Here is a very typical “bad cat behaviour problem”. And, in reality, it is not a bad cat behaviour problem at all but a human-created problem. Husband and wife have a baby and the baby sleeps in the bedroom with them. All very normal. For years the family cat slept in the bedroom with them but now he has been banished and they’ve put him in the living room overnight with his food, water and a litter tray. Their cat is allowed outside and therefore he goes to the toilet outside, but the litter tray is there just in case. He is banished because they have a new baby in case that was unclear.
This is how their comment on social media finishes: “We weren’t too fussed about the cat not having a litter tray overnight and said we probably won’t bother replacing it anytime soon because he doesn’t use it. Well, lo and behold DP goes downstairs at 4.30am to go to work and guess who has shit and peed on the sofa?! 😭😭😭 ”
The response to their cat’s dramatic change to his routine and being barred from going into the bedroom at night was to urinate and defecate on the sofa. They describe him as an asshole for doing it. The woman asks, “Why are cats assholes?”
The sad reality is that this cat is not an asshole. He is simply responding instinctively to his rapidly altered circumstances at a fundamental level.
As Jackson Galaxy, the American cat behaviourist, has said on numerous occasions, the human bedroom is full of the smells of humans, and it is often the core of their home range. It is a place where they go to feel secure and to be reassured.
If they are allowed to sleep on their owner’s bed at night, it’s a very friendly secure feeling for them because they are surrounded by these reassuring smells. Let’s remember that cats depend upon smells far more than people. They identify objects and people through their smell.
And so, this cat no longer had the benefit of the enjoyment and reassurances that being in the bedroom brought to him and became anxious and confused. Now, he doesn’t know why he can’t access it anymore. He therefore tries to seek reassurance by merging his smells through his urine and poop with those of his humans which are on the sofa. Defecating on beds and sofas and urinating on them is a sign of stress in a cat caused by anxiety. Underlying anxiety is a really big issue with domestic cats.
So, the cat wasn’t going to the toilet in the conventional sense. He was marking territory. So, what is the solution? Answer: to return to the status quo. In other words, to allow the cat back in the bedroom as before. I have read through an awful lot of mumsnet.com comments on this topic and the vast majority of women who have a baby and a cat say that the cat is disinterested in the baby and there’s no fear of the cat harming the baby.
It seems that cats normally steer clear of young babies because they are noisy and smelly. If that sounds too scary for some mothers and cat owners, then you can use a cot net to stop the cat jumping into the cot. Although referring once again to the mumsnet.com comments on this topic, it seems that at least a number of them do not like cot nets. And I would bet that very few cats jump into cots.
My gut feeling is that there is very little danger of a cat harming a baby in a cot at night. The risk is worth taking in allowing the cat to come into the bedroom. This is about risk and reward and finding a right balance between caring for a cat and caring for a baby.
Some mums, like the mum in the article, ban cats from the bedroom even when there aren’t babies. I think that is incorrect because, as mentioned, the bedroom is an important place for a cat, and it gives them a lot of pleasure to be there. Jackson Galaxy recommends a compromise: a nice cat bed full of items that smell of the cat and their human caregivers in the bedroom. Hopefully the cat will be drawn to it and at the same time be allowed to be part of the family unit.
There are some articles on the Internet about diseases being spread from cats to people in bedrooms but in my honest opinion these are greatly exaggerated. There are very few zoonotic diseases i.e., those that can be transmitted from animals to people and personally, I have never had any remote concern about getting a disease from my cat. And that would apply to millions of other cat owners as well.
Below are some articles on babies.