The biggest complaint among cat owners is "inappropriate elimination," a nice way of saying a cat has peed, pooped or sprayed outside of its litter box. Approximately ten percent of all cats are guilty of this behavior, at some point during one of their 9 lives. While many cats have some issue with the actual litter box, itself, a good portion of this behavior has to do with "urine marking," a not so subtle means of cat to cat communication.
What Prompts Cats to Mark?
Social animals like dogs, have developed a sophisticated means of interpersonal communication. By developing hierarchies within their groups, they are prepared to prevail or give sway, depending on their rank. Social creatures are very astute interpreters of one another's body language and the more deferential animal knows when to kowtow to the more highly ranked group member. Cats, unlike dogs, are not social creatures. In fact, they are quite territorial, sharing a territory with other felines while avoiding face to face contact. Cats do not believe in the hierarchal approach. When two cats meet, a fight is most likely to occur, potentially causing one or both cats physical harm. So, rather than trying to fight things through, head on, cats have learned to leave clues about their whereabouts to avoid direct confrontations with one another.
Cats have a number of messaging methods and one of the most heavily utilized is urine marking. By leaving a urine scent, one cat informs others of his presence, which territories he owns, how recently he visited the area and when he may be expected to make a return appearance. Astonishingly, cats can communicate all this through urine. This system has proven highly successful in helping cats to frequent the same area while staying out of one another's way.
Housebound cats may not need to search for sustenance or a mate, but their instincts still drive them to behave much like their ancestors. A spayed or neutered cat with a steady routine is less likely to resort to marking, than an intact cat with a topsy turvy lifestyle. Spraying is your cat's way of dealing with stress by discouraging challengers while imbuing his environment with his own, familiar scent.
What Distinguishes Communication and Litterbox Problems?
You may have to put on your deerstalking cap and do a little detective work to determine the source of your cat's problem. A cat who sprays around the house may also use his litter tray to void, so, urination within the litter box does not necessarily exonerate him of urine marking. But, with a bit of practice, you can learn to distinguish urine marking from inappropriate urine elimination outside of the litter box.
Cats tend to urine mark on vertical services. This is also what's known as, "spraying." During the spraying procedure, your cat will typically back up to a vertical surface such as stereo speaker, wall or chair, with his tail extended straight up and body erect. You may notice his body and tail twitching as he sprays, as in emphasis.
Spraying usually involves less urinary volume than voiding. Sprayed urine has a more noticeably pungent odor than ordinary urine, as it contains additional communication chemicals. Hence, its almost despicable odor.
Which Cats Do The Most Damage?
The biggest culprit in this scenario is unneutered males. While neutered, spayed and intact female cats are also capable of urine marking, it is the male cat's way of advertising his reproductive availability. The more cats living in the house, the more likely one of them will start urine marking to assert territorial dominance. Houses with more than ten cats are notorious for their urine marking problems.
Cats HATE change, so much so that a normally well behaved cat may begin urine marking to deal with feelings of stress. Urine marking triggers can include everything from: working long hours, having a baby, new people moving in or out, other pets being added to the household, remodeling or going away on vacation. One of the biggest triggers is cat on cat conflict. Cats can become very anxious when they cannot remove themselves from an environment that is home to other cats.
Dealing With Urine Marking In Unneutered Cats
The earlier you neuter your cat, the better. It can help to inhibit your cat's desire to mark when advertising for a mate. Keep windows, blinds and door closed to prevent your indoor cat from seeing their outdoor feline neighbors. Deter neighborhood cats by attaching a motion-detection device to your sprinkler system.
Addressing Urine Marking Caused By In-House, Cat to Cat Conflicts.
Step number 1 in addressing a urine elimination issue is ruling out potential medical problems. While there is no known medical problem directly responsible for urine marketing, illness and pain can indeed make cats more anxious, contributing to increased marking behavior. Once your vet has ruled out any medical conditions that might increase anxiety, consider the following strategies:
If you're unable to determine which cat is the culprit, consider giving the biggest suspect a harmless dye called fluorescein. It's known for causing urine to glow under ultraviolet light for a period of approximately 24 hours after voiding and usually does not stain walls or furniture. In the absence of fluorescein's availability, consider confining your cats, one at a time, to find the culprit.
Make sure your cats have enough litter boxes. When there are too few litter boxes for too many cats, urine marking may be the result. We recommend one litter box for each and every cat, plus one extra litter tray. Placement of additional litter trays where cats are urine marking is also recommended.
Keep kitty trays as clean as physically possible. Daily scooping combined with weekly cleaning and litter replacement are highly encouraged. Try using warm water, baking soda and unscented soaps to clean the tray. This dedication to cleanliness will help reduce the odor of other cat's duties.
Buy either the 4 oz. or 32 oz. size of Spalding's Bye Bye Odor, dilute it properly and use daily, if not more frequently. Spraying the litter boxes and urine marked areas will help diminish odors along with frequent cleaning.
Providing your cats with multiple sources of water, food, toys and scratching posts will help your cats spread out and give one another more space, territorially speaking. Give all your cats lots of attention through play time and affectionate stroking. Don't let your cats perceive any one member to be, "the favorite."
Consider Using Products Like Feliway® and Prescription Medications.
The synthetic pheromone, Feliway®, offers cats some stress relief and should be used in areas where cats tend to mark. Also spray Feliway® near any areas where your cat has visible access to outdoor cats.
Given that marking is frequently a sign of feline anxiety and stress, consult with your veterinarian about anxiety control medications. Your vet should provide you with comprehensive guidelines concerning the products currently available, both their benefits and potential side effects.
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