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Cats urine marking

Cats are a territorial species and urine marking is a very normal method of feline communication and marking their territory - when it happens outside the home. It becomes a problem for both cat and owner, when it begins to happen inside the home.

As well as it being a difficult problem to live with - requiring a significant amount of cleanup - it often indicates the cat is unhappy and feeling unsafe in their home.

Urine marking, more commonly referred to as cats spraying, is different to regular peeing as there is usually an intention behind it - often to communicate with other cats, or to make the cat feel their home is safer. The urine is usually sprayed against a vertical surface rather than directed down at the floor. It often happens in parts of their territory where they feel most vulnerable and where cats are most likely to notice it, such as around the cat flap, windows and external doors; on unfamiliar objects such as shopping bags or suitcases, but sadly, some cats feel the need to do this just about anywhere.

When this behaviour is based on anxiety, urine marking can be triggered by just about anything the cat is worried about. Unfriendly cats outside the home can be a significant cause for concern for those living inside, particularly if they have made their way inside through an open window or cat flap. Tension can also arise between cats that live together, leading to one or both cats trying to make the territory their own. Environmental changes can upset the harmony too. Renovations, redecorating, new furniture or even new members of the household can disrupt the territory and trigger a bout of urine marking. Any pain or illness can make them feel unsettled and anxious too so it is important to consult a vet to rule this out.

To stop this behaviour, the first step is for the cat to be neutered if they aren’t already. After this, the focus is on helping the cat feel safe, removing any obvious sources of stress or helping them to cope with them when it’s not possible. This may involve keeping unfamiliar cats out of the house (and if possible, out of the garden), and/or minimising the disruption of household changes by keeping them away from the chaos until things have settled. They Providing additional hiding places and resting areas up high both help with stress relief and helping to escape stressful situations.

If tension between cats in the same household is resulting in urine marking from one or both cats, it can be helpful to allow them to create two separate territories within the home. Each area should include separate feeding areas, water bowls, litter trays, scratch posts and plenty of resting areas. Cats will naturally mark inside their home by rubbing their cheeks on prominent areas (such as coffee table corners) and scratching on posts (or unfortunately, on furniture) so provide plenty of opportunities for them to do this and avoid wiping  these areas down as the invisible marks will be removed too.

If you need further help with your cats behaviour, you can find a list of accredited behaviourists at www.abtc.org.uk.

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