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Figuring out why your cats urinate on your bed and clothes isn’t always a straightforward task. Illness, stress and physical problems using the litter box can all cause inappropriate urination. Not all these causes have obvious symptoms, either. Fortunately, though, once you discover what’s causing this behavior, it usually isn’t too difficult to correct.
Urinary tract problems such as infections (UTI) and cystitis are some of the most common reasons cats urinate on clothes and beds. These conditions cause painful urination. The cat chooses an alternative, softer place because it associates the litter box with pain. Declawed cats often urinate in soft places because litter hurts their feet. Older cats may have trouble getting into the litter box.
Stress from a move, new furniture, new pets or people in the home or new cats outdoors can trigger territorial marking (spraying of urine). Sometimes a household’s dominate cat prevents a weaker cat from using the litter box. Less commonly, cats may urinate on the owner’s personal items due to separation anxiety. Clothes and bedding smell strongly of the owner, making them the preferred items. A dirty or shared litter box or can also lead a cat to seek out cleaner areas for elimination needs. Young kittens allowed to eliminate in the kittening box may continue to use blankets and similar items to cover their waste.
Under stress, any cat may mark territory with urine, a behavior known as spraying. It’s most common with unneutered males, but neutered males and females can also mark. Neutering reduces the likelihood of spraying, but can’t prevent it. Not all inappropriate urination by unneutered males is territorial marking. To mark territory, cats stand and urinate on a vertical surface such as a wall, hanging clothes or upright pillows. Elimination of either urine or stool on horizontal surfaces, such as bed blankets, is not typically territorial.
A vet can diagnose and treat urinary tract problems. Cat pheromone diffusers calm cats and stop territorial and anxiety-related marking. Provide older cats with a low-sided litter box. For kittens, keep a litter box near the kittening box. For a declawed cat, use a soft litter alternative such as shredded newspaper or puppy training pads. Cats will continue to urinate on anything that smells of their urine, so it’s vital to remove all traces of scent. Thoroughly clean soiled areas with an enzymatic pet odor removal product. Clean the litter box daily and supply a box for each cat.
Sudden onset of inappropriate urination requires immediate veterinary attention. The cat may have a blocked urethra, which can be fatal within days. Avoid showing anger or punishing the cat. Cats acts on instinct and won’t understand your negative reactions. Diagnosing and preventing inappropriate urination is often a process of trial and error that takes patience. Anger and punishments not only don’t work, they can worsen the problem by distressing the cat and causing more behavior problems.
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