DEAR JOAN: We recently got a new kitten. Mind you, this is our third cat in 30 years. Our first lived with us for almost 16 years before dying. The second has lived with us for over 13 years and recently passed away. Both of our cats were female, but this new kitten is a male.
He is about 9 weeks old and has been with us for the past two and a half weeks. Although he uses his litter box regularly from day one, he has started wetting our bed for the last two days.
For the first week and a half he couldn’t climb on our bed. He learned how to do it, and now climbs and plays on the bed. During the day he sleeps on the bed, but at night he sleeps under the bed, although he has his own bed.
How do we discourage him from peeing in our bed? I washed the bedding, and still no luck. He pees sometime in the early morning, or so I suspect.
Kalpana Thatte, San Jose
BEST KALPANA: The first thing to do is take the kitten to the vet. That’s always a good idea when a pet starts doing something out of the norm. The vet will check for a bladder or urinary tract infection, which is a common cause for cats to pee outside the litter box.
If the kitten gets a clean bill of health, it’s time to look at the other reasons that can cause litter box avoidance, although it may fall into the “cats are cats” realm.
Stress is a common cause, but it’s not easy to figure out what has been stressing your cat. Simple things, such as a change in the household, can cause stress in a cat. He may be having trouble adjusting to his new home.
Has your kitten been neutered? Cats, especially male cats – and especially unneutered male cats – use urine to mark their territory. Your kitten, who has conquered the climb of Bed Mountain, can plant his flag there, so to speak. Castration often solves that problem.
Cats can be obsessive about their litter boxes – obsessions that can change with the shifting sands. One day the nest will be just perfect; the next, the cat hates it with a passion.
Trying to figure out what’s causing your kitten’s nose to come out of the joint in regards to the litter box may not be worth it, except to make sure he’s healthy. Instead, here are some ways to discourage the activity.
Washing the bedding is fine, but you will probably also need to clean the mattress with a product designed to remove the odor of pet urine. Check at your favorite pet store.
Start playing with the cat on the bed and feed it treats there. He will begin to associate the bed with food, making it less likely that he will pee there.
Use a fine-grained, odorless, clumpy cat litter and don’t use plastic litter liners, which can irritate cats. You may also want to add a second box for variety.
Put a plastic shower curtain on the bed when not in use until he gets the message. Cats usually don’t like the feel of the plastic or how the pee pees on it. If he does it while you are in bed, you may need to ban him from the room at night.
Finally, be patient. He will get it eventually.
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