Urine Marking in Cats
How Can I Tell If My Cat Has a Litter Box Problem or a Communication Problem?
It takes a bit of detective work to determine whether your cat has a litter
box problem or is urine marking. Cats who urine mark also use their litter
boxes for voiding, so urine in the litter box does not rule out marking outside
the box. But urine marking deposits are usually qualitatively different than
inappropriate eliminations outside the box. The following is a list of
characteristics that indicate urine marking:
- Urine marks are usually deposited on vertical surfaces Marking on a
vertical surface is known as spraying. When spraying, a cat usually backs up to
a vertical object like the side of a chair, a wall or a stereo speaker, stands
with his body erect and his tail extended straight up in the air, and sprays
urine onto the surface. Often his tail and sometimes his entire body twitch
while he’s spraying.
- Urine mark deposits often have less volume than voided deposits The
amount of urine a cat sprays when he’s urine marking is usually less than the
amount he would void during regular elimination in his box.
- The urine smells pungent The reason cats can learn so much from the
urine mark of another cat is that a urine mark isn’t just urine. It also
contains extra communication chemicals. Those chemicals smell pungent to
There are also certain characteristics of a cat or a household that can
contribute to urine marking:
- The cat is an unneutered male Although female cats as well as
neutered and spayed cats can urine mark, unneutered males have more reason to
do so. One function of urine marking is to advertise reproductive availability,
so unneutered males may urine mark to let females know they are available.
- There are multiple cats in the household The more cats who live in a
home, the more likely it is that at least one of them will urine mark. Houses
that have more than 10 cats invariably have urine marking problems.
- There has been a change in the household in some way Cats don’t like
change. When things change, cats can become stressed. Urine marking behavior
can be triggered by someone moving in, moving out, getting a dog, cat or other
animal, building a room, remodeling the kitchen, changing work hours, going to
stay in the hospital, having a baby, even buying a new coat or bringing home
groceries in an unusually large paper bag. One of the ways cats deal with this
stress is by marking their territory. They might do it to preempt a problem by
leaving a message that this place is theirs, or they might do it to comfort
themselves with their own familiar scent.
There is conflict between cats The conflict can be between cats in
the house or between the housecat and other cats he sees outside. Cats mark in
response to conflict with other cats for the same reasons they mark in response
to household changes. Cat-to-cat conflict is one of the most common reasons for
urine marking, and it’s usually anxiety based rather than intolerance based. A
cat doesn’t necessarily get angry because another cat has the audacity to come
into his territory. Rather, he gets upset because he doesn’t have the social
skills to deal with the intrusion. If a cat is prevented from avoiding the
other cat, he’ll become increasingly stressed and mark often.