Cat Marking (Spraying)

Cats mark to tell other cats that this thing or area is theirs and are more likely to mark if they feel threatened. Cats have marking (scent) glands in their heads and in their paws. They scratch or rub against something to leave their scent on it and let the world know it is theirs. Every cat owner is familiar with their cat head butting them. 

Cats also spray (urine) to mark an item, which is what most cat owners are concerned about. When a cat squats it is urinating. Marking is done with the cat standing up and usually the tail is erect and quivers a little. 

Some scientists think that marking is a survival mechanism. By marking cats minimize the chances of accidental encounters with other cats that can result in fights and injuries. 

If your cat suddenly starts to urinate outside of its litter box or its usual area, you need to first determine if she is marking or urinating. If the item is a vertical surface, then it is most likely marking. However if it is a horizontal surface then the cat is likely just peeing. This can be a sign that your cat has a urinary tract infection. Your first step should be to have your cat checked by a veterinarian. If the cat does have an infection, the problem should go away as your cat gets healthy. 

Note that cats that are not neutered or spayed are much more likely to mark. According to this article in International Cat Care only about 5% of female and 10% of male cats spray if they have been neutered. However, the chances of spraying increase with the number of cats in a household, with an 86% likelihood if there are seven or more cats and 100% likelihood if there are ten or more cats in the house, according to this article. 

With that background, let’s examine some of the most common questions people have about cat marking. 

How do you stop a cat from marking? 

First you have to ruled out that your cat has urinary tract infection. If they do not have an infection and your cat has a litter box, you need to determine if the placement of the litter box is the problem. According to the experts, when the litter box is too close to their food or where they sleep then your cat may not want to use it. Also some cats do not want to share their litter box. Or if their litter box is not clean or too small, they may choose to urinate elsewhere. You may also want to try a different kitty litter, as some cats may have a preference. Of course litter box issues are not about marking. 

Marking is often the result of your cat being stressed. While counterintuitive, closing windows and doors can reduce stress. An open window can allow the scent of other cats into your house, which your cat may interpret as threatening.
This often happens in the spring when feral cats are in heat. However, any change in routine or other stress may result in your cat spraying. 

Once you have determined your cat is spraying and eliminated the likely causes, you are going to want to clean the areas where they have sprayed. A black light may be helpful in locating where your cat marked. 

UV Stain Detective LED Blacklight for detecting cat, dog & rodent urine

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You do not want to use harsh chemical cleaners to clean, because they will leave a strong smell that will make it more likely your cat will want to mark the area again. Most experts suggests an odor neutralizing cleaner such as: 

Angry Orange Pet Odor Eliminator for Dog and Cat Urine, Makes 1 Gallon of Solution for Carpet, Furniture and Floor Stains

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Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator - Enzyme-Powered Pet Odor & Stain Remover for Dog and Cats Urine

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Pet Stain & Odor Miracle - Enzyme Cleaner for Dog and Cat Urine, Feces, Vomit, Drool

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Cleaning up the smell may not solve the problem as your cat may still feel the need to mark its territory. One solution that many experts suggest is Feliway (Comfort Zone), which is a pheromone diffuser. The pheromone is supposed to calm your cat and appears to work particularly well for houses with multiple cats. 

Comfort Zone 2X More Pheromones Formula Calming Diffuser Kit for Cat Calming

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Based on the customer reviews, people seem to think the pheromone formalization generally works, however the diffuser appears to be poorly made. 

An alternative product is the Feliway Pheromone Travel Spray, which does not have a diffuser. 

Feliway Pheromone Travel Spray

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In addition, you can calm your cat by marking the area you have cleaned with their scent. Pet your cat with a warm moist towel. Then rub the towel on the area they have been marking. This will mark the area with their scent, which should reduce or hopefully eliminate your cat’s desire to mark the area. This will not be offensive to you and your guests. However, this solution may not work for multiple cat families. 

Finally, experts suggest giving your cat a calming medicine. In my opinion, before you resort to medications you should try one of the calming collars, such as the Fedciory Calming Collar for Cats. 

Fedciory Calming Collar for Cats, Adjustable Relieve Reduce Anxiety Pheromone 

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The customer reviews are very positive for this product and some people are using it in conjunction with the pheromone diffusers with good results. 

Do male cats spray after being neutered? 

Neutering male cats significantly cuts down on their propensity to spray, but it does not eliminate the possibility completely. Note that the more cats in your dwelling the higher the likelihood that your cat will mark, even if he is neutered. 

Do female cats spray when in heat? 

Yes, some female cats are more likely to spray when in heat. The spray contains pheromones and hormones that indicate her reproductive status and availability. This is one of the reasons experts suggest getting you cat spayed. 

What does cat spray smell like? 

Interestingly male and female cat spray have slightly different smells. In both cases the overwhelming scent is of urine. Male cat spray is described as like urine but much, much stronger with a strong ammonia smell. Female cat spray is described as sickly sweet urine. In both cases the odor is so strong that it cannot be covered up by opening the window or air fresheners. 

What color is cat spray? 

Unfortunately, cat spray can be yellow, reddish, greyish, reddish, or brownish. It can even be invisible. It can be small drips, a line, or just a general spray. Your best indicator of whether your cat is spraying is going to be the smell unless you catch you cat in the act. Cats generally sniff an area intensely before spraying. Then they generally back up to the item to be sprayed, raise their tail and squirt in a standing position. 

Do cats mark their territory with poop? 

The short answer is not generally. However, cats have anal glands that coat the feces when the cat defecates. The glands produce a dark, smelly liquid that contains a powerful territorial scent. So every time cats poo they are also marking. Cats may defecate on an item to mark it, but it is unusual. Unfortunately, some cats will defecate in their owner’s bed or on other items to mark that area as theirs. This is not a malicious act on the part of your cat, but a statement of attachment. One most of us can do without – lol. 

Why do cats spray on their owners? 

According to some experts your cat might spray you if you are wearing a scent that they find disagreeable. If you are wearing something with a strong scent, it is more likely that your cat will want to cover up the smell. So avoid wearing strong scents if your cat is spraying you. Also make sure you do not smell like another cat, which your cat might find threatening. 

Do cats pee on things when they are mad? 

If your cat is urinating and not marking, then it is not because there are mad. More likely your cat has a urinary tract infection. You should have your cat examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. 
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