How and Why Female Cats Mark Their Territory

Do cats mark their territory? Only every single chance they get.

Yes, female cats mark their territory just as much as males. When they scratch or rub themselves on objects, the scent glands on their paws and heads help them send indirect messages to other cats. Spraying with urine is also a territory marker not only for male cats but females too.


Cats Are Territorial Animals

Once they learn the habit, cats will never stop marking their territory. In the first place, cats are territorial animals that live independently from one another. When they have an opportunity, they will go off on their own path and claim certain areas or territories for themselves on the way.

Cats can share territories on the one and only condition that they aren’t at the same place at the same time whenever that’s possible. If they’re faced with any arguments or conflicts, one of the sides might back down in case there is a risk of getting badly injured.

Cats don’t have a developed communication system or a social structure to help them solve disputes between one another, like the one that dogs have. Rather, they see themselves as equal, and face-to-face conflicts can be dangerous. That’s why they try to avoid them at all costs.

So, they communicate through indirect messages.

There’s no difference between the territory-marking methods of male cats and female cats. The only difference is how frequently they use some methods over the others.


How Female Cats Mark Their Territories

Female cats mark their territories in the following ways:

  • Head rubbing
  • Scratching
  • Licking
  • Spraying with urine


Head Rubbing Marks With Invisible Pheromones

For any experienced cat owner or anyone who has observed cat behavior for at least a little, I’m sure you’ve noticed how cats enjoy rubbing themselves on everything they see, whether that’s the corner of a wall, a piece of furniture, or your legs.

“What’s with this crazy obsession my cat has with my couch?” or “Wow, she really likes that chair, huh?”

It’s not really about a weird fascination or only an act of love and affection. It’s also an important way they mark territory. Anytime you see your female cat rubbing her head against a given object, she’s leaving her pheromones behind for other cats to detect.

According to Sharilyn Vera of PrettyLitter, cats have scent glands everywhere – their foreheads, close to their ears, their cheeks, and even their chins. That’s why your cat might nuzzle you. Claiming you as their own shows how much they adore you.

However, don’t worry. The oils secreted from cats rubbing their faces on everything are absolutely harmless and invisible. They’re something to sniff and identify for other animals with way stronger noses than ours.


Female Cats Scratch to Mark by Scent and Sight

Scratching is a scary word for most cat owners.

In addition to all the ones on the head area, cats have scent glands on their paws, too, that they use when they claw things.

Some cats have the cute, adorable tendency to knead on their owners. This might be one of the reasons why they do it.

The chances are very slim that your cat will claw you or any other human for the sake of marking territory, but they won’t hesitate to go after walls, baseboards, soft cushions, and other places they can create damage.

It’s not really their intention to cause damage, but it’s in their survival nature to leave visual and scent cues to suggest that this is their own property, and no other cat is allowed on it. The pheromones they leave behind are a silent cat language.

An added bonus is that scratching maintains their sharp, clean, fabulous manicure.



It’s logical that saliva is also an important source of smell. Your cat’s tongue carries her own unique scent, and she spreads it through licking her little ones, licking her kitty friends, or licking your face.

You’re then marked with a special kitty smell until the next time you take a shower.


Female Cats Spray With Urine Less Than Males

The previously mentioned methods of marking territory are somewhat harmless and cute, except for the scratching in extreme situations. However, spraying is the most aggressive marker of all, and it’s the hardest one to control.

Yes, female cats are guilty of using their urine to mark territory. Unfortunately, it isn’t just un-neutered, non-castrated males to be blamed for that.

Cats can tell a lot about each other by smelling their urine. It sounds a little gross for us, but their urine contains both pheromones and hormones that make important statements, such as “back off from my territory” or “I’m in heat and available for mating.”

That’s why, after cats reach reproductive maturity at six months, they can start spraying to look for partners to mate with.


Cats Usually Spray Vertically

Spraying occurs when your cat pees on a vertical surface, like a tree, a wall, or a couch’s arm, for example. You can tell that she’s doing it if you see her treading her back feet, projecting her rear towards the target, and lifting her quivering and shaking tail straight in the air.

Those are the most recognizable signs. However, in rare cases, a cat might also do it while in a squatting position onto a flat horizontal surface, similar to how she usually uses the litter box. Because of that, sometimes it can be difficult to tell apart what is spraying and what is just a normal incident of inappropriate urination outside the litter box.

