel safe in your home. A cat that is fearful will behave in fearful ways. Garber explained that you should "never scold or punish a kitten or cat, especially when she’s in or near her litter box. This will create a negative association with the box and she will avoid it. For the same reason, never use the litter box as a place to trap a cat to administer medication, trim nails, or get her into a carrier."


The good news is that you can help your cat to feel more at ease, Dr. Eatroff says.


"The psychological stress of competing for resources like food, water, empty litter boxes, and the cat owner's attention is something we can easily modify by making sure that there are ample resources, like food and water bowls, toys, and litter boxes available for all of our feline friends," he says. "And don't forget that quality time with your cat is a relaxing stress reducer for both of you."

How to Stop the Cat from Peeing on the Bed

Getting a cat to stop urinating on a bed, furniture, or anywhere else does take patience, cautions Garber. She recommends a five pronged approach to solving your cat urination problem, assuming that you have already been to your vet and know there is no underlying medical problem.


1. Make the litter box the most attractive place for the cat to do his or her business. Garber recommends fine grained, unscented, clumping litter, and to avoid plastic litter box liners.


"Cats’ claws get caught in the plastic, preventing effective digging and burying of urine and feces. Also, urine can splash off the liner back onto the cat—an unpleasant experience that can make the cat avoid the litter box," she says.


2. Thoroughly clean the previously soiled areas. Probably nobody needs to tell you this twice. Cats, she says, will return to pee if the area smells like pee.


3. Make the previously soiled area unattractive to the pet. It doesn't have to be forever, but when you aren't sleeping in the bed, Garber says you could cover it with something like a shower curtain to make it a non-absorbent place the cat isn't going to be interested in.


4. Change the meaning of the place your cat has turned into a "bathroom." So your cat urinates on your bed or sofa? Start playing with your cat on the bed or sofa and give out treats there.


"She will eventually learn to associate the bed or piece of furniture with food instead of a toilet," Garber says.


5. Be patient. Tough to do if you've just opened your eyes and discovered you're unfortunately awake and not dreaming that you're lying in a swimming pool of urine.


Remember that punishing your cat won't get you anywhere and will only make your him fearful and anxious, Garber says.


She suggests spending at least a month trying to retrain your cat, and if the problems persist, well, you could always hire a certified cat behavior specialist.

1 of 9

Comments  21

Leave Comment
  • cat peeing on bed
    06/09/2016 08:53pm

    One of my male cats was peeing on the beds. I put a stress collar on him and added a litter box in a very quiet place. No more peeing where he shouldn't! It's been great!

  • Cat peeing on your bed?
    06/19/2016 02:14pm

    Another reason is your cat is mad at you. You have done something to him or his environment that has left him feeling that you don't love him much. My niece had a cat that had to have her leg amputated. When the cat was comfortable enough to go back to regular routine she started peeing on their bed! And on other things that were just hers. I can't say for sure that is why. But I have had cats over the years who have demonstrated the same thing and something had changed in each cats life!

  • talk to your cats
    06/23/2016 03:27pm

    Lindy I have 7 cats and urine was a problem but i found cleaning the boxes every day which takes only a couple min. helped, and i have my own back yard and so i created a small flower garden and left space between the plants and keep the dirt tilled between the plants, teach your cat the word outside as you walk them to the door they will use the soft dirt between the plants and it will not hurt the plants. they will let you know when they want to go outside and will race you to the door, I have food and water inside and out, put a pet door in and let them come and go as they please, my cats 5 of which are Ferrel never leave the yard . My friends think i am crazy talking to my cats but what am i supposed to do when they ask me a question. enjoy

  • 07/18/2016 10:05pm

    IMPORTANT: Thanks for the tips but I request that you please advise any cat or small dog owner in CA (and many other states, we are learning) NOT to let their pets outside -- even on a patio -- unless it is into a fully enclosed (top, sides, bottom) space that does not allow coyote intrusion. There is a dramatic overpopulation of coyotes and they are preying on cats and small dogs midday, even over six foot walls. Many thought that their pets were too agile, too quick or too smart only to lose them in the most horrific way.

  • 08/16/2016 04:58pm

    Absolutely correct don't distinguish small pets from their wild counter parts. Food is what they're after and the weaker animals the goal so as not to sustain any injury to themselves. Let them outside when you are there only.

