We have a 3 month old kitten. He's lovely but his biggest problem is peeing on our bed. He slept in the kids' room when we first got him, to keep him separate from our dog, but they're now getting along fine so he has the run of the house. He didn't pee on the kids' bed at all when he slept in with them and he never has, but he pees far too regularly on my and my partner's bed. He's been checked and he's fine, so it can't be a health related problem. He doesn't pee anywhere else and he's absolutely perfect with using the litter trays other than this one issue. He won't pee on the mattress, only on the duvet and pillows. Although it's probably important to point out at this point that we're currently decorating upstairs so we're also sleeping on a mattress - no bed frame. He also pees on it whether we're in it or not.

I'm not sure if it's to do with the bed not being elevated at all, the feel of the duvet, the fact that he can smell his earlier accidents on there (despite the constant washing) or what. So if anyone has any insight into the cause of all of this that would be ridiculously helpful!

Also I've been trying to discipline this behaviour by keeping my eye out for him squatting and moving him to the litterbox - which doesn't seem to be working and I can't catch him when I'm asleep or not there. My partner has a spray bottle that he uses and he's been spraying him whenever he tries to get on the bed - this also seems to have no effect. My partner is now wanting to use a small cage to punish him like we did when we had ferrets but I'm not convinced that this will help at all. So if anyone has any advice on how best to discipline this behaviour that would be great! Also, if anyone can give me specific advice on the effects of 'putting him in a cage' then I would appreciate that too. Sorry this was a bit long, I tried to include as much info as possible.

Edit: I'd like to add that I hate the cage idea because I don't want strangers on the internet thinking I'm a monster...

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    We have a 4 years old female cat that used to always pee in our bed/dog pillow (in our room). We got her checked and there's no health issue. We tried everything: new liter, moving the liter, liter without top, etc. and nothing worked. The solution was fairly simple: keep our room's door closed at all time. Now, she only pees in her liter. Unfortunately, it may be some kind of mental/comportemental issue that can't be resolved. We accepted her like that and found work arounds. Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:16
  • How best to discipline a kitten? don't. If you piss him off, he may go on a rampage or show you who's the boss! But if you still really want to do that, at least stock some army surplus supplies and have a first aid kit handy first... More seriously: some cats can get really angry if you try to force them to do anything. They have quite good memory when it comes to what people did to them, and I've seen a couple of cats who at least partially rejected their 'owners' after such events.
    – user1064
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 20:20
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    @vaxquis when I read your "show you who's the boss" I immediately remembered when I read someone addressing someone with his cat as "the cat and his human-slave"... ;)
    – frarugi87
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 8:59
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    @vaxquis: Can confirm that cats can hold personalized grudges. Our first cat (when I was a kid) liked me and my mother, but not my father (he didn't like cats, so it was mutual). She ended up getting stuck in a hideyhole, and the only solution was to pull her by the base of the tail, which my dad did. That same day, she urinated on his pillow. That was a unique event, even though my mom and me made "mistakes" too. Until my dad accidentally drove over her tail with his bike, years later. That same day, she urinated on his pillow again. There was a clear intent, it was not random.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 12:32
  • I too have the same issue with a 3 month old kitten. We have had cats in the past and this is a first for us. I just read that they are trying to mix their scent with yours, They, in a way, are claiming you as theirs. I read that you should feed them treats on the bed because cats will not use the bathroom where they eat. So this is going to be our nightly ritual... Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 17:19

9 Answers 9


Punishing him by locking him in a cage is NOT the answer. In fact, punishment when it comes to litter-training issues in general is counterproductive, but locking the poor mite in a cage is just plain cruel.

Assuming there are no medical issues going on (and it doesn't sound like there are, as you say you've had him checked over) then you just need to double down on the litter training.

Make sure his tray is clean, has anti-odor, non-clumping litter in it and is not right next to the area where his food is. If your house/apartment allows, consider adding another tray somewhere else in the house to ensure ready access.

Lift him onto the tray every time he shows signs of needing to go (look not just for squatting but also for pawing at whatever surface he is on). And every time he uses the tray, either to urinate or defecate, heap praise on him, maybe even a treat or two.

If this is a recent development and litter use in general isn't affected, then I'd be wondering whether there is something that is causing him to feel territorial.. you mention a dog, how do they get on? Also, if the dog sleeps on your bed at all, there might be a bit of scenting going on here either to communicate or to compete over territory.

