the deposition of small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces. The
spraying cat may be observed to back into the area, the tail may quiver,
and with little or no crouching the urine is released. Although much less
common, some cats will also mark their territory by leaving small amounts
of urine or occasionally stool on horizontal (flat) surfaces.
do cats “mark” with urine?
mark the locations where they live or where they frequent in many ways.
Cats will mark with scent glands on their feet, cheeks, face and tail as
well as with urine. Cheek rubbing (bunting) and scratching (with both the
odor from the glands in the footpads and the visual mark) are both forms
of marking. Deposition of an odor communicates that the animal was in a
location long after that animal has gone. Cats will mark their territory
to signal “ownership” and to advertise sexual receptivity and
availability. Marking can occur due to other cats in the vicinity either
outdoors, or among cats that live in the same household. Cats will also
mark their territory when they feel threatened or stressed. This can occur
with a change in household routine, addition or departure of new people,
living arrangements, new living locations and other environmental and
social changes. In these cases the marking pattern may be related to new
objects brought into the household, or the possessions of family members,
especially those with which there is the greatest source of conflict or
insecurity. Because marking is a method of delineating territory, urine is
often found in prominent locations, at entry and exit points to the
outdoors such as doors and windows and around the periphery. When
outdoors, cats might tend to mark around the periphery of their property,
prominent objects on the property, new objects (e.g. a new tree)
introduced into the property, and locations where other cats have marked.
cats are more likely to urine mark?
Both male and
female cats can mark with urine. Urine marking is most common in intact
(non-neutered) male cats. When an intact male sprays urine, it will have
the characteristic “tom cat” odor that is strong and pungent.
Neutering will change the odor, and may reduce the cat’s motivation for
spraying, but approximately 10% of neutered males and 5% of spayed females
will continue to spray. While cats in multiple cat households are often
involved in spraying behaviors, cats that are housed singly may spray as
of spraying, I am finding multiple locations of small amounts of urine.
What does that mean?
Some cats will
mark their territory with small amounts of urine (and on rare occasions,
stool) in various locations. These locations can be similar to those for
spraying, i.e. near doors, windows, new possessions in the home or favored
locations, but may occasionally be found on owner’s clothing or other
favored possessions. However, small amounts of urine deposited outside of
the litterbox is more commonly due to litter box avoidance which could
have many causes including diseases of the lower urinary tract. Similarly
stool found outside of the litter box can be due to a multitude of causes
including colitis, constipation and any other condition leading to
difficult, more frequent or uncomfortable elimination. As with any other
elimination problem, a complete physical examination and laboratory tests
are necessary to rule out each physical cause.
do I treat a spraying or marking problem?
As with all behavior problems, the history will help determine treatment
options. The location of the urine marking, the frequency, duration and
number of locations are important. The number of cats both inside and
contacts outside of the home should be determined. Changes in environment,
social patterns of humans and animals, and additions (people, pets,
furniture, renovations) to the home should also be examined.
If the cat is
not already neutered, and is not a potential breeder, castration is
recommended. A urinalysis should be performed to rule out medical
problems. The location of the urine spots should be determined. Is the
urine found on walls, 6-8 inches up from the floor (indicating
spraying/marking), or are there small urine spots found in multiple
locations (indicating a behavior problem or medical problem)?
aimed at decreasing the motivation for spraying. It has been shown that
spraying may be reduced in some cases by reviewing and improving litterbox
hygiene. Ideally the minimum number of litter boxes should equal the
number of cats plus one, the litter should be cleaned daily and changed at
least once a week, and proper odor neutralizing products should be used on
any sprayed sites. In addition any factors that might be causing the cat
to avoid the use of its litter should be considered.
appears to be stimulated by cats outside of the home, then the best
options are to find a way to deter the cats from coming onto the property
or prevent the indoor cat from seeing, smelling or hearing these cats. It
may be helpful to house your cat in a room away from windows and doors to
the outdoors, or it may be possible to block visual access to windows.
When you are home and supervising you can allow your cat limited access to
these areas. It also may be necessary to keep windows closed to prevent
the inside cat from smelling the cats outside, and to use odor
neutralizers on any areas where the outdoor cats have eliminated or
If the problem
is due to social interactions inside the home, it may be necessary to
determine which cats do not get along. Keep these cats in separate parts
of the home with their own litter and sleeping areas. Reintroduction of
the cats may be possible when they are properly supervised. Allowing the
cats together for positive experiences such as feeding, treats and play
sessions, helps them to get used to the presence of each other, at least
on a limited basis. However, when numbers of cats in a home reach 7-10
cats you will often have spraying and marking.
cleaned up the spot but the cat keeps returning to spray. What else can be
done to reduce the problem?
“purpose” of spraying is to mark an area with urine odor, it is not
surprising that as the odor is cleaned up, the cat wants to refresh the
area with more urine. Cleaning alone does little to reduce spraying. Cats
that mark in one or two particular areas may cease if the function of the
area is changed. It is unlikely that cats will spray in their feeding,
sleeping or scratching areas. It has also been shown that cats that mark
an area with cheek glands are less likely to mark in other ways such as
with urine. In fact it might be said that cats that use their cheek glands
are marking in a more calm, familiar manner while those that urine mark
are doing so in a more reactive, anxious manner. A commercial product
containing synthetic facial pheromone (Feliway) has proven to be an
effective way of reducing urine marking in some cats. When sprayed on
areas where cats have sprayed urine or on those areas where it can be
anticipated that the cat is likely to spray, it may decrease the
likelihood of additional spraying in those areas. The scent of the
pheromone may stimulate cheek gland marking (bunting), rather than urine
spraying. In Europe the product is also available as an aerosol room
diffuser. It has also been used to calm cats in new environments including
the veterinary hospital and to help familiarize the cat with a new cage or
cat carrier. Manhattan Cat Specialists carries this product.
there any drugs that are available to treat this problem?
Over the years
many pharmacological means have been tried to control spraying behaviors.
The choices have focused on the theory that one of the underlying causes
for spraying and marking behaviors is anxiety. For that reason,
anti-anxiety drugs have been tried with varying degrees of success. None
of these are presently approved for use in cats. Dosing, cost, and the
potential for side effects will all need to be considered in selecting the
most appropriate drug for your cat. Buspirone
and Diazepam have both been shown to be effective in curtailing spraying
behavior, however, a substantial number of cats will resume spraying if
the drug is discontinued, necessitating long-term administration. Diazepam may have some undesirable side-effects, such as
sedation and increased appetite.
fluoxetine (Prozac) and clomiprimine (Clomicalm) have been shown to be
very effective in controlling spraying behavior, and cats are much less
likely to resume spraying behavior when the drugs are discontinued,
compared to other behavior-modifying medications.
Every cat is
different. Some cats respond
simply to environmental manipulation with or without the pheromone spray.
For some cats, we may need to go one step further and use
behavior-modifying drugs as well. Manhattan Cat Specialists has had fairly good success in
treating this frustrating problem, so don’t become discouraged.
We will work together to try to solve this problem and restore
peace and harmony to your household.