Cats and humans have had a strange relationship since day one. Dogs had to be caught, trained, and bred for a purpose; cats, on the other hand, strutted in like they owned the place. They moused and hunted near human settlements, and after a while decided they would sleep in our beds and curl up by the fire. Humans generally raised no objection to this behavior, but cats being cats wanted to rub the housekeepers’ noses in it. So they marked areas with a little bit of their urine just to make it clear who the hearth, chair, or stool belonged to.
Scientists estimate it’s been about 12,000 years or so since cats decided to crash on humankind’s collective couch. Unfortunately they still mark. Fortunately though it’s possible for those who co-exist with the dominant feline species to dissuade them from such behavior.
For other cat-related topics, check out:
Cat Facts: The Amazing Superpowers Every Cat Has
Why Cats Purr and Hiss
Why Do Cats Hate Water?
Determine Why Your Cat is Marking
Cat marking takes place for a variety of different reasons, and not all of them are connected to dominance. If you’ve recently brought in another animal, or a new roommate, then that will make your cat nervous and unsure. Moving to a new place has the same effect. If your cat isn’t receiving a lot of attention, or if you’re not spending any play time with him (usually males mark, but both sexes do it), then it’s possible he might be marking out of anger or frustration. Even something as simple as seeing other animals out of a window might lead to marking behavior. So take a look and see if there’s a reason your cat is marking.
If your cat isn’t marking, but seems to be having a bladder control issue then it’s possible there’s a urinary tract infection at work. This article provides an easy, at-home treatment to clear that up in a hurry.
Clean Up The Area
When a cat has marked an area it’s important to clean it up quickly, and not just because urine stains. If the smell saturates then it can be all but impossible to get out, and that might encourage your cat to refresh those olfactory gang tags its put up. However, it’s also important to clean up the marking with something that doesn’t contain ammonia. As anyone who’s ever had cat box duty knows ammonia is found in cat urine, and that might just encourage more marking. Instead try using products like Nature’s Miracle, which completely eliminates odors. A solution that’s 1 part vodka and 1 part water can also work to eliminate the smell and the enzymes that are causing them.
If you want to kill the smell and keep your cat off of a certain area then try this white vinegar formula. This concoction is ideal for keeping cats off of furniture, or away from certain areas of the house. If used too much it might frustrate them though, so keep that in mind.
A Few Ounces of Prevention
Pay close attention to where and when your cat marks. If your cat marks when there’s company over then make sure you put your cat in a different room where it can feel comfortable. This allows it to have its own space, and it might prevent the nerves that lead to marking. If your cat marks when it wants attention, then have more regular playtime with him. If you’re going on a trip then make sure your furry feline friend gets more than just fresh water and food; make sure your cat sitter is well-liked by your cat, and ensure that there’s proper socialization time. If your cat isn’t happy about newcomers try and introduce them slowly to get your cat used to the idea that the new addition isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Cats that have positive bonding experiences with others in the household are less likely to mark.
Sometimes just preventing a stimulus isn’t enough to stop the marking though. For younger cats (younger than six months) getting them spayed or neutered can help prevent marking behavior. If your cat marks places it doesn’t spend a lot of time in, typically places it doesn’t sleep, eat, or play, then try making those areas more familiar. Make the unfamiliar corner the place where it chases the red dot, or try putting your cat’s food and water in a place where she won’t stop marking. Cats don’t mark where they eat, and so this can often quell the behavior.
In the most extreme situations it’s possible to dissuade cats from marking by startling them. Clang a pot, squirt them with a squirt gun, or pick them up and bring them to the litter box. If you interrupt the marking often enough your feline roommate will get the point that urinating on things, even if it’s just a little bit, is definitely not appreciated.
“Why Do Cats Hang Around Us? (Hint: They Can’t Open Cans)” by David Brown at Washington Post
“5 Ways to Discourage Cat Spraying” by Drs Foster and Smith at Dr. Foster and Smith
“Pet Marking in Cats” by Anonymous at ASPCA