Why Would a Cat Poop on the Bed?

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It is a question as old as humanity itself. It has more variations than you can possibly imagine. It has been posed in every language since the first domestic cat took up residence in the first crude shelter. You may have heard it phrased this way: “Why would a cat poop on the bed?” Perhaps you yourself have asked, “Why has my cat suddenly developed a habit of pooping in the tub?” The query may have really any object.

Why does my cat poop:

  • In the shower?
  • In the sink?
  • On the carpet?
  • On the floor?
  • By the door?
  • Next to the litter box?
  • Everywhere?

You can probably invent a wide range of inappropriate locations for cat poop off the top of your head, or recall places your cats have made unwelcome deposits in the past. Are you literally hip-deep in a cat dung apocalypse? Is your home under constant siege, covered from moulding to wainscoting in cat feces? Even if your cat chooses one specific place to evacuate her bowels, you’re looking at the wrong issue. What’s the right issue?

why would a cat poop on the bed
This kitten is cute, but it has just pooped in the bed. (Photo via Pixabay)

The cat poops outside the litter box

Just as cat food is self-descriptive as to its intended purpose, what Aristotle might call the “final cause,” so too do cat owners assume that their cats understand implicitly that the litter box is the only true and appropriate place for cats to excrete their poop. Even the best house-trained cat, who has always left her business in the litter box, may stray from the path of righteousness on occasion.

I namechecked Aristotle. His concept of the “four causes” provides a great lens through which to examine the many reasons why your cat now envisions your entire home as the canvas for his fecal artistry. The four causes are:

  • The material cause: the makeup of the thing. In this case, the actual material that makes up the cat’s litter can affect when, where, and if she deems it a good place for her to poop. This also includes the relative cleanliness of the litter, which also makes a difference.
  • The formal cause: the size and shape of the cat’s litter box can affect the cat’s attitude toward it. The amount of litter is also a critical point.
  • The efficient cause: scholars differ on their interpretation of this one, but for our purposes, we can link it to the location of the litter box; where we as cat owners place it physically. As far as the cat is concerned, the efficient cause can also be medical or behavioral changes that affect their willingness or ability to use the litter box.
  • The final cause: as described above, this is what we’re working toward, how to get your cat to use the litter box and stop pooping errantly. Whether that’s the bed, the tub, the sink, the carpet, or everywhere. Adjusting any of the first three causes may directly effect the desired outcome, leaving you and your cat satisfied.

What can you as a concerned cat owner do when you prepare to turn in for the night, only to find a small pile of cat poop where you lay your head? Let’s look at each of the four causes in turn and see how each can lead cats to express dissatisfaction with their litter box situation. Of course, by “express dissatisfaction,” I mean poop all over the house, yea, even in your own bed.

The material cause: the composition of cat litter

What should her litter be composed of? That is also up to the whim and preference of the cat, and it may take time and experimentation to find the litter she likes best. Just as with cat food, cats become accustomed to the makeup of their litter. If you change brands, consistency, texture, or fragrance suddenly, you may unwittingly force your cat to poop in your bed as a place of greater security and reliable comfort.

why would a cat poop on the bed
Size, placement, and content of the litter box make a difference. (Photo by Imcreglow on Flickr)

It is also recommended that you clean the litter box once a day. This doesn’t mean replacing all the litter, but removing any poop that has accumulated during over the last 24 hours. Cats are just as sensitive to a clean bathroom as humans are, and if too much waste has fouled their box for too long, they may turn to alternate locations. It’s a good reason to maintain two boxes simultaneously.

The formal cause: the shape of the litter box and amount of litter

There are many cat litter box designs, from automated, self-cleaning ones to repurposed plastic bins, enclosed, uncovered, and everything in between. Your cat cares nothing for style, and everything for accessibility and ease of use. Most experts recommend you have one litter box per cat, and many suggest two because cats are finicky. The older a cat is, the easier it should be for her to enter and exit.

Many cat owners, myself included, are content to fill the litter box up, fill it halfway, or, instead of regular cleaning and disinfecting, to simply cover dirty litter with clean and hope for the best. The Humane Society suggests that cats prefer cat litter to be no more than two inches deep.