  • Abused Rescue
    06/23/2016 07:23pm

    Trouble was a rescue who was an owner surrender. I thought Tribble needed company, so I adopted him because I KNEW that my sister and I could give him the love and understanding he needed. He almost immediately became Herbie, the Love Bug since he would crawl on our laps and let us pet him until our arms were drooping. He still does not like to be picked up after 5 years. He does not adapt well to change. We have another cat, Charlie, whom I renamed Princess Charlie since she was a female. Trouble and Charlie have never had a problem, but 2 years ago something happened and Trouble retreated to a corner and he and Tribble got into a literal 'Pissing Contest' I have a queen sized bed, and every morning I would wake up to find urine and feces on the other side of the bed and Trouble would not leave his corner. I moved a litterbox to his corner and I didn't have to wash my linens daily. Unfortunately, I was injured severely when the top stair of my front porch broke off, and now I have severe spinal damage. I thought that the answer would be a Cat Genie. Tribble and Princess Charlie are having no problem adjusting, but Trouble is pooping where the old litterbox was next to the laundry room, and peeing on my bed. I tried luring him to the litterbox with treats, but he will not step inside the bathroom unless I am sitting on the toilet, and the other cats are not around, I know Tribble is the Alpha male, and Princess Charlie is the Alpha female, but Trouble gets a lot of love and petting, but I woke up yesterday with him peeing on my leg. I was a bit upset, to say the least! I can't scoop anymore; the Cat Genie is the only option other than surrendering Trouble yet again... and I don't have the heart to do it, since we have brought him so far from the scared, trembling cat we brought home. I am at my wit's end! Please help me!!!!

  • 07/11/2016 01:43am

    There is a clumping litter call Cat Attract that has a herbal scent that cats are attracted to. I put it in one of 3 litter boxes that I had because one of my 3 cats was peeing outside the box under my dining room table. All three cats ending up using the one box that had cat attract in it. It was my last resort also, good luck!

  • 08/16/2016 04:49pm

    First of all I have had all kinds of animals my whole life and I am 52 so I have some experience.

    There are several things you can try to coax Trouble to use the litter box, but be warned none are the overnight fix. They all require patience and many months.

    The first and most important is training. Most people think cats are independent. They are not. Cats are still instinctively pack animals.

    It is very telling when you say Trouble is the Alpha male and Princess is the Alpha female. Therein lies your problem. Because they are used to having a leader they instinctively know there is a void in leadership (Alpha) and assume that role. Good luck getting them to listen to you. They are the boss. You're consider in their world to be lower service animal.

    You can assume the Alphaship in you house, but it is going to take more work because you have never set yourself up as Alpha and it the pack world the only way to do it is to fight, to show more dominance.

    When I got Samson (he's a long haired cat. Get it?) I set out to claim dominance right away. Doing so when you first get an animal is ideal because they are adjusting to the new home and more pliable because of it. It took only 3 months to establish myself as Alpha. How did I do it? I copied the actions of cats in the wild. The first thing an alpha does (both male and female) to a cub is to nip it's ear (No, I didn't bite his ear. I did pinch it which is similar). The other thing cats do to train the cubs is to swat at them when they go against the pride's Alphas (not beating them. You make your hand like a paw and strike out at them like a cat does. Strike them medium strength on the back of the legs or hit the whiskers (they're receptors after all) once.). People think if they cat cowers it is abuse. Cowering is actually submission. "I don't want to get hit. I show the Alpha I am not challenging him or her I won't get hit." See?

    Now for you: You will have to do what I did to get Alphaship in your home; however, you will have to do it much longer than I because he's been alpha for 5 years.

    After a few weeks of this I added in treats. I taught him to sit at my command (for example) by pushing on his butt when I gave the command then immediately gave him a treat. I repeated this 5 times the exact same way. The six time I withheld the treat until he sat. It took 3 days and he caught on. Now when I give him a treat all I say is "What do you do for a treat?" and keep repeating it until he sits then I give him his treat.

    With the treat training I lessened the treats and praised him more. Worked like a charm.

    So here's how you solve your problem:

    1.) Swat at him every time he doesn't use his litter box;;
    2.) Withhold praise and affection (trust me pack animals want that more than they want treats) when naughty and go nuts when he does something that pleases you. Lots of affection and a few treats over the next 6 months he won't be able to do enough for you;
    3.) Once per month reassert yourself as Alpha by, you guessed it, pinching his ear;
    4.) A genie litter box that is just his.

  • 11/11/2016 07:51pm

    I hope no one listens to you...You NEVER swat a cat! You can't be ALPHA to a cat. Only a dog.... Swatting him for not using his litter box??? Really???? They can be trained with love and treats but cats are not like dogs. Sadly a dog will be loyal even if you abuse it. Cats will hate you. I have SOME experience, too. I'm 61 and have had 199 cats come through my house. We currently have 29 of our own. Indoor cats....not declawed... Many of them former ferals. Swat a feral and you won't see it for a week.

  • 08/16/2016 07:48pm

    I read about something that you put into the litter box that is supposed to attract the cat to the box. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what it is called, but I'm sure if you take some time, you could probably find it on Amazon. I know I saw it there. Wish I could remember the name of it. Sorry. Also, I have used Feliway spray and the Feliway diffuser in my home. We have 8 cats and sometimes we have a problem with pecking order. They don't work immediately, but if you follow directions and are persistent, you may see results. I did. It is not a pleasant problem to deal with, but I love my fur babies and would never give them up no matter what, so I am into trying any product that may help. Good luck.

  • 11/11/2016 10:04pm

    Cats naturally use a litter pan. If they're avoiding it, there's a problem.

  • cat peeing on bed
    07/11/2016 05:41am

    My cat sleeps with me. My husband laid on the bed one night. The next night the bed was wet on that side. Husband didn't do that again and haven't had anymore problems.

