Cats who mark the house with urine present a huge problem to even the most loving owners. When a reader recently wrote asking me about this behavior, I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to help explain.
Q: My cat is spraying in the house. It feels like he’s trying to protect us from the other cats, and occasionally coyotes, that come into our yard. If we keep him inside all the time, he gets antsy and will spray. When we let him out, he does fine much of the time, but then cats come into the yard and they fight. He is 9 or 10 years old and is neutered. Any advice?
A: Spraying, or territorial marking, is a feline form of communication. It’s most common in unneutered cats, but any cat is capable of spraying, including neutered males. Cats deliver messages to each other with their stinky pee; your cat may be attempting to ward off other cats and coyotes from his territory — your yard and home.
Your cat may also be marking space inside the home to help himself feel more secure. Making your home smell more like himself helps to relieve stress that may occur when he sees, hears or smells other cats or predators, such as coyotes in his yard. If your cat is spraying items that carry your scent, such as clothing or bedding, or items where you spend a lot of time, such as a favorite chair or sofa, he’s doubling down on that feeling of security. Combining his scent with yours is a way of increasing his feeling of comfort.
Ways to improve the situation include changing the environment, instituting a behavior modification plan or administering pheromones or medications to help decrease anxiety. Try blocking your cat’s view of the animals outdoors. Eliminate odor from previous marking episodes by thoroughly cleaning the area with an enzymatic product. Feline pheromone diffusers or sprays can increase his comfort level as well. A Fear Free-certified veterinarian can help you with a behavior modification or medication plan.
Read more in this week’s Pet Connection!