The efficient cause: litter box placement and cat issues

Above, we playfully suggested that cats just know to use their litter box. In certain respects, that’s correct; as long as a cat is comfortable with the size and shape of their litter box, as well as with the physical makeup and amount of litter contained within, typically, they know what it is for and use it accordingly. That’s a lot of factors to keep in harmony. The truism about real estate is also a factor: location, location, location.

Sometimes, cats poop outside the litter box because they do not like its physical location. It’s another reason to maintain two. Where a cat prefers to defecate may change with time and age. A cat who poops in the bed or elsewhere may be expressing a desire for different litter box placement.

why would a cat poop on the bed
There are many reasons your cat poops outside the litter box. (Photo via Shutterstock)

While many of these factors depend on the cat owner who buys the boxes and the litter, and physically places the litter box within the home, there are efficient causes for pooping outside the litter box that rely on the cat. Behavioral and medical issues may also play a role. Do you live in a multi-cat household? Conflicts or stressful relations between cats, or a traumatic association with a specific litter box can lead a cat to seek relief by pooping elsewhere.

The final cause: what are the weirdest places your cat poops?

The ASPCA estimates that there are between 74 and 96 million cats living in American homes, and that some 10% of them will, at some point in their life, excrete waste in a non-litter-box location. Just doing simple averages, at any given time there are approximately 85 million house cats, which leads us to assume that there are some 8,500,000 cats pooping outside of the designated area. Even as an estimate, that number is astonishing.

It’s altogether likely that someone reading this right now has just spent the last half hour cleaning and scouring feline excrement and has now turned to the Internet in exasperation. We’ve mentioned some frequently-cited spots where cats leave their droppings. What’s the most unusual spot you’ve discovered cat droppings? How did you address the issue? Share your hard-earned fecal wisdom in the comments!

About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. His 17-year-old cat, Quacko, recently passed away. His online life is conveniently encapsulated here.

33 thoughts on “Why Would a Cat Poop on the Bed?”

  1. My cat in the apartment has resently become discontent and has pooped in my bed and my daughters,We closed the doors to the bedrooms,He get alot of lovr and attension,we are at a loss as to what to do

  2. I just adopted a cat a week ago and he was great for 5 days, then two days ago he used my bed as his litter
    box. We thought it was that the litter in the box was low, so we filled it up, played with him more and he was fine the next day- no accidents. This morning, as I was getting ready, I thought I smelled something and found that he had once again used my bed as a litter box. I don’t know what to do or where to begin to help him out. Is this a normal adjustment period behavior? He is the only pet.
    His adoption file said that he had had accidents and that the previous family didn’t think he was housetrained. They had had him for 6 months (but he’s been in the shelter 3 times in the past 7 months). He is also a declawed kitty on all 4 paws (something the vet says happened a while ago because he’s all healed up). We bought him litter that specifies it’s softness on paws.

    1. Catster Admin

      Hi there,

      Sorry you and your kitty are going through this!

      These links might be helpful:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-peeing-on-the-bed-or-couch
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/6-common-litter-box-no-nos
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/what-youre-doing-wrong-with-your-cats-litter-box
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/think-inside-the-box-promote-good-litter-box-habits
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-deal-with-a-cat-peeing-outside-the-litter-box

  3. at my wits end, I have a cat from a litter that I hand reared because the feral mother took 2 of the kittens and abandoned the rest. I did not immediately take the cats, I waited 9 hours for her to return & only just saved one of them as they were so dehydrated. Well fast forward 6 years, and she is now intermittently peeing and pooing on my duvet. I tried to get the smell out, didn’t work and had to spend hundreds on new bedding. Now I find that she’s doing it again. I clean the litter tray almost immediately, I am with her almost 24/7, her cat litter has remained the same, I can’t move the tray as its in the bathroom (the only place that does not have carpet, apart from the kitchen) . There has been no change in her circumstances, she does not have any health issues as I got her checked out and according to vet, she’s very fit and healthy. I have read the articles and I can find nothing that would help me, help her. I can’t keep spending money on new bedding. HELP!!

