How do I deter my cat from peeing on our bed?
September 7, 2010 3:12 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop my spayed cat from peeing on the bed - and only the bed?

Our cat used to pee on random articles of clothing throughout the house. Solution: we took all the random articles of clothing off the floor and got an extra litter box (three boxes for two cats). The third box never gets used, but there are no more accidents on the floor. However, she started to pee on the bed - blankets, pillows, sheets, etc. We tried locking her out of the bedroom at all times for about two weeks, but tonight she just peed on a pillow.

We wash the soiled article every time it happens and toss in a little vinegar and water into the wash to see if that does it. The odor goes away but she still peed every time.

We took her to the vet last month and he found an infection in her urine. We had her on antibiotics for ten days (Pill Pockets are a wonderful thing if you have a cat and need to give her pills) but that apparently didn't fix it. We can't go back to the vet since he's closed due to some moron running into his building with a car.

We don't think it's a medical issue since she's acting perfectly normal - she's eating normally, drinking normally, and she defecates in the litter box. I think it's just preference - "I'm sleeping on mommy and daddy, and this is a nice soft place for me to pee."

Is there any kind of spray that we can put down on our sheets, blankets, and pillows that will deter her from spraying? We normally used Nature's Miracle and Dumb Cat but before I basically hose down our bedroom with the stuff, I wanted to see if there was a better alternative.
posted by MJPByron to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure there's no other vet you can go to? It could be that she still has a urinary tract infection and it hurts when she pees so she goes somewhere comfortable to compensate. Cats don't normally like to pee where they sleep. Eating, drinking, and pooping wouldn't necessarily be affected if she had a UTI. I would take her to another vet just to be sure. And even if she turns out to be okay this time, if your primary vet is really unavailable it's good to have a relationship established with another vet in case of emergency.
posted by amethysts at 3:15 AM on September 7, 2010

Sounds like a case for Professor Pavlov! Chastise the cat heavily each time it pees where it isn't supposed to. Treat it whenever it pees where it is supposed to.
posted by Biru at 3:38 AM on September 7, 2010

We tried locking her out of the bedroom at all times for about two weeks, but tonight she just peed on a pillow.

Close the bedroom door to her permanently if she can't stop pissing the bed. It won't kill her.

What will kill her is an undiagnosed disease. Get a new vet and make sure she's OK. Diabetes, for instance -- is she fat? -- can make a cat piss frequently and in undesirable places.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 AM on September 7, 2010

Healthy cats don't eliminate where they sleep. Have someone make sure the UTI is gone and that there are no other medical issues. Your regular vet may be practicing somewhere else while his building is closed.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:15 AM on September 7, 2010

I agree about getting the UTI double-checked. Also, are you giving her food that is formulated for urinary tract care? It can be a bit more expensive, but it reduces the risk of a recurring infection quite a bit.

If you're absolute sure it isn't UTI related, you might try going to your pet store and asking for Cat Attract litter - it's formulated with a bunch of herbs and scents that are supposed to encourage the cat to use that box. I would buy enough to dump and replace one box completely, and enough to mix other boxes half and half with the old litter, and see if that makes a difference. When one of my cats was having territory issues with the litter boxes, I found the Cat Attract stuff worked a lot better than Feliway diffusers.
posted by BZArcher at 4:23 AM on September 7, 2010

One of my cats did the same thing for a long time-- first on clothes, then frequently on the bed. I called it "emotional peeing"-- she tended to do it when I was feeling stressed, or when we left the house overnight.

What worked for us was Feliway (there's also a a couple of "generic" less expensive brands)-- it's a synthetic "happy" pheromone similar to the one cats emit from the glands on their faces. I've used both the spray and the diffuser and had better results with the spray, just misting the bed well.

She hasn't peed on the bed in over two years now, so something's working. Good luck!
posted by mireille at 4:26 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Close the bedroom door. If she gets on the bed accidentally, have a good, strong squirt bottle filled with water (and MAYBE a drop of ammonia if she ignores water) where you can grab it immediately and squirt her.

If it isn't medical, it's behavioral. You have to change your reaction to her behavior to change her behavior.
posted by kidelo at 5:00 AM on September 7, 2010

You need to see another vet to check that the UTI is cleared, and look for secondary kidney issues or either form of diabetes or any of the many things that incite kitties to pee in undesirable places--as that is at least a sign of feline stress, and usually pain.

I second the Feliway suggestion, as well as noting any disruptions in her/your routines over the past few months, in case you're looking at a behavioral issue.

It's paramount that people understand that cats do not show pain or discomfort like humans. You can't explain to a cat that you will take it in or address the problem if it just expresses 'peeing hurts' or 'I feel icky' or 'I don't understand why 'x' has changed in the house.' Cats operate under the instinct that showing all but the most extreme discomfort/anxiety visibly gets them dead.

