Q: My 2-year-old cat has been urinating on my bed. Her vet said she is healthy. We put tin foil on the bed, but the noise and feel of it didn’t stop my cat from urinating on it. We bought a cat-calming pheromone wall plug-in, and it has had no effect. I played with her more and my cat still urinated on the bed.
A: Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common reasons that cats are surrendered to shelters. This is unfortunate, because it can be resolved through a combination of litterbox management and behavior modification.
Cats always have a reason for not using the litterbox. When cats are stressed or they do not feel secure, they usually will resort to instinctual behaviors. Determine what triggers the behavior. Your veterinarian has determined that nothing is medically wrong, so you can approach this as a behavior challenge.
Poor litterbox management is one of the most common reasons that cats eliminate outside of their litterboxes. Since your cat urinates on the bed, she might not feel safe using the cat box/es that you have set up for her. You might not have enough litterboxes located throughout the house in cat-appropriate areas.
Place litterboxes where your cat won’t feel trapped or ambushed by another cat or other resident animal. Closets and bathrooms are not ideal places for litterboxes because cats can feel trapped. Boxes should be placed in locations where your cat has an unobstructed view of the room and its entrance. Additionally, you need multiple cat boxes. The general litterbox rule is one box per cat and one for the house. So, if you have two cats, ideally you should have three boxes, placed in different areas of the house.
Covered boxes also can cause problems. Covered boxes have the potential of setting up situations where a cat can be trapped or ambushed while she is using the litterbox. Additionally, the covers keep the fumes inside the boxes, something that’s ideal for the humans involved, but not necessarily for the cats. A cat’s nose is very sensitive, capable of smelling odors that our relatively insensitive human noses can’t detect. Most commercial cat boxes are also too small. Instead of covered boxes, consider using large 66 qt. storage containers as litterboxes.
Litterboxes have to be immaculately clean. Scoop at least once a day and dump the litter every few weeks, clean the boxes out and refill with clean, fresh cat litter. The type of cat litter you use can also be a trigger. Always use unscented litter, and be consistent in the type of litter you use. If you want to change brand or type, do it gradually, adding a small amount of the new litter to the existing litter every day.
A thorough cleanup of the targeted areas is mandatory. Cats will target the same areas if they aren’t thoroughly cleaned up with a good enzyme cleaner.
Although poor litterbox management is a main trigger for inappropriate elimination, cats won’t use their litterboxes for many reasons, including inter-cat aggressions, other resident animals, neighborhood cats, household changes and others. Without more information, it is difficult to determine the exact triggers of your cat’s litterbox challenge.