You cat has a biological instinct driving it to mark its territory and stake its claim by rubbing, scratching, and, most problematically, urinating on various things in your home. Though this is a perfectly natural occurrence, it’s one that we’re sure you, as the homeowner, could do without. So, what is the cause of marking and spraying? And how can this behavior be mitigated? Well, here’s a little insight into the issue at hand.
Urine: The Great Communicator
Though rubbing and scratching are effective means of communication for your cat, The Humane Society suggests that the most primal means of expressing ownership of a piece of territory is through marking with urine. Even lions partake in this practice, which demonstrates the inherent quality of this behavior. Additionally, Cats of Australia tells us that cats use the pheromones in their urine to send signals, beyond just marking territory. It also occurs quite often in the mating process, as a way for males and females to express availability. Urine can be used to mark vertical or horizontal surfaces, through either spraying or squatting, respectively. Both male and female cats will participate in this behavior, but there are some specific reasons and, thus, solutions for this often-unpleasant occurrence.
Why Is Your Cat Marking/Spraying?
There is more than one potential reason to explain your cat’s use of urine as more than just a means of relief and waste disposal. If your cat is marking or spraying, it may be an indication of one or more telling issues. Both Cats of Australia and The Humane Society agree that stress can play a primary role in your cat’s spraying or marking. Your cat relies on a certain amount of continuity in its daily routine. Any significant change to the normal comings and goings of your cat’s existence can result in a certain amount of anxiety, which your cat manages by marking or spraying urine. If you, say, have introduced a new person, baby, pet or even a piece of furniture to your home, this may agitate your cat into urinating out of the litter box. Any kind of disturbance in your cat’s daily routine is a potential cause for subsequent spraying and marking behavior.
How To Stop Spraying/Marking Behavior
One of the most common factors in spraying and marking behavior is a cat that has not yet been neutered or spayed. After being fixed, incidence of spraying or marking with urine drops by nearly 90%. The earlier you have your cat neutered or spayed the better your chance of minimizing this kind of behavior, as it can become somewhat engrained in your cat’s routine, which we’ve established is rather particular. As far as solutions go, The Humane Society suggests a series of remedies that are on the slightly retroactive side of things, such as thoroughly cleaning a previously soiled area, making previously soiled areas inhospitable for further spraying or marking, keeping potentially disturbing or disruptive items (e.g., a guest’s article of clothing, etc.) out of sight and reach from your cat and limiting access to windows through which your cat may see animals outdoors. Though they reiterate the importance of cleaning the urine from past incidents of spraying and marking, Cats of Australia alternatively suggests a few remedies that may be more proactively helpful in preventing even a first occurrence. For instance, the use of pheromone diffusers, which release pleasant and anxiety diminishing pheromones, can prove helpful in limiting your cat’s spraying and marking. Similarly, some mechanical deterrent devices, which can be plugged in near common sites of marking, utilize small motion sensors combined with aerosol cans to release a little harmless puff when your cat is approaching for potential spraying. Though it is not recommended, except for use in dire situations, you can consult with your veterinarian about the prescription of feline anti-anxiety medication to limit marking and spraying behaviors.
Both The Humane Society and Cats of Australia agree, neutering and spaying your cat is the most effective way to prevent this unpleasant behavior, and the earlier you do this, the better. Your cat will have a far less urgent drive to urinate for purposes of marking territory or attracting a mate once it has been fixed. As always, consultation with your veterinarian is encouraged, especially if home remedies aren’t successful and the issue persists.