  • Thank you for the cage confirmation! I hate things like that, I even hate the spray bottle because it feels so mean but I wasn't sure if I was just over reacting, so thanks for just confirming that it is not an okay thing to do! I do keep his tray clean, I couldn't leave anything in there for a second with the dog or kids around. I've been changing the litter once every 5 days or so, should I be doing it more often do you think? Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:17
  • He gets on fine with the dog, she's a very nervous dog so she just lets him run things most of the time. But yes she does sleep on the bed, I didn't think of that actually. She's a nervous wee-er as well, so she's had accidents everywhere and I bet that doesn't help at all with the scent smells! Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:23
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    @Littlewolf it actually could be as simple as the cat smelling the dog urine on the bed and "communicating" back via his own. This is just my speculation though. Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:34
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    @Littlewolf Ironically it's possible that those cleaning products are making it worse - some products can actually (to the cat) smell like cat urine and thereby encourage them to urinate there! For cleaning I'd suggest using biological washing powder - obviously the duvet and pillow covers can be done in the washing machine as normal and for the mattress rinse with clean water first then use a 10% solution of the washing powder to clean and then rinse again. Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 16:17
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    You could also try and scent your bedding with something cat deterrent; the internet tells me vinegar, rosemary, lemon. Vinegar is already used as an organic fabric softener, so you could add that to the rinse cycle along with whatever else you use, it might be possible to gauge an amount that humans won't smell once it airs out but that cats will still steer clear of. Haven't tried this for bedding but worst case you're out one wash load and a bit of vinega to try.
    – millimoose
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 10:11

As with the other provided answer, I'd urge you not to lock up your cat. In general, cats don't really learn much from being "disciplined", rather they act out because there is something they're needing.

If your cat is of good health, I'd strongly suggest adding another litter box to your home and seeing if this helps. The recommended amount of litter boxes for a home with cats is 1.5 per cat (rounding up to 2 for 1 cat).

See this link for official documentation.

Even if the litter box you have seems clean and accessible enough, there might be factors coming into play that dissuade the cat from using it at certain times throughout the day. Providing an alternate location could help if this is the case.

  • Just to confirm I'm not that mean, I do completely hate the idea but as I'm not a fan of punishment in general I wasn't sure if I was being too soft about it all. Thanks for answering though, it's nice to know I'm right (just this once). I have 2 at the minute, one upstairs and one down. I've placed the upstairs one next to the bed but I'm not sure if this will encourage his weeing on the bed, any ideas on that? Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:26
  • Anecdotally: we have three cats, and two litter boxes. You'd think that I'm not providing enough litter boxes, but the weird thing is that they all use a single litter box, and abjectly refuse to use the other one (even though the unused one used to be the only one we had when we had two cats). I've experimented with this (out of curiosity), and I can barely get them to use the old litterbox if I refuse to clean the other one for long enough.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 16:23
  • @flater Yeah, sometimes cats are totally fine sharing fewer than recommended. They're quirky like that, haha. However, I always recommend trying to add one for cats having accidents.
    – Jess K.
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 16:32

It's more efficient to encourage your kitten to use the litter box than punish it for missing it.

Depending on how young he is, he might have trouble getting to the litter box, or even climbing down from the bed. Ours had maybe one accident overnight because he was still too wobbly to make it down the bed. When I got up to use the restroom in the night, and the kitten was awake, I'd take him with me to drop in the litter box.

It might also be the type of litter too. Ours really loves soft sand type litter and actually had a lot of fun digging in it when he was younger.

But maybe try to encourage it to use the bathroom after you feed it? For us, after we fed our kitten, we'd put it in the litter box, and if he crawled out, we'd put him back in and he'd finally settle down and use it, cover it up, and climb out.

My husband was between jobs at the time, so he was able to keep a constant watch on the kitten, and look out for signs of pawing or scratching, and we'd always just put him in the litter box at least twice when we saw the signs. (he'd always try to climb out the first time, but if we plopped him back in, he'd start squatting and using it.)

Just make sure to keep a close eye on it and have family help keep an eye out too and help it to the litter box.

