A surprise from your favorite feline friend on your bed is a sight that no pet owners want to see. Consider this scenario: on a peaceful day, as we pass by our bedroom, minds up in the clouds – probably calculating budgets or workloads – our noses are assaulted by that distinctive smell of ammonia.
True to our fear, we see a few dark brown nugget shapes on our bed – maybe even on our pillow or elsewhere…except inside the litter box. With a stinky problem like this, the first thing we often ask ourselves is “Why did my cat just poop on my bed?”
The answer is not so clear-cut and can stem from a number of problems. And these may include both an array of medical and behavioral sources.
The Three Evils… Not
Unlike humans, cats only act on instinct and conditioning. We cannot scold them or talk to them like we do to our kids. A cat’s learning skill is similar to that of toddlers. However, we can still teach them to do things.
There are three factors that could affect our kitty’s toilet habits – age (or time) and health issues, litter box and its location, and your kitty’s stress levels.
1. Illness and Age Of Your Cat
- Is your kitty old or young?
Age is a factor to consider, as arthritis and other joint diseases become increasingly common for senior cats. Accessing or orienting themselves in a litter box with such conditions can be painful and uncomfortable and so cats may, in this case, choose to eliminate elsewhere.
Young felines need an adjustment period when it comes to using the litter box. As they grow older, it supposedly gets easier for them to enter and make use of their kitty toilet.
For older cats, getting an easy access box with lower sides can help. Cognitive dysfunction related to old age may also be a possible answer as it can influence a cat’s ability to get to the litter box in time. Or in some cases, even know that they aren’t using the litter box.
For example, arthritic cats have difficulty getting into and out of the litter box, so you will need to introduce your old puss to a new litter box with lower sides.
If your kitten wants to go in its old litter box but the sides are too high, you may need to cut a portion out so that the old cat can climb into it. Additionally, senior cats may lose their accuracy in “shooting their gunk” so you should consider placing absorbent pads all around the box and even under it.
Older cats also have weaker senses compared to when they were younger, so this could be why your feline friend makes messy dumps. If your tabby is slower in feeling its way around due to old age, you should provide some night lighting to help it pinpoint the exact location of its litter box.
Some pet parents have even stuck rope lights on their walls to guide their cat all the way to the litter box.
- Medical Issues
Although many people will jump to a behavioral issue in regard to inappropriate defecation, it can just as easily be a sign of an ongoing medical issue, so observation of your animal’s habits is crucial.
Medical issues that relate to increased frequency of defecation can also be a cause. Other diseases which may lead to inappropriate elimination include rectal cancer, feline lower urinary tract disease, intestinal parasites, and anal sac diseases.
Bowel consistency is also related to health issues and can cause cats to poop outside their litter box. Young felines have a lower immune system which makes them prone to a list of health problems such as a sickness that has diarrhea symptoms.
With diarrhea, getting into the litter box in time is a challenge, so the only way to fix that problem is getting your kitty’s health checked by a vet.
On the other hand, older cats are prone to constipation. If a cat is having difficulty going to the bathroom due to constipation as a result of some form of intestinal bowel disorder, then this can cause them to seek out an abnormal place to go.
Essentially, if they experience pain or discomfort when trying to eliminate, they can become confused and go outside of the litter box to seek a new place to go where they think perhaps it will be easier to do so.
If a cat needs to strain to go, they also might accidentally poop elsewhere simply because that’s where they are. Unfortunately, this may happen while on your bed.
If you see your animal straining to go; either in its box or elsewhere, squatting but nothing comes out, and/or making noises while trying to eliminate, it should be seen by a vet right away.
2. Finicky Kitties
Moving on to the various behavioral reasons why a cat may poop in places they shouldn’t: one fairly straightforward answer is that cats are picky. If your feline friend has no health issues, then you may need to check out its “toilet” – the litter box.
There are three factors that could make or break your fussy puss – and have it scurrying for another, “better” loo. These factors are the litter, the box, and the location. If you change something about a cat’s litter box set up, it may get upset and in protest, may poop on your bed for example.
The type of box, the location in your home where it’s in, and the type of litter are all factors that cats care about.
- Litter Issues
One should also make sure there is an appropriate amount of litter in the box. Both too much or too little can be a problem.
If you’re constantly cleaning strewn about litter outside of the box, you may be putting too much in.
Does your kitty teeter along the sides or on the edge of its litter box? Does it seem in a hurry going in and out of its box like it’s afraid that some creepy crawly critter will grab it while it unloads its turd? So much so that it may not even bother covering its deposit?
If you answered yes to one of these questions, then your furball may be having issues with the litter. Some litter may be uncomfortable for your cat to use so try different substrates of litter such as pine, clay, and paper to see what works best.
Cats are finicky to litter quality – whether because of the brand, the type of scent, the texture or even the material. Unlike humans who can use words to complain, the only thing tabbies can do to protest is by leaving you those wayward turds.
Identifying the specific litter box issue for your kitty may take a couple of weeks. Introduce your cat to a minimum of three litter boxes in one area of the house.
Each box must have one different quality from the others such as brand (brand A vs brand B vs brand C), scent (unscented vs natural grass vs pine), and texture (crystals vs gravel vs fine-grained).
Although each cat has their own preference, the usual choice is unscented, fine-grained litter piled two to three inches deep inside a litter box. Long-haired cats may prefer less than two inches litter in a rather slick-surfaced litter box.
