Territorial Marking: Cats | Winnipeg Humane Society
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House soiling or urine-marking?

Your cat may be urine–marking if:

  • The problem is primarily urination. Cats rarely mark with feces.
  • The amount of urine is small and is found primarily on vertical surfaces. Cats do sometimes mark on horizontal surfaces. Leg-lifting and spraying are dominant versions of urine-marking, but even if your pet doesn’t assume these postures, he may still be urine-marking.
  • A cat in your home is not spayed or neutered. Both intact males and females are more likely to urine-mark than are spayed or neutered animals. Even a spayed or neutered animal can mark in response to intact animals in the home.
  • Your cat urinates on new objects in the environment (a shopping bag, a visitor’s purse), on objects that have unfamiliar smells, or on objects that have another animal’s scent.
  • Your cat has conflicts with other animals in your home. For example, if one cat is intimidating another cat, the bullied cat may express his anxiety by urine-marking.
  • Your cat has contact with other animals outside your home. A cat that’s allowed outdoors may come home and mark after having an encounter with another cat outside. If your pet sees another animal through a door or window, he may feel a need to mark his territory.

What you can do

  • Spay or neuter your cat before he is sexually mature. Spaying or neutering your pet can stop urine-marking altogether, however if he has been urine-marking over a long period of time a behaviour pattern might already be established.
  • Resolve conflicts between animals in your home.
  • Restrict your pet’s access to doors and windows through which they can observe animals outside. If this isn’t possible, discourage the presence of other animals near your house.
  • Keep your cat indoors. He’ll be safer, will live longer, and will feel less need to mark his territory.
  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly using an enzymatic cleaning solution. Don’t use strong smelling cleaners as these may cause your pet to “over-mark” the spot.
  • Make previously soiled areas inaccessible or unattractive.
  • If making soiled areas inaccessible or unattractive isn’t possible, try to change the significance of those areas. Feed, treat and play with your pet in the areas he is inclined to mark. Animals generally don’t eliminate in areas they eat and play.
  • Keep objects out of reach. Guests’ belongings, new purchases and so forth, should be placed in a closet or cabinet.
  • If your pet is marking in response to a new resident in your home (a new baby, roommate or spouse), have the new resident make friends with your pet by feeding, grooming and playing with your pet. Make sure good things happen to your pet when the new baby is around.

What not to do

Don’t punish your pet after the fact. Punishment administered even a minute after the event is ineffective because your pet won’t understand why he is being punished.

Cats aren’t people

Cats don’t urinate or defecate out of spite or jealousy. If your cat urinates on your new boyfriend’s backpack, this is not his opinion of your taste in men. Instead, he has perceived the presence of an “intruder” and is letting the intruder know that this territory belongs to him.

Some pets mark when they feel anxious or upset. For example, a new baby in the home brings new sounds, smells and people, as well as changes in routine. Your cat probably isn’t getting as much attention as he was used to getting. All of these changes cause him to feel anxious, which may cause him to mark. Likewise, a pet that is generally anxious may become more so by the presence of roaming neighbourhood animals in your yard, or by the introduction of a new cat or dog into your household. If your pet is feeling anxious, you might consider talking to your veterinarian about medications to reduce his anxiety while you work on behaviour modification.