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    Thank you! Ohh bless him. Our bed is just a mattress on the floor at the minute so he can get up and down easy enough I think. I was wondering about the type of litter but as he uses the one downstairs perfectly fine I wasn't too sure on if that means he's okay with it or not. I suppose it can't hurt to try a new one though. I am home all day with the kids so keeping an eye on him shouldn't be too hard, perhaps I just need to be more consistent with moving him into the tray. He seems to have a tiny wee in the tray then run back to the bed and finish on that though. Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:33
  • @Littlewolf Well another thing to try is positive reinforcement. If you notice he used his litter box on his own, maybe give him a treat. (greenies?). At least it might separate going on the bed and going in the litter box in his head. Other than that, maybe he doesn't feel safe going in the litterbox for whatever reason (the dog snuck up on it once while it was trying to use it, or some disturbance etc...) But definitely try to drop him in the litterbox when you suspect impending doom. I think that helped ours the most and he's never missed the litter box when he's in doors since.
    – arsarc
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 16:09

8 out of 9 cats I've had innately wanted to use a litter box. (The 9th cat didn't do it, but she had many, many issues, including epilepsy and what basically amounts to a mental handicap.)

Cats instinctively want to hide their droppings (in order to hide themselves), and will generally do so in the best place that's available to them.

Whenever one of these cats did not use the litter box, there was usually a good reason for it:

  • I forgot to clean the litter box and it really needed a cleaning.
  • The cat couldn't make it to the litter box in time.
  • The cat did not like the litter we used (wood pellets and chalk grounds were apparently not acceptable for the respective cats we used it for).

Almost always, the cats didn't just urinate anywhere they pleased when they didn't use the litter box. They still picked specific spots, e.g. carpets, flower pots, etc.

The fact that your cat uses the duvet but not the mattress suggests that it's still choosing the best spot. Your duvet is likely more absorbent than the mattress, or it carries a stronger smell (which hides their smell), both are good reasons for why a cat would think that it's a good place to urinate.

If it's still choosing the best spot, that means that it either actively thinks that your litter box is not the best spot, or that it has never considered the litter box as a viable spot (this can happen if e.g. another cat is already using it).

Also I've been trying to discipline this behaviour by keeping my eye out for him squatting and moving him to the litterbox - which doesn't seem to be working and I can't catch him when I'm asleep or not there.

This is a good approach, but your cat may not learn quickly (and you may respond too late for it to register that its urine is well absorbed by the litter).

You can also try it the opposite way: Pour some cat litter over a spot where they urinated. The idea is the same: you're showing the cat what happens when you combine urine and litter. They'll make the connection between the two eventually. This is more uncomfortable for your case because the cat uses your duvet, but I assume you wouldn't want to use a duvet sprinkled with fresh cat urine anyway.

Note that if your cat is a slow learner (as my 9th cat was), you'll need to do it slowly. Progress through the ranks as quickly/slowly as the cat is able to keep up:

  • Preventively pour some litter on their favorite urination spot. See if they still use it.
  • If they do, put the litter in a box, and put the box on that spot. See if they still use it.
  • Gradually move the litter box and the duvet away from each other, but keep them in sight. Make the cat choose between the duvet and the litter box.
  • If the cat chooses the litter box, great!
  • If the cat does not choose the litter box, remove the duvet and see if it defaults to the litter box.
  • If it's still not getting it, keep using the duvet as a litter mat and buy yourself a new duvet.
  • Gradually move the litter box to where you want it to reside.

Notice that none of the steps entail punishing the cat. It generally doesn't work, definitely not as easily as for dogs.
Instead, what you should do is investigate. Try figuring out how the cat decides on where to urinate (making it choose between the duvet and the litter quickly reveals the cat's reasoning). The best way to change a cat's behavior is to investigate, understand and apply their reasoning, so that you can design the intended location (litter box) to be the best option in the cat's opinion.

As a somewhat silly (but apt) example, if your cat always urinates on green carpets and never on red carpets, and you have a red litter box; you'll be better off buying a green litter box instead of trying to get the cat to change its color preference.

My partner has a spray bottle that he uses and he's been spraying him whenever he tries to get on the bed - this also seems to have no effect.

That's because it teaches him the wrong lesson.

If you use punitive measures like spraying, you're supposed to use them directly after the specific misbehavior you want them to correct. The idea is simple: when the punishment seems to be an inevitable consequence of the misbehavior, and the cat does not want the punishment, that creates an incentive to not engage in the misbehavior.

