Cat Spraying: Feline Marking Behavior

Cat marking is different than inappropriate urination.

One of the biggest concerns that people have with cats is urination outside of the litter box. This problem afflicts about 10% of indoor cats at some point in their lifetime. There are many possible reasons for this frustrating behavior. When dealing with urine outside of the box, it's important to first determine whether you are dealing with inappropriate urination or urine marking. Though some causes and treatments for the two conditions overlap, it does help to know which your cat is exhibiting to formulate the best plan.

If your cat is urinating or spraying outside of the litter box, visit your veterinarian first to rule out a medical condition.

Inappropriate Urination versus Urine Marking in Cats

Some of the ways you can start to determine whether your cat is marking territory or has a problem with the litter box are:

There is a difference between feeling spraying and urinating.

So My Cat Is Marking: Why?

Cats use olfactory cues (leaving and "reading" odors) as a major form of communication. Their sense of smell is far more developed than that of humans (about a thousand times more sensitive). Cats also use the Flehmen response to smell things better. This is a special position of the mouth that a cat assumes when smelling pheromones (hormonal markers left by other cats). It allows the sniffed-in air to flow over a cat's vomeronasal organ, located in the nasal cavity, so they can get the information they need form it. You can see a cat using the Flehmen response to smell something better in this video.

So cats mark because they are communicating something. The most common triggers going on in a household where a cat or cats are marking are:

General Tips to Stop Cat Urine Marking

Regardless of the cause of the marking, it's important to thoroughly clean all soiled areas using an enzymatic stain remover. This helps reduce the instances of the cats marking overtop of their housemates' marks or attempting to freshen their own.

Feliway is a product which you spray in the environment. It is a feline facial pheromone analogue and helps to impart a good feeling to the cat. It needs to be sprayed twice daily around prominent areas of the house at your cat's nose level. It can be very effective at reducing spraying.

In certain situations, medications may be necessary to reduce your cat's anxiety and stop the marking behavior. Talk with your veterinarian to determine whether this might be a good option for your cat. There are several choices, and these drugs can be used to calm the feline situation in your home while you institute cleaning and behavior modification measures.

You may need to consult with a feline behavior specialist to help you determine what's going on with your cat and how you can help.

For more information on inappropriate urination, view our Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats article.

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Tips for Good Litter Box Cleaning

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Feliway - A Useful Tool to Help Treat Stress in Cats

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