    1. Hi there,
      We suggest staying in touch with your vet and perhaps also trying a behaviorist. These articles might help, too:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-not-using-the-litter-box
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/6-common-litter-box-no-nos
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/reflections-upon-litter-box-training-for-cats
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/make-your-cat-love-his-litter-box
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/think-inside-the-box-promote-good-litter-box-habits

    2. Your cat is probably trying to tell you something. It could be that your cat’s bladder is inflamed which is what it was when my cat talked to me the same way. My suggestion is to give your cat slippery elm syrup in her food, if inflammation is not the issue this will not hurt her at all.

  4. I have changed my cats litter an she is still peeing and pooping on my bed. she has never done this before what can I do to stop her from doing it

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Sorry to hear you’re experiencing this. These articles might provide some insight:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-peeing-on-the-bed-or-couch
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-not-using-the-litter-box
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/6-common-litter-box-no-nos
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/make-your-cat-love-his-litter-box
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/choosing-the-right-litter-for-your-cat

  5. OMG this has helped me so much
    I have two Birman cats (brother and sister) who are 12 years old
    The girl has never been the cleanest of cats but recently I’ve been tearing my hair out it’s a daily (or twice daily occurrence) to find she’s gone somewhere other than the litter box – our bed , her bed , any random clothing / material on the floor , her brothers bed etc

    She has been to the vet who deemed her fine but this article has made me wonder if it’s because the little boxes are in the conservatory meaning she needs to go through a cat flap and now that’s she’s 12 if that’s an issue we haven’t noticed ? and we also fill the litter up half way to be fair will be trying your suggestions Thankyou :)

  6. I have a 1 year old cat and he keeps pooping on my bed. He will do it and then stop for a day or so and then do it again. Today he pooped in my room again. I clean the litterbox at least 2 times a day and change the litter once every week. I even keep the area around the box clean.
    What is the reason why he poops in my bed?

    ps I have 1 other cat (his twin brother) and a dog.

    1. All of a sudden our 12 yr old cat has recently started pooping on my brother I law bed, yikes. Like 5_ times in a week. Never done this before

  7. My Snowshoe Siamese poops outside the box when she is angry -usually if she isn’t getting what she feels is enough attention.The weirdest place? Well, one night my mom was over for dinner and shooed her off the table, where she was resting. Ling Ling actually climbed into her PURSE and squatted. Luckily I got her out before she left Mom a “present.”

  8. I’ve got a cat who only poops on my bed when I am away for one or more nights. It doesn’t matter if other family members remain at home. I’m thinking the litter box is not the problem.

  9. Tammy L Phillips

    I have a 11 year old cat and a 8 year old cat. They haven been bonded step brothers since the former was a kitten. The older one has always been very particular and I had to clean the litter box every two days or he would poop on my bed.

    That has recently changed these past few months. Despite cleaning daily and adding a second litter box, he is pooping on my bed multiple times a week. Neither one of them are using the second litter box. I changed locations slightly and they are both going in the new one but completely ignoring the old one. Nothing else has changed. Litter and household environment is the same. I don’t get it?!

  10. My cat is diabolical. Saw a piece right in the middle of my bed, cleaned it up. Half hour later, another small piece left in same place, cleaned it up. Came home for lunch and yep, another piece sitting there. She’s not allowed in my room anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s unhappy the dog has started chasing her away from me, so I’m trying to stop that behaviour too.

    1. Hi Clair,
      Sorry to hear that you’re experiencing this. We suggest talking to your vet or a behaviorist about this. These articles might help, too.
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/does-your-cat-pee-on-the-sofa-or-bed-heres-why
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/6-common-litter-box-no-nos
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/litter-box-problems-ask-a-behaviorist
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-litter-box-issues
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-health-five-reasons-wont-use-litter-box

  11. I have an outdoor and indoor cat named eevee who is an american bob tail mix. She usually always pees outside, but recently she started peeing and pooping on the beds and won’t ask to be let outside to pee. I’m not sure when exactly it started but I know it was long after we got our dog so it can’t be that. I’m not sure what to do, she looks very healthy and is only 2 years old.