But the trigger for being punished is getting on the bed, regardless of whether he intended to urinate or not. The lesson you're teaching him is that he's not allowed to be on the bed.

Even if that lesson sticks, then he's just going to go find another spot to do his business. Trying to teach your cat all the places he's not allowed to urinate is a Sisyphean task. You're better off trying to teach where he should urinate.

Even if both methods are equivalent, ask yourself whether this is really the life you envisage for your cat. Consider going to school, and you get to pick the school:

  • A school where wrong answers are punished, and right answers reward you with nothing (except a lack of punishment).
  • A school where wrong answers are not punished, but right answers are rewarded.

Regardless of which is the more efficient teaching method, wouldn't you lead an overall happier life in the second school?

My partner is now wanting to use a small cage to punish him like we did when we had ferrets but I'm not convinced that this will help at all.

This is not a good idea. Cats do not respond to the intention of teaching like dogs.

If a dog does something, and you get upset with it, it instinctively connects the two events. It knows that the human's interaction often related to what the dog just did; and therefore the dog knows to listen to the feedback and learn from it. Dogs look at intended communication.
Even when they have no idea what you're saying, they still infer that it's related to their actions. Because that's how their mind works. They are social animals, and therefore have experience with the concept of feedback.

A simple example is when you discover after the fact that your dog destroyed something. If you get upset (hours after it actually destroyed the object), the dog will still understand that your feedback relates to his actions, because the dog understands that you only just discovered evidence of his destruction, and you're clearly pointing at it.

If a cat does something, and you get upset with it, the cat registers that as two separate events. It does not consider the fact that your interaction is related to what it just did. Cats are not social animals. They have no experience with listening to feedback.
Cats don't work that way. Cats look at cause and effect. Getting upset at the cat does nothing, as the cat isn't even remotely interested in what you're trying to communicate.

Compared to the dog example, you can't punish a cat after the fact. You need to do it immediately, so that the cat eventually understands that its a direct effect of what happened directly before it (their misbehavior). If you respond too slowly, it's not going to understand that, and your (unkind) feedback will only reflect on the cat's opinion of you without actually teaching it anything about misbehavior.


  • Cats do what they want to do. They make their own decisions, and will continue to do so.
  • Cats do not listen to what you say. They do what they think is right.
  • In order to get a cat not to do something, offer it an alternative that the cat thinks is better. Your cat is currently considering the duvet a better spot than the litter box, so you need to change the litter box (e.g. use different litter) to make it a more desirable spot.
  • Cats don't respond to punishment the same way as dogs do. If you do use punitive measures, make sure to only enact them as an immediate response to misbehavior. Don't punish them after the fact because they will not understand the reason for the punishment, and they will think you're being unkind for no apparent reason.
  • Do not punish a cat for something that could lead to misbehavior (e.g. jumping on the bed). Only punish them for actual misbehavior (urinating on the bed). If you didn't catch it in time, there's nothing more you can so, you missed your shot. Taking it out on the cat is only going to diminish the cat's opinion of you.
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    I know this is a rather old post, but I still want to point out that your theory about how dogs react to punishment is scientifically proven wrong. A dog cannot understand punishment for an action they did only 15 seconds ago, never mind hours. They will act submissively and guilty when punished, but that is just a reaction to your display of anger, not out of genuine guilt. This article has a clean and compact summary of the research done in that area.
    – Elmy
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 4:27
  • This is a nice answer, but I agree with Elmy that the part about dogs understanding punishment later is just wrong. They don't have the capacity to connect those two events to any degree that makes your punishment useful. Don't do this to dogs either. Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 16:12

Punishment is usually ineffective in general, but that goes double with cats. At best, it will do nothing but make both you and the cat miserable for a short time, and at worst it will destroy any trust the cat has in you. Even something that seems as relatively harmless as a squirt gun can damage a cat's trust, and it varies from cat to cat how long it will take to rebuild (if ever). Never confine a cat to a small area unless it's for the cat's own good, such as a carrier for travel safety or limiting its roaming area due to an injury or medical situation.