  • 07/13/2016 03:03am

    The same thing happened to me when I got married. My cats always slept with just me. Then my husband enters our sleeping arrangement and the cats would pee all around him and one would always pee on his head! I told him to hold the cats and pet them anytime he was seated so they could see that he was OK and eventually the peeing ceased. It was hilarious though! But disgusting.

  • Cat peeing on bed.
    07/18/2016 06:29pm

    I had a cat that would wait until either my husband or I were there to witness him peeing on the bed. After the third time I tossed him outside. He was normally not allowed outside. After I tossed him out and started letting him go outside whenever he wanted he never did it again. I guess you could say he won that battle.

  • 01/05/2017 05:56am

    I had a cat who slept next to me and then I got Maine coon a much bigger cat than my original cat. Well my original cat claimed his space by peeing on the pillow next to me. This is how he handled the fear and stress of possibly losing his territory. Or space next to his favorite human. Me. I got some feliway and in a couple f weeks everyone calmed down. The Maine coon picked his space at the fioot of the bed and the original cat was secure in knowing he could still sleep next to me. But for a while there I was sleeping with plastic coverings. Yikes

  • We Understand!
    08/16/2016 11:55pm

    To use the term "pee" in an article written by professionals for adults is crude and inappropriate. We are all adults and really do understand the term urinate. As a health professional, I have yet to encounter an adult who did not understand "urine and urinate" . We understand. Really.

  • 08/22/2016 08:25pm

    We all understand the phrase "pee", too. I'm offended by the phrase "health professional", as it denotes your own perceived superiority, and it's micro aggression on your part. A health professional may just be the dude who mops the pee off the floor in a hospital.

    I had a cat who felt the need to leave a mess on every piece of upholstered furniture that I bought. It seemed to be a vindictive behavior and I finally surrendered her to a local shelter - a $5000 sofa and her new habit of backing up to the walls and spraying them were the last straw. I hope that she found a home where she was happier than she was here, because nothing I tried made any difference. I've had cats before and since and she's the only one who ever exhibited either behavior.

  • 11/11/2016 07:43pm

    I hope you alerted the shelter as to the reason why you surrendered your cat. Otherwise you put your cat in bad situation if he/she continues at the next home. People throw them outside or dump them off somewhere. I hope you had a vet examine your cat to make sure it wasn’t crystals.

    I couldn’t get past page one so have no idea what else was in this article.

    There are many things that can be done to stop this type of behavior IF it’s not medical. Dry food is huge culprit of causing UTI’s in cats and bladder crystals. Canned food is one of the best things you can do for your cat to keep them hydrated. Cats NEVER drink enough water and the main cause of urinary tract problems. Adding a water fountain and/or changing to bottle water can be helpful to encourage more water intake.

    Behavioral problems can be fixed by: changing the litter to a no-scent litter, using a larger box, uncovering a covered box and adding another litter pan in another area. There is also medication to help cats with anxiety. You may have to contain them in a small room until the problem has corrected but it can be corrected.

    I’m no stranger to these problems. At one time we had 37 indoor rescued cats with 22 of them being feral. We had 4 with bladder crystals and many of them with UTI‘s. I went through gallons of Nature’s Miracle. I learned the hard way but now have corrected the issues we were having.

    I use bottled water because our well water has a high salt content. I also have a Drinkwell water fountain.

    I feed canned food every night with dry food available throughout the day. Believe it or not canned Friskies Poultry Platter was recommended by my vet and has worked wonders. I had tried the expensive canned foods but had too many vomiting and with loose stools.

    Clean the areas with Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solution for urine. If you use anything else you won’t eliminate the smell. You might not smell it but the cat still can and they continue to go back to those spots.

    I use a clumping litter with no scent. Several cats had developed upper respiratory issues because of scented litter.

    Be careful what you clean the litter pans with. Use a mild soap such as Dawn dish soap. Again the wrong smell can cause your cat to avoid the litter pan.

    CLEAN the litter pans often! One of the main reasons a cat will avoid the box is…dirty.

    Don’t declaw your cat. This has been known to cause behavioral issues in cats from marking to biting.

    We now have 29 and have no more problems with inappropriate marking or crystals.

  • 01/05/2017 05:48am

    Wow. I admire you for all the cats you are taking care of. Any tips on introducing them to each other. I foster cats so I am interested in the smoothest transitions. Thank you.

  • Cat peeing on bed?
    11/27/2016 03:42am

    We adopted 2 kittens we found outside near or on our property. Both were much younger than 8 weeks old. One of them wanted outside and my late husband did not want to let him go outside. Then the cat started peeing on our bed, even as we were sleeping. I told my husband the cat was acting out because he wasn't letting him go outside but he didn't believe me. After my husband died last summer I started letting this cat outside and he quit peeing on my bed. I had to buy a new bed so now there is no smell to bring him back to his old ways! I'd like to take this opportunity to tell my late husband, I told you so!

  • larger litter boxes
    01/01/2017 12:59pm

    i use large storage containers as litter boxes, this gives my cat plenty of room to make around with out feel confined. plus it gives the a bigger area to work with. I clean out my 3 larger liter boxes morning and evening. My cats seem to like this larger ares for their comfort. Regular litter boxes are just to small.