After cleaning, refill and even out the litter to avoid kitty pee from pooling in the bottom of the box and making it stinky. Your cat will usually take around 20 seconds to cover its poop and pat down the litter and leave the box if it is fully satisfied.
- Box Issues
It’s also important that your litter box be of appropriate size for the cat – with a general rule of 1.5 times the length of the cat. Linings, privacy, back and side heights, and even self-cleaning properties may be determined using the multi-litter box experiment.
Additionally, cats won’t use a litter box if it’s too dirty. Before changing your cat’s type of litter box, you may want to consider how old and clean is your kitty’s toilet? Cats, like humans, are finicky and they are drawn to new and clean things.
You should try and clean your cat’s box once a week for this reason. When multiple animals are in a home, boxes can get dirty quickly. So, having multiple boxes for different animals to use can help.
In addition to removing used litter regularly, have a general box cleaning at least once a month. Do it weekly if the litter is non-clumping since all of the litter will have to be replaced.
You will also have to change the litter box from time to time if regular scrubbing no longer removes the stink. There is no need to use enzymatic fluids. Forget citrus scented-cleaners too since cats dislike citrus fruits.
- Location Issues
Another thing to consider is where the box is in your home. If changing boxes and litter still does not move your cat into the box, then it is possible that your kitty does not like its current location. This is especially true if your cat’s litter box is too far from its favorite haunt which might mean that the poor puss has difficulty holding it in as it runs for a dump.
If the litter box is too close to cats’ food, that can turn them off from using it as well. Try and figure out if the bed defecation was preceded by any change in the litter box set up at all, no matter how small. Experimenting with all the factors is important.
If your kitty makes use of its current litter box but is still pooping on your bed or some other areas outside of its dumping ground, then it may mean that your frisky feline wants a second litter box location – one that is more convenient for its daily rounds.
This is especially true if your house is wide or multi-storied. Having additional litter boxes will be convenient for your kitty and it is recommended to have one litter box per floor.
If your home houses multiple cats, it is also ideal to have one litter box for each cat, plus one extra. Just be aware that cats are fussy with their own litter box. Don’t put all the litter boxes in the same room or one “top cat” may decide to guard the facilities and keep the other cats away.
Another possible reason it does not like the location is the surroundings. A sudden uprising from the likes of nearby passing and honking cars, thuds from the washing machine or surprising loud sounds that disturb its pooping time can be a cause for your cat to shun its current litter box location.
Even worse, if those sudden sounds happened during its first pooping experience in the box, it could associate the litter box with such traumatic events and will totally refuse the whole set.
Did you do a little bit of decorating before the cat-astrophe occurred? And did your kitty do the deed in an area near the newly-rearranged spot? Chances are the puss just found itself a new and better location.
If it is possible to relocate the litter box to that area, then do so. Otherwise, have that “new” area thoroughly cleaned and unavailable to the kitty and retrain your feline to its litter box.
3. Anxiety and Stress
Stress is more acute compared to simply pickiness and can come in many forms. But similarly, it can lead to cats looking for other places to defecate other than their box.
New kitties may carry with them litter box preferences, as well as traumatic experiences from whence they came. You may need to consult with the shelter, the sanctuary or the cattery where you got your kitty and trace any litter box issues for easier correction.
Cats also prefer to deviate from their habits when they are stressed. They may spray in the wrong places; they may urinate and defecate outside their litter boxes, and hide or barely show their faces to us afterward. Cat parents have to investigate the cause of their stress through the hints they give.
Here are some of the stressors that will cause them to leave landmines outside their litter box:
If for example, they got scared by something while using the box like an intruder or loud noise, they may be more hesitant to go back to use it subsequently as they associate this negative experience with the box. In this situation, moving the box around to find a new comfortable area is a good idea.
Some of these traumas have been mentioned above such as constipation, sudden thuds, and even surprises. But what if it has to do with thunder?
Fortunately, thunder is not a frequent phenomenon, unless you live in a place where thunderstorms are commonplace. One option is to have your kitty readjusted to thunderstorms and at the same time, use a quick-escape type of litter box so your kitty can easily run off.
Another is to relocate the litter box into a place where they may feel safer.
- Newcomers in their territory
Anxiety based on changes in the cat’s lifestyle can also be a cause of poop in the bed. Let’s say a new animal is introduced into the home.
Your kitty is sensitive to new faces so a new family member like a baby, a relative or friend staying over or even a new pet can cause your kitty to feel stressed. Aside from spraying on its territory, the puss may also place stink bombs all over as if to say “This is my spot – you better introduce yourself properly!”
Sometimes one cat may bully another and control access to the litter box – preventing the first cat from using it. Even after adding additional boxes, which is the first step to addressing this, it may not always work.
Your resident animal can experience generalized stress simply because there is this, from their perspective, a strange new cat or a visitor now in their territory. This is why slow introductions of new cats into homes with existing resident cats is so important.
- Missing link
Stress can also arise from separation anxiety. Although more typically associated with dogs, cats can experience a very similar feeling.
Cats are sensitive to absent household members. A change in the number of people your kitty lives with can affect its toileting habits.
Kitties are used to the mingling of their scents with their usual companions, so they are actually reassuring themselves of your presence by mingling their poop with their own owner’s not-so-distinctive scent.
If your schedule changes and you don’t spend as much time at home or you take a long vacation, cats can get lonely and miss their people. This unease can lead to inappropriate defecation.