One of the most common complaints among feline pet parents is a cat that urinates in inappropriate places. Although this problem is inconvenient and troublesome, it is very common; in fact, sources estimate that at least 10% of housecats will mark outside of their litter boxes. How can you stop it?
Why Cats Urine Mark
Wild animals rely on different forms of marking to establish territory and let other animals know who lives where. Although housecats are certainly not the same as their wild relatives, they retain this territorial marking habit.
Some cats that have never marked in their life will begin marking when they feel stressed, often due to a move, a new baby or the introduction of a new pet into the household. Fortunately, this problem can often be fixed by understanding its roots.
Is Urine Marking a Litter Box Problem?
Cats urinate in inappropriate places for two very different reasons: communication and litter box problems. Cats that have recently developed a urine-marking problem due to the introduction of a new cat or a move to a new household are most likely marking due to a communication issue. These cats often feel the need to mark the new space as theirs or define territory in the face of new pets.
Cats that have suddenly started urine marking, however, may be doing so due to a litter box problem. This often means that the cat’s litter box is too dirty, too small, too crowded by other cats or, in the case of older felines, too difficult to reach.
In order to determine the cause, take your cat to the vet to rule out health problems. If the health check comes back clean, examine the urine-marking circumstances. Does your cat urine mark when visitors arrive? Does he urine mark when he is confronted by another cat? If so, the issue is communication. If the cat seems to mark consistently, regardless of external stimulus, the behavior is likely a litter box issue.
Treating Litter-Box Related Urine Marking
If your cat is urine marking because he finds the litter box uncomfortable or inaccessible, provide more boxes and ensure that you are cleaning them at least twice a day. If the problem persists, schedule a second check-up with the vet.
Treating Non-Litter Box Related Urine Marking
To resolve urine marking that is a result of conflict between household cats, be sure that there are enough litter boxes (at least 1 for each cat) and place them in quiet areas that can be entered and exited two separate ways.
Urine marking that is the result of conflict with outdoor cats can be treated by limiting the cat’s access to the outdoor cat. Close all windows and blinds to prevent sightings and install a sprinkler deterrent in the yard to keep the other cat from coming around.
Finally, if the urine marking is the result of an intact cat, the solution may be to neuter or spay them. Please consult your veterinarian. Often this is enough to deter the cat from further urine marking.
Although urine marking is a frustrating problem, it can often be resolved by determining why the cat is urine marking and then treating the behavior at the root.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian