Urine Marking in Cats
What Causes Urine Marking?
Urine spraying or marking is one of the most common behavioral problems noted in cats. It can arise as a result of medical problems, such as inflammation in the bladder, or behavioral problems, such as stress or anxiety. Sometimes the cause of the anxiety is obvious (a new puppy in the house) while other times the provocation is not as clear (the sight of a tomcat coming into the yard).
How Can It Be Managed?
Once the doctor has ruled out medical causes a thorough review of potential causes of stress should be evaluated. Identification and resolution of the underlying stimulus holds the best hope for resolution of the problem. Unfriendly interactions with other cats (indoor or visually with outdoor cats), new people or pets in the household, or other changes in a cats daily routine (moving or remodeling of the home) can all easily cause cats to begin urine marking.
In addition to removing the underlying stimulus for the urine marking, treatment involves removing all odors, limiting access to areas being soiled, litter box management, and possibly anti-anxiety medication. All areas that have been soiled should be cleaned daily using an enzymatic cleaner designed to remove all urine odors, such as Nature’s Miracle (available at pet stores). Regular household cleaners often time leave residual odors not sensed by the human nose but still by the feline nose. After cleaning the soiled areas, application of Feliway spray to the affected areas can help reduce additional marking. Feliway is a feline pheremone (facial scent) that is usually left on a surface where a cat rubs its muzzle. This serves as a marking signal and a potential substitute for urine.
Elimination of access to the areas being soiled is helpful in breaking the cycle of urination. If physical barriers (doors) are not possible then electronic devices which let out a loud noise or other aversive stimuli may be helpful (Scraminal, available at some pet stores and catalogs). If total access cannot be restricted then changing the texture of a surface by covering with aluminum foil, double sided tape or a plastic carpet runner turned upside down may help to limit access.
Although the type of litter may not be a problem, switching to a non-scented, clumping litter may be helpful. In addition, cleaning the litter box once daily and completely changing the litter and washing the box out once weekly are a must. The quantity of litter boxes must be at least the number of cats in the household plus one. Keep the boxes in different parts of the house as well as on every floor, if possible.
Urine marking can be very difficult to resolve even when all of the above recommendations are followed. The duration of the problem prior to treatment influences the success rate greatly. Consistently following the above recommendations over several months is needed to assure resolution. Certain anti-anxiety drugs have been shown to be very helpful in this problem and are often times prescribed along with environmental modifications. Your veterinarian will discuss this option with you.
- Use a non-scented, dust free clumping cat litter
- Clean the cat litter once daily, change the litter box and clean it with soapy water once a week (avoid ammonia or other strong cleaners).
- Increase the number of litter boxes to equal the number of cats plus one.
- Reduce the opportunity for agonistic interactions with other cats inside or outside the home.
- Reduce or remove access to rooms in the house being soiled (see above).
- Clean all areas that have been urine marked daily with an enzymatic cleaner (such as Nature’s Miracle,).
- Use Feliway Diffuser or spray on areas that have been urine marked and cleaned. Repeat as directed by the instructions that come with the product.
- Drugs to reduce anxiety are often times helpful but not without the environmental modifications above. Discuss possible drug therapy with the doctor.