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Do Cats Pee Out of Spite? Vet-Reviewed Feline Behavior & Explanation

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By Chelsea Mortensen

grey cat peed in bed

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Maybe you told your kitty off a little too harshly, and they went and peed in your bed. Or you came home from a long weekend away, only to find a puddle of urine in your favorite chair. Some owners are convinced that their cat punishes them by peeing outside the litter box. The good news is that no, “spite-peeing” isn’t a thing.

Your cat doesn’t have the emotional complexity to decide to punish you like that. But it isn’t just a coincidence if you’ve noticed a correlation between some of your actions and your cat’s misbehavior. Instead, it’s much more common for cats to pee in unexpected places because they’re stressed.

How Cats Respond to Conflict

To get down to the why behind this, it’s important to look at things from a cat’s point of view. We humans are built for complex social dynamics that require us to imagine what others are thinking and how they’ll react to a situation. Sometimes, when we’re mad at someone, we decide that we want to make them feel upset, too and then decide a course of action that will hurt them. Cats are intelligent creatures, but they are much more equipped to deal with immediate social consequences, not long-term consequences. They can predict how their owners will react to an action, and read and understand how we’re feeling, but they cannot make the same calculations we can.

Because of that, cats are happiest in a stable, secure environment. A steady routine and a lack of conflict can help your cat feel safe and comfortable. When the rules change or your cat feels threatened, they become stressed, and that can lead to inappropriate behavior. Your cat isn’t trying to make you mad—they are just stressed enough that they can’t stay on his their behavior.

cat pee in bed
Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock

Why Cats Pee in Your Favorite Places

But if it’s just stress, you might wonder, why does that cat always pee in your bed? Wouldn’t it be equally likely to happen someplace else? Believe it or not, that’s also not just chance. Yes, your cat might pee anywhere in the house, but they are also is most likely to pee in places with your scent. That’s partly because your scent might make them feel safe and comforted, so they tend to go there when stressed. It can also be that you took longer to return home than you usually do or that your cat recognized a newcomer’s smell there. Another possibility is that your cat is not feeling well; feline idiopathic cystitis or another urinary tract problem might be the culprit of this unfortunate behavior. 

cat pee at the carpet
Image By: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

How to Control Inappropriate Peeing

If your cat has these accidents regularly, you might need to make a few changes to help curb their peeing.

  • First, make sure your cat is healthy. Ruling out pain and discomfort and any underlying medical issues should be your top priority. 
  • Second, clean your soiled bed properly, using an enzymatic cleaner to remove all organic matter and dissolve any remaining crystals within the mattress. Completely removing your cat’s scent from your bed is vital, and only these kinds of cleaners can do the job.
  • Third, review the environment. Ensure that a good litter box is set up. Analyze if there have been any changes in your cleaning routine, in the litter, its location, or the activity around it. Consider adding a second box, cleaning the current one more regularly, or switching to a different type of litter.
  • Fourth, reduce any stressors. You can’t control every type, but if you can make small changes that will help your cat be less stressed, everyone will reap the benefits.
  • Finally, deter your cat. If there are specific places your cat likes to pee, restrict access to them, cover them up, or use a cat-safe deterrent to ensure your cat won’t be drawn to that spot again.

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Last Thoughts

It’s easy to project malice into your kitty’s actions, but that really does a disservice to them. Instead of blaming your cat for “punishing” you, try to keep the mindset that your cat loves you and wants you—and themselves—to be safe. That can help you approach the behavior from a more realistic mindset so you can find a solution.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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