Urine Marking in Cats (cont.)
Treating Urine Marking in Intact Cats
Here are a few things you can do to remedy the urine marking behavior of an intact cat:
- Neuter or spay your cat Although marking isn't limited to advertisement for a mate, advertisement is one reason that cats mark. Neutering or spaying is a proven treatment for cats who mark as a reproductive advertisement.
- Close windows, blinds and doors Prevent your indoor cat from seeing other neighborhood cats.
Attach a motion-detection device to your lawn sprinkler Set the sprinkler by windows to deter the presence of neighborhood cats.
Treating Urine Marking Caused by Conflict in a Multicat Household
The first step in fixing any elimination problem is to rule out medical problems. Although there is no medical problem that contributes specifically to urine marking, physical problems can create increased anxiety in a cat, which can contribute to marking. Once your veterinarian has determined that your cat doesn't have a medical condition or issue, consider the following guidelines:
- Determine which cat is marking If you have multiple cats and aren't sure which cat is marking, speak with your veterinarian about giving fluorescein, a harmless dye, to one of your cats. Although the dye does not usually stain furniture or walls, it causes urine to glow blue under ultraviolet light for about 24 hours. If you can't get or use fluorescein, you can temporarily confine your cats, one at a time, to determine which one is marking.
- Provide enough litter boxes Although marking is not an elimination problem, if there are too few litter boxes for all the cats, conflict will arise over litter box use and can contribute to marking. Make sure you have one box for each cat in your house, plus one extra. For example, if you have three cats, you'll need a minimum of four litter boxes. Place additional boxes in locations where the anxious (marking) cat spends the majority of his time.
- Place litter boxes in low-traffic areas with at least two exit routes Again, the object is to avoid conflict between cats. In addition, if you have a dog, keep the boxes away from your dog's food and water bowls. Cats can mark in response to dogs as well as other cats.
- Scoop at least once a day In addition to scooping the litter box daily, clean all litter boxes with warm water and unscented soap, or baking soda and no soap, and completely replace the litter once a week. This helps reduce the presence of any offending “other cat” scent.
- Provide multiple perching areas Cats need their own space. Conflict can often be reduced simply by providing more perching areas so that all cats can have a place to rest well away from the others. Creating space can be as easy as clearing window sills or shelves, or purchasing multiperch cat trees.
- Distribute resources Provide multiple sources of food, water, scratching posts and toys so that each cat can make use of them without coming into contact or having a conflict with one of the other cats.
- Play with your cats Increased play with individual cats in different areas of your home can sometimes reduce conflict. Encourage play with toys that dangle on strings suspended from sticks, such as the CatDancer or Kitty Tease®. Attempts to encourage mutual play can sometimes help reduce conflict, but it might simply increase conflict if your cats react poorly at the very sight of each other. Please see our article on Aggression Between Cats in Your Household for more information on reducing conflict between cats.
- Clean accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralize pet odors You can find this kind of cleaner at most pet stores.
- Use Feliway®, a synthetic cat pheromone, in areas where the cat has marked Products like this deliver a synthetic pheromone that has been shown to have some effect in relieving stress in cats. Deliver the Feliway® through a diffuser plugged in close to where your cat has seen the outdoor cats. Feliway® is available as a spray or through a diffuser, and it can be found in many pet stores and online.
Use medications. Because marking is often a sign of stress or anxiety, medication can provide additional treatment help. See our Behavioral Medications for Cats article for explanations regarding the different medicine choices available for your pet. If you're considering behavioral medication, be certain to first consult with your veterinarian, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (Dip ACVB). These animal behavior experts can evaluate your cat's behavior problem and help you develop a treatment plan, give you advice on suitable medications and work with your veterinarian to maximize the success of your cat's treatment program. For help locating a behavior expert in your area, please see our article Finding Professional Help.