Pet Lady Question
Cat Peeing on Bed
Q: I have a really big problem. I adopted a cat about six weeks ago, and she has started peeing on my bed. Two of the times I was packing to go on a trip, but another time I was right there in the house. She was doing so well until now, what can I do? I don’t want to return her, but I can’t keep cleaning my mattress.
A: The very first thing that comes to mind is a potential urinary tract infection (UTI). Any time an animal starts doing something out-of-the-blue, I like to eliminate health problems first. Get the cat to a vet and have her checked out. Often the stress of a new home can bring on a UTI. Once you have eliminated that option, then it’s possible she’s peeing on your bed due to stress. People often mistakenly think that their animal is doing this out of spite. Animals, unlike people, don’t think in terms of revenge (thank goodness). When an animal pees on a bed (and there are no physical ailments), it’s usually because the animal needs to relieve stress. The bed smells most like their human; it’s a place they go to relax; and urinating relieves stress. You need to find out what the stress is. Your cat may be upset that you are leaving. A packed suitcase has come to mean being left alone for a longer period of time than just when you go to work. Just the process of packing can start the stress. You can help eliminate this kind of trigger by packing your bags at other times when you aren’t leaving. Pretty soon a packed suitcase doesn’t have a negative meaning for your cat, and it won’t trigger a stressful response. Animals who suffer separation anxiety begin the stress cycle long before their human leaves the house. Everything the human does to get ready—showering, shaving, putting on a coat, picking up keys, builds anxiety in the animal. It’s important to desensitize the animals to these triggers—pick up your keys and put them back down when you aren’t going anywhere. Put your coat on and take it off again. The triggers suddenly don’t mean the same thing anymore. Also be sure to leave your animal with something to do. Dogs often enjoy having a stuffed Kong or a BusterCube to work on when their human first leaves the house. This keeps them busy for the first 30 minutes—the time when most of the damage is done. Cats may enjoy a timed feeding dish where there are different treats that are available at different times throughout the day. Put a catnip toy in one of the dishes so when it pops open there’s something new to explore. There is an article on my website (www.centerhillschool.com) that gives further ideas for helping animals with separation anxiety. Because this particular cat urinated on the bed when you were home, I’m leaning more towards the idea that this is a medical problem, so please be sure to take her to a veterinarian for an assessment.
Follow-up: This question came in a few weeks ago, and I just received an update yesterday. The cat indeed did have a urinary tract infection and is doing much better. Her human reports that she’s much happier, loving, and relaxed. This shows the importance of eliminating health issues before working on behavior issues. It would have been unfair to this cat to focus on behavior when she was in pain. I applaud the human of this cat for following up with her veterinarian and getting her the help she needed.