At the end of a long, hard day, there are two things most of us look forward to: a good meal and getting a good night’s sleep in our comfy beds while our feline purr-y ones slumber next to us.
But wait, what is that smell? And what is this in my bed?
Nothing could be more distressing than discovering that your cat has pooped on your bed. Especially if your cat seems to be a happy, well-adjusted cat in other ways, this behavior can cause you to wonder what the heck could be causing this most unpleasant behavior.
Such was the case with a couple who called me just this past weekend. They sent me photos and videos of two very happy Ragdoll siblings, playing and grooming each other, seeming to not have a care in the world.
Except, suddenly, one of them decides to poop in their bed! It’s not every day, but it is happening enough to cause stress in the household.
After meeting the family, and the cats, in person, and asking a lot of probing questions, I began to understand what was going on. I will talk about that below as I describe some reasons your cat may decide that your bed is the ideal litter box.
So, What Causes Inappropriate Defecation?
While defecation outside the litter box is not as common as urination outside the box, it is not unheard of. The two have similar reasons that could lead to such behavior. Knowing what is triggering this behavior in your cat is the key to correcting her conduct.
In my opinion, only a few things motivate the usually-fastidiously-clean feline to do such a nasty thing.
1. Illness: A clean bill of health from your veterinarian is the very first step on the road to behavior correction. Diseases such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), cancer or even intestinal parasites can lead a cat to find a new place to poop. Often the pain associated with these illnesses cause cats to associate the litter box with pain, so they avoid going there. Also, in my anecdotal experience with cats, I believe when a cat has an illness, she will instinctively eliminate elsewhere to keep the illness away from the other members of her cat colony.
2. Situational Unhappiness: This is a tricky one to detect. Cats are very sensitive to environmental changes, and sometimes act out their unhappiness in some very odd and unpleasant ways. In questioning the couple I met with this past weekend, it was discovered that often when their cat poops on their bed, it is after one of them has returned from a business trip. Their cat is letting them know that the absence was keenly felt and not at all appreciated.
3. Stress or Insecurity: It sounds like this is the same as situational unhappiness, and often the two do go together. However, this one is slightly different. Again referring to the same couple I met with this weekend, it was further discovered through my questioning that these cats had only recently joined their household. The cats came from a reputable breeder and have only been in this household about two months. While the couple didn’t think this was significant information, I sure did. These cats are still getting to know their new home and their humans, having been removed from the only home they had known, with a person, a cat mommy, and cat siblings to whom they were emotionally attached. The separation anxiety, stress and insecurity they were already feeling was further fueled when one of their new human parents was absent from the home.
4. And the big one — Litter Box Issues: Litter and litter box problems can be a separate topic unto its own. Cats can be very finicky about where they will “go,” so often it takes trial and error before finding just what appeals to your cat. Some cats aren’t as choosy as long as you keep consistent, but others can really put you through your paces! Litter components to keep in mind:
1. Type of Litter: This can be a huge issue for your cat. Soft, sandy litter is usually preferred over big chunky pieces that can have sharp edges, which may hurt tender toes.
2. Type of Litter Box: Some cats like a lidded box, while others prefer the wide-open spaces of the non-lidded box. Also, choose a box that is appropriate for the size of your cat. A tiny Munchkin or Singapura may do well with a small box, but a Ragdoll or Pixiebob will need much more room to maneuver inside. If her rear end hangs over the side when she is standing in it, then the box needs to be larger.
3. Box Placement: Placement of the box can be almost as important as the box and litter itself. Putting the boxes in highly trafficked areas with no privacy will almost guarantee a problem. A quiet corner that is easily accessible to your cat, with no obstacles preventing easy access (and escape), is the best bet for box placement.
4. Cleanliness of Litter: Perhaps the most significant of all, a cat box must be scooped and cleaned daily. I also own a cat sitting company, and I have seen countless people who do not even own a scooper! Letting the debris build up for days before tossing it all and starting fresh does NOT make for a clean box. Think of it this way: how do you feel when you use an outhouse? ‘Nuff said.
Now, How Do You Correct It?
Now that you have (hopefully) pinpointed your cat’s specific problem, the next step is not only to correct the problem, but to also break your cat’s habit of eliminating on your bed (or other naughty no-no places).
Some simple steps:
1. Go to the Vet: Get that clean bill of health from your veterinarian to be sure there is no underlying medical reason for her pooping behavior. And if there is, you and your vet can work together to correct it.
2. Resolving the Issue: If there is no medical issue, then resolving the issue triggering your cat’s pooping behavior is the next step. If it’s litter box related, make whatever changes are necessary. Placement, box type, litter substance or cleanliness — make those essential changes to create a litter box your cat will find appealing. If it’s stress related, pinpoint the sources of stress. Does your cat need more playtime and one-on-one time with you? Do you need to add more cat trees and places for her to act like a cat? If she is new to your household, perhaps she just needs more time to settle in and adjust to everything, and to you.
3. Make the No-No Place Unappealing: If it’s your bed, or other no-no place, your cat has been pooping in, make that place unpleasant for her to be in. On the bed, you can place scents such as peppermint or orange, or even a jar of Vapo Rub may do the trick. If scents don’t help, use of a sound-producing scat mat or an air blaster will have your cat avoiding the area at all costs!
4. Bribery: Whenever you see your cat using her litter box to do number two, give her lots of praise and perhaps a yummy goodie. She will get the message that she has done something to please you, and that she gets a reward for it, too!
Follow these simple steps and it won’t be long before you and your cat can once again snuggle together in the bed, without finding any unpleasant surprises under the covers!