What is urine spray-marking anyway? And why does your cat stand there with tail held high and vibrating and insist on shooting urine vertically on your curtains and what might seem like any vertical surface he or she—that’s right, females can perform the behavior too—can find? Even once neutered or spayed, cats can still urine spray-mark for territorial reasons, though fixed or unfixed, cats generally don’t urine spray mark before they are two years of age when they move into social maturity (social maturity happens between the ages of two and four years; sexual maturity at about 6 months). In my cat behavior book, The Cat Whisperer, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to urine spray-marking, giving answers on why cats spray urine, how to stop the behavior, and why you need to calm down already. There are several reasons cats urine-spray mark, but for this article, I’m going to discuss the number one reason.
The #1 Reason: You have outside cats.
No, really, you have outside cats!
Your cat has become aware of an outside cat’s presence and feels his territory may be under threat. This is, by far, the number one reasons my client’s cats will urine spray-mark inside the home. There can be other reasons at play, but this is the main reason in the majority of the cases I work with. Your cat seeing (or smelling) outside cats can cause him to bolster up the perimeter of his home’s territory with urine. Doors leading outside, windows, walls—any location that is perimeter-based in your home—can become a prime urine marking location. In your cat’s mind, urine marking the perimeter will help deter outside cats from crossing the territorial line— “thou shall not pass”, so to speak. Yet many cat owners will tell me they have “never, ever seen an outside cat.” I tell these clients that their cat marking in the home indicates they most likely do have an outside cat (or cats, which is usually the case) visiting their property where their cat can see them. Feral cats are actively hunting between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. and often not seen by the cat owner—but are seen by their cats. Or your cat may simply see a cat all the way across the street in the neighbor’s driveway once a week and that is enough for daily urine marking.
Think you’ve tried everything? I’m pretty sure you haven’t.
Deter Outside Cats: Make your inside cat think he is the only cat in the universe. In other words, no outside cat of any sort (stray, feral, or neighborhood cats) should be seen or smelled by your cat. This can mean a combination of two strategies—using humane outside motion sensor cat deterrents and blocking certain windows in your home so your cat cannot see outside cats where motion sensor deterrents may not reach. Many of my clients use wax paper on certain windows to block the view in cases where their cat could still see outside cats all the way across the street.
Remove Urine Odor: Use an enzymatic or neutralizing urine cleaner and discontinue using any products that contain ammonia in your home (ammonia is a constituent of urine).
Promote Claw Marking: Give your cat an alternative way to mark territory that doesn’t involve urine. Place cat scratching posts or corrugated cardboard scratchers right in the areas where the urine marking is occurring. This will help promote claw marking which can help take the place of urine marking behavior. Sprinkle cat nip on cat scratch areas to entice clawing behavior.
Promote Body Rolling: Sprinkle dried catnip in the urine marked areas to create body-rolling behavior in your cat. Cats also mark territory by body rolling in the location they wish to “mark” and this behavior can help take the place of urine marking behavior.
Trigger the Prey Drive: Encourage your cat to play in the area where the urine marking is occurring by maneuvering a wand toy daily in this area. This will help change the association of what your cat does in that area. Instead of having anxiety and urine marking, he is hunting and feeling confident.
Place Food Strategically: You can also feed your cat in the urine marked areas to help change the urine marking association to an eating association. Cats tend to keep eating and urine marking areas very separate.
Encourage Facial Marking: Replace the territorial behavior of urine marking with friendly facial marking by utilizing friendly feline pheromones found at pet stores and online.
Above all, please remember that urine spray-marking is a natural behavior. Your cat isn’t bad or trying to spite you. He is responding with his natural instincts to the environmental circumstances in which he has been placed.
Courtesy of Modern Cat Magazine