    1. Hi there —
      So sorry to hear you and your kitty are experiencing this.
      We suggest contacting your vet to see if a medical issue is at play. These articles might provide some insight, too:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/does-your-cat-pee-on-the-sofa-or-bed-heres-why
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/why-would-a-cat-poop-on-the-bed
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/6-common-litter-box-no-nos
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/make-your-cat-love-his-litter-box
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/litter-box-problems-ask-a-behaviorist

  12. I moved out of my mom’s house over a year ago now and it’s just my roommate, cat, and I. He has the same litter box, kitty litter, but different placement (next to my toilet since it’s the only place that has room). A few weeks ago he has recently been going to the bathroom on my bed and I do now know why. As I said before, he’s been in this environment for almost a year with no problems until now. I clean his litter box every two days, so it isn’t like there isn’t any room for him. I am a full time college student with a full time job, I am more at home this semester than I have been last semester; so I thought that it may be an attention issue however that is not the case. I just don’t know how to fix this situation or prevent it from happening again.

    1. Hi Layla,

      Sorry to hear you’re having this issue! This pieces might provide more insight:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-litter-box-issues
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-behavior-health-five-reasons-wont-use-litter-box
      Best of luck!

  13. Give the other cat back. Get some pee pads and place on bed. They are plastic on one side and cotton on other. Use cotton side up. Many people think having more than one cat can cause stress and misbehaving. Diaper is an option. I have 6 indoor cats. I got Mr. Kitty in 2010. I got Sage imn 2011. I got Maynard in 2012 and Mimi in 2013. Everyone got along. Maynard started peeing on the floor. I took him to the vet snd he had a bladder infection. Meds fixeed that. Then in 3014 I lost my Mom and took her two Tuxedos. Mimi does not like them so I move my cats around so they take tjrns sleeping with me. One of my spare bedrooms and the hallway have who isn’t with me. . Recently Maynard has started pooping on my spare bed. I have two pads and a sheet on it so it saves the mattress. Still trying to figure out what to do. I can’t find Maynard a home or they would abuse him.

  14. I got a 6 month old kitten from the shelter. Doing great health wise. Solid stools. Loves her food. Knows where the litter box is. Uses the litter box to urinate and defecate most of the time. The other times she urinates and defeates on my bed… why?! I clean her litter box multiple times a day to make sure it is completely clean all the time… still going to the bathroom on my bed… the litter box is in the kitchen/laundry room away from frequent traffic and away from her food and water bowl.

    1. Once a cat starts urinating on something they will continue to do so. I recommend definitely tossing out anything the cat has used as a personal bathroom. Cat pee is seriously the worst smell ever!! In the past I had 3 cats that were girls and one that was a boy. Let’s put it this way. I lost a couch and a mattress. Tempted to toss the cats out, but eventually they stopped. Now I did not go out and buy a new couch. I went to goodwill and just put a slip over the used couch until the cats stopped. Then when I moved I decided to get new everything. Oh, and I had a waterproof cover on my mattress, which saved it, but I decided to replace it anyways. Anytime there is change or a new cat is introduced to the home, incidents like this will happen. So plan ahead In case it does and just be patient and set money aside cause it will cost ya!

      1. I’ve found clear plastic shower curtain liners liners are an inexpensive liner to use for wetness when a cat is peeing on your mattress or under a slipcover on a couch. I also have thrown out a couch after a while of trying to get the smell out. I even soaked the couch cushion in my bathtub with that urine b gone solution. and then I’d go and stomp on it (like stomping grapes, dont laugh!!) and then I had to air dry it on my sun porch for a month or so – it got the smell out but eventually I just had to thrown out ( yrs later. ) they didnt continue to pee on it but I just was done with it and never replaced it. They havent (HE) hasn’t peed on any of the chairs. (luckily)

  15. Hi i just recently got a kitten from a friend shes about 6 weeks old she was fine the first few days with using the litter box until we got another kitten but from the same litter now she is constantly going to the bathroom on my bed in the same spot it is diarrhea but i dont know what to do anymore is there anything i can give her to make it stop.

    1. FIRST—-I’s put a shower curtain liner UNDER the bottom sheet to save your mattress – I have one on mine-make sure you have 3 litter boxes ideally. One for each cat & an extra, if at all possible. I’d also give the first cat ALOT of extra love — she/he may be jealous of the new kitty. Try that spray (Feel away) or something like that) either the kind you plug in or spray. Consult your vet if it keeps up. I KNOW this is can be frustrating.

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