When you’re having trouble telling what the problem is, here’s a short list from AllAboutCats of all the reasons that cause your cat to spray where she shouldn’t:

  • Marking territory
  • Calling for mating partners
  • Litter box avoidance
  • Fighting with other cats in the household
  • New changes in the home
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Pain or illness

When cats are experiencing stress, they will want to surround themselves with their own scent for protection and to calm themselves down. Even though you created the environment of your home with the best intentions, there still might be something bothering your kitty to make them want to mark their territory again and again.

Cats will aim to urinate in specific places if they’re unsure of their ownership of a room, says Holly Reinecke. This is their way of making sure that they’re still the queen of the house and reminding everyone else about that undeniable fact.

Territorial stress can happen in a multi-cat or multi-animal household. If your cat lives in the house and is allowed to go outside, territorial stress can come from other random cats wandering around the yard.

Sadly, it may even happen when no other animal is involved at all. Maybe it’s stress from a new change in the home – moving, new family members, changes in schedule, rearranging or replacing furniture, etc.


How to Stop Female Cats From Spraying

By looking at the information above, think about what might be causing your cat territorial stress. Determine if that’s the cause of the urine spraying. If that’s the case, Hill’s Pet suggests deterring threats from other household or neighborhood cats and blocking access to cat flaps or doors.

The key is in making sure your cat doesn’t feel that her territory is threatened in any way. Then, she won’t feel the need to mark it.

If territorial stress is not likely to be the issue, look at all the other reasons and work on ruling them out one by one until you get to your answer.


1. Visit the Veterinarian to Rule Out Illness

Whether your cat suddenly started to have incidents at home or has had a spraying problem for a long time, a prophylactic visit to the vet may turn out to be very helpful. At the very least, it’s necessary to rule out any health issues.

Jackie Brown at AllAboutCats says the vet will want to conduct a physical exam and might recommend bloodwork and urinalysis to see if the cat is suffering from an infection or another condition that might cause incidental spraying.

If you get the green light from the vet, then the urine spraying is behavioral. The best way to stop behavioral urine spraying is by spaying the cat.


2. Spaying Prevents 95% Of Cats From Spraying

I highly recommend spaying if your kitty isn’t already, and you aren’t planning for them to be a potential breeder. It can help your cat and your whole household immensely, especially if you’re dealing with urine problems.

Spaying will reduce the odor and might reduce the cat’s motivation to spray. Many of our feline friends will stop this annoying habit, or at least significantly reduce its occurrence, once spayed. It’s not in 100% of the cases, of course, but the benefits go way beyond just that.

Research at the Cornell Feline Health Center has shown that 5% of female cats will continue urine spraying habits even after getting spayed. So, what do you do in that situation?


3. Clean Urine Carefully to Prevent Re-Spraying

Your cat will return to the scene of the crime if she can smell even the tiniest trace of urine. Therefore, make sure to clean the area thoroughly to avoid that from happening.

Do not use an ammonia-based cleaner. Urine contains ammonia, so these cleaners might have the opposite effect of attracting your cat to the dirty spot.

Use an enzyme-based pet cleaner or laundry detergent made to neutralize urine odor. After you rinse it off, mix water and white vinegar to spray on the spot. Scrub the area with rubbing alcohol, but test on a smaller part of it before application if it’s a delicate surface.

Your vet can give you advice on a good scent and stain remover to get rid of leftover odors.


4. Reduce Conflicts in a Multi-Cat Household

If you have more than one pet, especially if they’re all cats, it’s important to encourage a peaceful co-existence between them if they don’t get along too well. They need to feel safe with you and with each other around.

Feed them in separate rooms with different bowls, so they don’t have to fight over the same one. Make sure you have one litter box per cat, plus one extra, and clean them often. Consider the litter box locations, too, to ensure that the cats don’t have to roam too far off to get there.

Cats also need their own little places to retreat from any interactions and to feel safe. However many cats you have, that’s the minimum number of cat tents and hiding places they need to have access to.

If your cats don’t stop fighting after all of that, and even worse, they’re still urine spraying everywhere, consult with a cat behaviorist.


Never Punish Your Cat for Marking Territory

Finally, an important note to always remember – never yell or punish your cat for displaying behavioral problems. When we’re talking about marking territory and spraying, punishments will make the cat even more stressed, leading to even worse problems.

Not to mention, a cat’s brain naturally can’t understand how punishments work.

In order to correct a behavioral problem, train her. Redirect the behavior in a more positive direction over time and continue to show her love and affection. That way, she will show you love and affection back.

Writer: Georgi Petkov

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