As for your bed/pillows: if you're not already using them, get zip-up waterproof covers until this is resolved. Vinegar only really works as an additive to rinse water after the major smells have been removed, and then only usually to the human nose. It's not going to do what you need it to do here. I recommend a combination of on-brand Oxy-Clean and sodium carbonate (washing soda) to the wash and detergent. If it won't ruin the color of your bedding, spot treat affected areas immediately with drugstore hydrogen peroxide. More powerful stuff will f up the bedding and break down the fabric unless you're monitoring closely. Enzyme cleaners are great, but they're for things you can leave wet for periods of time--plus they're expensive. You need to break down the ammonia, which = a lot of cat pee stink/organic smells. Peroxide gets you there: welcome to how permanent hair dye works (though that's much stronger than drugstore concentration).

on preview: DO NOT EVER ADD AMMONIA TO ANYTHING YOU SPRAY AT YOUR CAT. FIRSTLY, THAT'S THE STINK PROBLEM ITSELF. SECONDLY, EVEN IN BELOW-TOXIC AMOUNTS, THAT'S NOT OKAY AT ALL TO DO TO AN ANIMAL THAT IS ALREADY STRESSED PHYSICALLY AND/OR PSYCHOLOGICALLY. If you were ill, and having accidents because you were severely anxious or in large amounts of physical pain, would it help to have urine-smelling stuff sprayed on you? No.

Problem urination is more complicated than lay conditioning methods. In fact, recent studies have shown that cats don't seem to have the same relation to actions and causal relationships that dogs do. (Fish treats on a string study, can't remember the authors just now) 'Positive punishment' is not going to help here.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:11 AM on September 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Nthing go to another vet, and punishment will not work in this case. Keep the bedroom door closed, take her to a vet.

In the meantime, place some old, soft towels/sheets near the litterbox she uses most. Line them underneath with plastic bags to prevent leakage. If she goes in these towels, chances are good it's the UTI.

Also, you're not going to get the pee smell out of your bedding with "a little vinegar". You need to soak it overnight in a strong vinegar/water solution, then wash as normal. If the urine has soaked into the pillow, you'll have to replace it or she'll pee on it again, even when she's better.

Good luck!
posted by Koko at 5:32 AM on September 7, 2010

There are likely two things at play here:
1. The infection. This makes them try to find places to pee that won't hurt, so they go for soft things. They could also have FUS, which also leads to the peeing-somewhere-nicer problem, and which can kill a cat (killed one of mine).
2. Once they start peeing somewhere else it becomes a place-to-pee, so you have to break the association. Tips for that below.

- Nthing no ammonia. Ammonia is a principal component of the pee smell, so it could be reinforcing the "pee here" impulse.
- Pet stores sell a variety of urine-neutralizing sprays you can try. Scrub the area well with normal cleaners then spray well with the neutralizer. I just successfully broke a pee habit in our boot tray using that.
- My big trick to stop peeing is to put food by the pee area, as a healthy cat won't pee where they eat. You can't put food on your bed, but you could try catnip to see if that can change the associations.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:40 AM on September 7, 2010

If you aren't locking her out of the bedroom, could you try putting a litter box in there (even if it's temporary?) If he is having problems getting to the litter box when he's sleeping, having one closer might make him try.

My guess is an UTI or other infection that hasn't cleared up completely. This needs to be checked now - find a new vet.

If, once he's healthy, I'll nth the Feliway recommendation. It doesn't work on all my cats, but the one it does have an effect on, it's pretty dramatic. It's worth a try.
posted by cgg at 7:46 AM on September 7, 2010

Step one would certainly be to get her on a food that discourages urinary infection and crystals and increases output (yeah, I know, but the spots will be less concentrated).

As for adjusting the behavior, though: do you make your bed neatly after leaving it, every time? I had the same issue as you, with the soiled clothing on the floor and the moving on to the bed after that was fixed. The problem disappeared after I made sure the sheets and blankets were perfectly smooth and the pillows propped up hotel-style each time I left it. Apparently, my cat genuinely just resented disorder in his living environment and, lacking the ability to form hospital corners himself, piddled in the areas that affronted his sensibilities until I got the point.
posted by grar at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have never found vinagar to be very effective in eliminating the odor (I works fine for me, but my cats' noses see right through it). The only thing that I find effective is Nature's Miracle, which you can get at most pet stores.
posted by rtimmel at 11:17 AM on September 7, 2010

I had a very similar problem, which I’ll explain, but first… Never, ever, ever, scold a cat- you won’t get the results you’re looking for. You’ll just end up causing the cat to distrust you and you'll have more problems down the road. Praise, on the other hand, will get you everywhere.

