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Do Cats Pee Out of Spite? The Surprising Answer

Chelsea Mortensen Profile Picture

By Chelsea Mortensen

grey cat peed in bed

Maybe you told your kitty off a little too harshly, and he went and peed in your bed. Or you come 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. Well, 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. When we’re mad at someone, we can decide that we want to make them feel upset back and then decide a course of action that will hurt them. Cats aren’t dumb 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—he just is worried enough that he can’t stay on his best 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 he also is most likely to pee in places with your scent. That’s partly because your scent might make him feel safe and comforted, so he tends to go there when stressed. It can also be a way of marking your scent as part of his family. Either way, it’s a very frustrating sign of trust.

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

How to Control Inappropriate Peeing

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

  • First, make sure your cat has a good litter box set up. Consider adding a second box, changing yours more regularly, or switching to a different type of litter.
  • Second, reduce any stressors. You can’t control every type of stress, 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 himself—to be safe. That can help you approach the behavior from a more helpful mindset so that you can find a solution.

Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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