Marking or toileting?
Spraying small amounts of urine against vertical objects such as chairs or walls is a territorial marking behaviour. Entire male cats are the most likely to spray.
Male and female cats urinate in a squatting position leaving a greater volume of liquid.
Medical problems such as cystitis, diabetes, kidney disease and obesity exacerbate abnormal toileting behaviour.
Why do cats spray or mark?
Anxiety and stress
are the most common causes of spraying. Cats are creatures of habit and
like to have their own space and toys. Even though they are willing to
share a house and bed with you they need places and things of their own
to be happy. If they think that something that belongs to them is being
taken over by someone else they feel threatened. They have to let
everyone know that it is theirs. The natural way to stake their claim is
to mark it with the facial scent glands or urine. This is like writing
their name on their things. Putting urine or facial scent on a thing or
place makes a cat feel secure, especially if they feel out of place,
nervous or afraid.
What makes cats anxious?
• A new cat
or kitten. Introduce a new pet into the household gradually. Let them
get used to each other through a screen or glass door. Exchange their
bedding and let them sniff and sleep on it. Remember to reassure and
cuddle the established pet as well as the cute new one.
• A new baby.
Let your cat hear the sounds and sniff the clothes of a new family
member from a safe, private place. Give the cat lots of attention.
in furniture or carpets and disruptions such as building or painting.
Lock your cat in a room well away from tradesmen and the strange sounds
and smells associated with their work.
• A strange cat wandering in the garden or even through the cat flap.
• The loss of a human or animal companion. Strongly bonded cats will need extra care and attention if mourning a friend who has moved or passed away.
• Incompatible cats,
especially if a lot of cats live together. Determine which cats do not
get along and keep them in separate parts of the home with their own
litter and sleeping areas.
Enriching a cat’s environment minimises stress
scratching posts, toys that mimic prey, tunnels, outside runs and a
variety of high spots and hideouts will keep your cat happy and
stimulated. Vertical space is often more important than horizontal
space. Some cats appreciate an indoor garden sown with grass, cat nip
and cat mint. Find several toys they like and rotate them regularly.
Your company is important. Even an old cat will appreciate a game with a
ribbon on a stick or a glittery ball. Make your cat work for food by
hiding it in various locations around the house or in food puzzles such
as plastic containers with holes cut in the sides.
is important for some cats. Ten minutes each day play and grooming your
cat to provide regular predictable attention that helps reduce their
anxiety. Feed them at a set time.
What if I can’t identify or remove the source of the anxiety?
If you cannot identify or remove the source of the anxiety then provide your cat with a safe haven.
A room where your cat can safely retreat or relax without fear of
disturbance is ideal. A small, enclosed and elevated space lined with
your worn clothes is also good. Most cats will mark a limited space with
facial rubbing and bunting only.
Clean urine marked areas with a special enzymatic cleaner
like Urine Off, available at Canberra Cat Vet, that eliminates the scent. If your cat can smell urine
he will mark it again. You may have to lock him out of the room for a
while to help him forget it.
Protect a habitual
spraying site by placing dry food or a bed at the base. Cats are usually
reluctant to spray their own key resources. Food and beds are also
reassuring and may reduce anxiety. However, a stressed cat may move to
other areas and mark there instead.
A natural pheromone spray called Feliway
calms some cats and reduces the urge to spray and mark. Spray it on
previously marked areas or plug a Feliway diffuser in or near the area
he most marks.
You might find useful more hints on The Litterbox Guru
Never punish cats. If caught in
the act they can be picked up and placed on the litter tray, stroked and
calmed. Never ‘rub the cat’s nose in it’ as this will make a nervous
cat even more likely to toilet indoors.
Cats with anxiety related behaviours like spraying often need evaluation for anti-anxiety medications in addition to the above changes to resolve the problem. Call us on 6251 1444 for a behaviour consultation if you cannot sort it out.