Ok, so I have two cats (sisters, actually) that got on for about two years without any litter box issues. For no obvious reason, one of them (and it unfortunately took some cunning to figure out which) began peeing on piles of clothes. Once I removed the piles, she’d go on an unmade bed. Once I started making the bed she’d just find somewhere new to go. So basically I had a nice clean house (thanks kitty, for the motivation) and a treasure hunt for urine everyday when I got home from work.

To make a long story short, I looked into all of the usual things, bladder infection, clean the litter boxes more frequently, etc, etc, to no avail. Here is what the problem was: One cat was guarding the litter box from the other, and the poor thing had no choice but to go on the carpet somewhere. Here is how I fixed the problem: I got another litter box (a total of 3 for 2 cats) and I took the cat in question down to the litter box twice a day and set her near but not in (this is very important, since she was already scared of it) the litter box. Eventually, she got comfortable with the litter box again because as long as I was standing there, she wasn’t being bullied. By now (a year later) the two cats have finally accepted that they each have their own litter boxes, and… problem solved (for the most part, unless I go away for several days on a trip)

BTW, I see that you have multiple litter boxes, but are they all next to each other? If so, as far as the cat is concerned, all you did is make one great big litter box which won't fix a territory problem.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 11:31 AM on September 7, 2010

It may be that the infection is cleared up but the cat still remembers the pain associated with peeing in the litter box. (Though I agree with other posters that you should go to another vet if necessary to verify that she's back in good health.) Try getting a new litter box--it can be just a small plastic pan if you don't want to invest much money--and put it somewhere near the existing boxes. Gently and casually set the cat down in the new litter box ONCE so that she knows it's there. It's OK if she jumps out immediately. Try not to give her any stressful associations with the new box.

This strategy has, in the past, helped one of my cats transition back to regular litter-box usage after bouts of urinary tract problems. After using the new box for a few days he seems to figure out that litter boxes in general are OK and will not cause him pain. Then (after observing him use one of the old boxes) I can take away the new box and he goes back to using the old boxes as before.
posted by Orinda at 12:07 PM on September 7, 2010

Thanks everyone for the advice - we already have an appointment with the vet.

The thing about the cat that's peeing, she loves to sleep on us and has slept on me pretty much every night since I adopted her in December of 2006.

She's on the big side and we'll have the vet evaluate her for diabetes, but one of the major symptoms was a near-obsession with water and drinking. There's been no increase in consumption of the water.

I don't think it's litterbox guarding; she poops in the litterbox. We also had a towel for her use next to one of the litterbox and she pees on that regularly. The three litter boxes are in one room, about three feet apart from each other. None of the litter boxes have lids; they're all open. The room has many windows, all of which are open so long as it's not downpouring sideways to ventilate. We clean the litter boxes (clumping litter) and change out the pee towel every day. We wash the pee towels as well when they're all used after splashing them with a solution of two parts water to one part vinegar.

Also, the peeing happens while we sleep - making the bed is kinda not an option in that case.

We never scolded her; we've both had cats all our lives and the closest thing we do to scolding her is making little water splashes at her if she comes up on the dinner table.

Thanks everyone for the advice - do keep it coming!

If I use Feliway or the otherwise - will she still come and sleep on us, or will she pretty much avoid the area entirely?
posted by MJPByron at 3:29 PM on September 7, 2010

My cat had this issue after years of using a litterbox and the same litter for 3 years. She pooped in the litterbox but peed on the (fortunately) dog bed. We added another litterbox (4 for 3 cats), tried Feliway, got her checked for a UTI,etc. but nothing worked.

After months of this nonsense, she stated pooping outside of the box too. I finally tried Cat Attract Litter and the problem was solved the moment I introduced her to her new litter (aka dropping her in the box). Whalah! Problem solved. Hope it works for you, but the Cat Attract really worked for us.
posted by murrey at 7:55 PM on September 8, 2010

A quick update - just brought the cat back from the vet. He found no indications of diabetes or UTI. He had to sedate the poor girl in order to get her calm enough to draw blood and she only just started being up and around a few minutes ago. She peed on the cheap Target rug in the living room but I think that's just her being loopy.

She's laid out coming back to consciousness now; the bloodwork results will come back tomorrow. He thinks that she may have hyperthyroidism, which is treatable.

Anyway, I'm glad I listened and got a medical rule-out - we may have figured out why she is very touchy and loves to bite my wife's arm a lot. He does think the peeing on the bed is behavioral. I'm going to get a Feliway diffuser for the bedroom and give it 30 days to work its magic before letting her in, and I'll treat the mattress pad, sheets, blankets, and pillows to boot.

Hope this thread helps others as it helped me!
posted by MJPByron at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2010

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