Urine marking can land your cat straight into the bad books. Even some furniture and shoes in particular can often be permanently ruined by a smelly territorial mark. Thankfully, there are many treatments and preventative strategies to reduce the incidence and severity of this noxious behaviour.
In general cats tend to mark in the wild to define their territory to reduce violent overlap with other cat’s territories. Feral cats can have natural ranges of anywhere between 2.5 and 700 acres. So if you think about it, we’re taking animals that are genetically geared to roam hundreds of acres by themselves, and putting them into tiny apartments in close proximity with other cats. No wonder it can be very stressful for them.
In response to the stress mentioned above, cats are prone to developing urinary tract inflammation and crystals. For this reason, abnormal marking is a problem where you should visit the vet first. Ideally, bring in a fresh urine sample for testing. A visit is essential to check for infection, urinary crystals, stress cystitis, and kidney failure, amongst other problems.
If your cat gets the all-clear after being checked, then their marking problem is likely behavioural. So how do we reduce this behaviour?
Ways to Reduce the Behaviour
Take your number of cats, plus one, and that’s how many litter trays you need.
Got two cats? Get three litter trays. Got three cats? Get four litter trays. Cats prefer fresh, clean litter, so encourage them to use their litter tray by changing it regularly. You can even try offering different types of litter to see if there’s one they prefer. By making the litter as appealing as possible, you’re helping encourage them to urinate where they’re meant to.
Restrict access to the area, and clean the area immediately.
One of the best ways to break the marking habit is to remove access to the item or area they’re marking. This may mean closing off the lounge room door, or moving your shoes from the floor. Clean the area they’ve marked immediately with a urease-containing cleaner (“urine-off”) to reduce the scent trigger for them to re-mark the area.
Have plenty of hidey holes and space.
Many cats prefer their own company, and find social interaction with other cats quite stressful. Try making sure they have plenty of places to hide and relax around the house. Boxes, cat towers, and cupboards, can all be used as hiding places.
Try pheromone sprays and diffusers.
“Feliway” sprays and diffusers contain artificial pheromones that help to reduce stress related marking behaviour. The spray can be sprayed daily on problem areas, such as the couch, whereas a diffuser will treat a whole room for around 30 days.
Try some Zylkene.
“Zylkene” is a milk protein that seems to help relax stressed-out kitties. The powder is sprinkled onto their food and they tend to eat it enthusiastically. It has the main benefit of being a safe and simple treatment to reduce stress.
Consider environmental adjustment.
Installing an outdoor cat run can take time and effort, but your cat will thank you when they can go outside and enjoy some space, sun, and fresh air. You won’t have to worry about them going missing, hunting wildlife, or getting into fights. This can help to increase their available space and reduce their stress levels.
Try some cat nip toys.
Many cats respond positively to catnip toys or fresh catnip. We can use this in their environment to help keep them relaxed.
Use separate water and food bowls.
Cats can find sharing food and water pretty stressful! Try placing food and water bowls around the house so they can eat where and when they want.
Consider veterinary treatments.
Vets can provide advice on the best diets to reduce stress and reduce crystal formation in cats. We can also discuss stronger ways to reduce stress-related behaviour, such as antidepressant use. It is always necessary to address environmental problems alongside medical treatment.