And is there a difference?
Well, yes. First of all, cats aren’t (generally) jerks for no good reason, so even if your cat isn’t marking out of medical necessity, he’s probably doing it because something feels off. Let’s get to the bottom of what’s causing your cat’s urine marking and just as importantly, what you can do to fix it.
Why Cats Urine Mark
It’s important to remember that urine marking isn’t usually a behavior or even a medical issue, but actually a form of communication. Cats aren’t pack animals the way dogs are. They rely on forms of non-verbal communication to relay messages to other animals about their state of mind. They’re not looking to start a fight unless it’s actually necessary, so they try to be as indirect as possible…that’s where urine marking comes in.
Cats’ urine says a lot. It can say, “I’m here!” or “This is mine!” or “You better back off, or else!” It can even say, “Hey…I’m single and ready to mingle!” When a cat – more times than not, an unneutered cat – urine marks, he’s sending some kind of message to you and any other cats in the area. Marking makes them feel secure like they’ve done what they should to make themselves heard.
Reasons Why Your Cat Might be Marking
What is your cat trying to communicate with his (admittedly annoying) marking behavior? Here are a few of the most common reasons cats spray it instead of say it.
He’s Sharing His Territory
Is yours a multi-cat household? Cats living with other cats are far more likely to urine mark. Even if your other pet is a dog, a goldfish or – gasp a human baby – your cat might still be trying to make his territory well-known.
He’s an Unneutered Male
Cats who haven’t been “fixed” are more prone to urine mark because they’re biologically driven to assure their ability to reproduce. By marking his territory, your unneutered male cat is telling other males to back off…and letting females know he’s open for business.
He’s Anxious About Something
Don’t forget that marking behavior is always a response to something; it’s akin to your cat grabbing his security blanket. Maybe he’s stressed about a recent move or he’s hearing a neighborhood cat howling at all hours. Maybe he’s noticed you’ve been gone more often or is just feeling on-edge. Cat behavior is tricky so when in doubt, talk to your vet.
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Is it Urine Marking…or a Bladder Issue?
Remember that there’s a difference between purposeful urine marking and an uncomfortable littler box problem. Cats sometimes urinate outside their litter box not to communicate but because there’s something physically wrong. Urine marking is pretty distinctive behavior, and usually involves:
- Less volume than your cat’s normal excretions
- The “mark” is on a vertical surface like a wall or the side of a sofa
- The urine seems far more pungent than normal urine
If your cat’s persistent peeing doesn’t match up with the signs above, it’s probably time to call your vet.
How to Stop Urine Marking
The lowest hanging fruit when it comes to putting an end to urine marking is to have your unneutered cat “fixed.” Not only will it decrease (and potentially stop) his marking, it can also extend his life by several years.
If you have multiple cats, make sure you have enough litter boxes in different locations throughout your home. Sometimes cats mark because they’re feeling stressed for space or like they don’t have anything of their own. Also, be sure you’re cleaning his litter box daily; there’s a small chance the marking is a signal to you that, “Hey, it’s gross in there!”
Close your windows and doors to prevent your indoor cat from seeing or smelling any outdoor cats that might wander by. This will help keep him from feeling too territorial.
Lastly, if you can’t seem to get a handle on marking, talk to your vet about feline pheromones which have been shown to have some effectiveness against marking. It’s also possible your cat is suffering from anxiety and might benefit from a low-dose anti-anxiety prescription. Your vet will walk you through your options.