If you need negative reinforcement for training, it needs to seem like it doesn't come from you. Both from my own experience and expert opinions, while a squirt gun might be an immediate deterrent, it will simply train the cat not to do something while you are watching. On the other hand, an automated deterrent like the PetSafe SSSCAT system (http://smile.amazon.com/PetSafe-PDT00-13914-SSSCAT-Spray-Deterrent/dp/B000RIA95G) actually trains them that the area is off-limits.

For most training, positive reinforcement works best. Redirect undesirable behaviors and reward desirable behaviors. Treats are a fine reward, but gentle affection and raising the pitch of your voice in praise is generally sufficient for cats. You can also do clicker training, but that's overkill for most people. Using positive reinforcement only, I trained a group of 5 cats to sit before they were served dinner. They all had very different temperaments, and some were more difficult, but even the one that had a lot of nervous energy learned fairly quickly. The 3 that are still around from that group will still sit and wait patiently if we bring out treats.

In many cases, however, especially litter box usage issues, the easiest solution is to determine the underlying problem and address it, or at least remove the stimulus. The most common causes of going outside the box are health issues, litter box cleanliness or location issues, territory/I'm-the-boss disputes, and retaliatory behavior. I disagree with a lot of the "rules of thumb," because all cats are different. Some cats need lots of litter boxes all over the house, yet I've seen 3 cats share 1 large litter box (as long as it was cleaned frequently, preferably automatically).

In your particular case, you seem to have addressed health, and he doesn't seem to be responding to something you're doing. You say he uses the box regularly, and if he defecates there exclusively, it's probably not a problem with his box. That means this is either territorial/marking or an issue of box location, or just an unspecified behavioral problem. Try putting another box in your room, but not too close to the bed, such as against a wall or in a corner. If you are unwilling to do that, or it doesn't solve the behavior, you will just have to keep him out of your room for now. After some time has passed -- at least a couple months, to start with -- you can give him another chance, especially if the room changes and/or you ensure there is no chance of the smell remaining. Once he's a bit older and you have him neutered, that may also end the behavior. There are some cats who will be problematic with litter box use throughout their lives (I have one now), but it's thankfully uncommon unless they have other issues such as health problems or are particularly vindictive.

Side note, peroxide or "oxygen bleach" (e.g. OxiClean) can help remove pet odors completely. I've found it generally more effective than enzyme cleaners, easier to find, and much cheaper. It's also safe to use on most fabrics. Wash your bedclothes with a scoopful of OxiClean. Spray the spots on the mattress or pillows where he's urinated, then blot them dry with a white towel and allow to air dry completely.


I'd suggest seeing if there's something that could stress out your kitten.

My parents have a cat that used to pee in the same place in the house. It didn't help putting the litter box there, she would just pee next to it.

It turned out she was wearing a collar with a bell that stressed her out. We removed the bell and bought a diffuser with a scent that's supposed to help calm her down. For example: https://www.feliway.com/uk/Feliway-Range/Feliway-Classic-Diffuser

She also loved to go outside. When we let her into the garden more often and she became more relaxed, the peeing stopped.


Punishing cats does not work well in general. Probably, it will result in even more adverse behavior. Cats are selfish creatures which do not care about their "owners", so your cat does not care whether you feel nice when sleeping in the messed up, smelly bed. My solution consists basically of two steps:

Step one: close the door to your bed-room. You may haven't thought about this, but if the cat cannot enter, it has to search for another place to do his business.

Step two: It is generally easy to train animals/humans. In your case I would search for something your cat really likes. E.g. some special kind of food. This you will not give the cat anymore for no reason. Only feet it well if it does something correct. If it still manages to do something wrong, you simply feed it with something the cat does not like.

Reason: In your case, you will induce that the cat will do his business not in your bed. Then you feed it with something good. The cat is too dumb to understand why you give him food he does not like on a regular basis. So it will not treat you worse. Cats "reason" vastly simpler than animals with higher brain to body weight ratio. However, with some luck it connects his action with a positive feedback.


What they said, but I'd add that when you carry him to the litter box to show him where to go, carry him scruffed by the neck the way his mom would. This will let him know there's something he should be learning here. He won't get that if you carry him normally cradled in your hand.


Don't punish her it won't work.

Make sure the cat litter is attractive for the cat to use (they can have their standards - eg clean litter)

If you are not an experienced cat owner get an experienced cat owner to check the litter.

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