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Do Cats Pee to Mark Territory? Cat Behavior Explained

Cats will certainly pee to mark territory. This is often called “spraying,” which is technically different from just urinating. Often, to spray, cats will back into an area and urinate. Sometimes, their tails quiver, and they may or may not crouch. Often, it is on a vertical surface, though other cats may mark territory by leaving a small amount of urine on a horizontal surface too.

Walls are common targets of marking, since they are pretty solid, vertical surfaces. If your cat urinates on a wall, then the odds of it being a urine marking are pretty high.

Not all cats will exhibit spraying behaviors and some are more prone to it than others. When it does occur, it can be understandably frustrating. While the cat is technically just doing what it was bred to do, this behavior is obviously not okay in your home.

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Why Do Cats Mark Territory?

It’s likely that the ancestors of our cats had small territories. While we don’t know how big these territories were, they were likely laid out through marking. In other words, cats mark to let other cats know that this area belongs to them.

Cats have several scent glands to make this marking behavior easier. They will mark using the scent glands in their cheeks, face, tail, and feet. When a cat rubs up against something, they are actually marking it as part of their territory.

Cats mark their territory primarily to point out that the area is theirs. However, they may also advertise their sexual availability so cats that aren’t spayed or neutered are more likely to mark.

Often, cats are more likely to mark their territory when they are stressed. This is a matter of them trying to control what they can when everything else feels like it is out of their control. If new items are brought into the household, cats may choose to mark them in particular, since they have not been “claimed” yet.

Cats typically mark around the edge of their property. For instance, this includes doorways and windows. If you have multiple cats, one cat may mark a particular doorway inside to show that the doorway is where their territory starts.

Outside, cats will usually mark around the perimeter of the property. They may also mark new objects, such as a newly planted tree. If other cats have marked, they may cover up the markings.

cat with pee stain on carpet
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Which Cats Are More Likely to Spray?

You may own one cat that never sprays and another one that continuously struggles with spraying. Certain cats are just more likely to mark than others.

Both males and females will mark. However, males are most likely to do so. It may be that males are trying to compete for mates more commonly than females.

(A female only needs one mate, and a male can impregnate tons of females. In other words, females can “share” a male. Therefore, there is less fighting involved. However, a female can only get fertilized by a single male, so males compete to be that single male.)

Neutering can reduce a cat’s need to mark as it changes their hormones. Urine from a castrated male will also smell different than urine from an intact male. Therefore, it may discourage the male from marking more.

However, some felines will continue to spray even if they are spayed or neutered. Once again, males are more likely to continue spraying even after they are fixed.

Multiple cat households are more likely to have some sort of spraying. However, it is unknown if this is because there are simply more cats (and therefore, you’re more likely to have a cat that sprays) or because the cats feel more competition with each other.

How Do You Fix Cat Urine Marking?

black male cat spraying at the garden
Image Credit: anlomaja, Shutterstock

Firstly, you need to get a complete view of the situation. Take note of when and where your cat sprays. If spraying suddenly begins, note any life changes. If spraying is due to stress, you may want to treat the source of the stress and not necessarily the spraying itself.

If your cat is not yet neutered, now is the time to do so. There are few reasons for a cat to be intact unless they are used for breeding. Plus, it can greatly diminish the odds of them marking at some point, which is obviously a huge problem.

Treatment usually involves reducing a cat’s need to make their territory. Improving litter box hygiene is essential and you may also want to increase the number of litter boxes in your home. Change the litter at least once a week and use proper cleaners on the litter pan itself.

Carefully clean any spots your cat has previously urinated in. Cats that smell where they have previously marked may be more likely to mark there again. Be sure to use an enzymatic cleaner, as these are best at breaking down the smells associated with cat urine.

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Sometimes, cats need to be separated and re-introduced, as spraying can often be a sign that certain cats do not get along. Cats may attempt to compete with each other by marking their territory.

If cats continue to mark, it may be necessary to change the functions of the areas they usually mark in. For instance, cats will usually not spray near their food. Therefore, if you put their food in the area they commonly mark in, it may cease. The same can be said with sleeping and scratching. Cats simply don’t like to urinate where they do other things.

Some commercial calming products, like Feliway, may be effective for some cats. Often, this commercial spray is best for cats that are spraying due to stress, as that’s exactly what the spray reduces. You can purchase this spray as a room diffuser if your cat tends to only spray in a single room.

Alternatively, it also comes in a spray that can be used directly over the spot your cat tends to mark.

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Many felines spray, which means that they mark their territory with urine. However, different cats tend to spray more than others. Not all cats will spray, but some cats will consistently spray. Usually, this occurs when they are stressed or otherwise feel the need to mark their territory.

Stopping your cat from spraying can be difficult. There is no method that works for every cat, though some are more effective than others. We hope that our list of treatments provided you with at least some ideas that you can use.

It is often best to use many ideas at once, as doubling up may make them all more effective.

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Featured Image Credit: cunaplus, Shutterstock

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