Cats mark territory by urinating or leaving their scent as a way of claiming ownership of you and its space.
A cat will mark its territory to keep strange cats away. It is a behavior that occurs when your cat has many other cats in its vicinity. Your cat will also mark its territory when it feels stressed or threatened and when it is sexually receptive.
This article will explore why a cat will mark a territory and how it does it.
Reasons for Territory Marking
1. It’s a Way of Dealing With Stress
When your cat is feeling distressed, it begins to feel anxious. Instinctively, it marks its boundaries to deter the threat from approaching. The threat could be:
- A cat in the vicinity
- A new cat in the home
- A new person in your home like a baby
- A new pet like a dog or turtle
If your cat is leaving urine frequently in certain places, it may be trying to emphatically tell you, “I am feeling stressed.”
Look for stress triggers in your cat’s environment when you see a lot of urine marking in its territory, and it is not mating season.
Urine in the house indicates a problem with your cat.
2. To Advertise Sexual Availability & Receptivity
Sexually mature cats mark their territory by urinating up and across different surfaces. This type of marking is more common in male cats than female cats.
It happens when your tom is ready to mate and wants to attract a queen. When the queen detects the smell of the tom, it will come into the male’s territory if it is ready to mate. The urine of an unneutered tomcat is very strong to attract females.
This type of territory marking can be seen in unneutered males and some unspayed female cats.
3. Your Cat Is in a New Environment
When your cat enters a new environment, it marks it as its territory to claim ownership and let other cats know that the space is taken. This type of marking happens when you move into a new house or if you are the cat’s new owner.
Your cat will mark certain spots in a new house using pee as its marker. Both female and male cats can do this, especially if they are part of a multiple pet household with competition for space and dominance. Some cats mark their territory with poo.
Domesticated felines have two tiny anal glands, known as the anal sacs, on each side of the rectum. These glands secrete a very strong-smelling fluid that squirts onto a cat’s stool as it poops. The fluid is the territory marker, and it deters other cats from coming into your cat’s space.
For a new person, your cat will mark you by rubbing its scent glands on you, leaving you smelling of it. The cat may head butt you or tread on you. The scent glands are on the paw pads, lips, cheeks, forehead, tail, and flanks.
When the cat touches you and leaves its scent, it also leaves pheromones detected only by other cats. So, when another cat approaches you, it smells your cat’s scent on you and steers clear to avoid confrontation with your resident furry friend.
4. Your Cat May Be Ill
Medical issues, especially those involving the urinary tract, can cause your cat to refuse to use the litter box. Your feline may pee at specific public places to get your attention. The peeing may be mistaken for territory marking, but it is actually your cat trying to signal you that it is unwell.
This type of marking occurs typically with male cats with a urinary tract infection or, worse still, blockage of the urinary system. Your cat may lick itself, cry out in pain when urinating and take a long time to urinate.
Do not be surprised to see your cat pee in front of you, in the sink, or in the bathtub.
If you see small pools of pee in your bathtub, shoe, sink or anywhere unusual and notice your cat is always trying to reach its genitals to lick them, take it to the vet.
Fixed Cats and Their Territory
Fixed cats are male felines that have been neutered or castrated or female cats that are spayed.
The vet surgically removes a male cat’s testes or a female cat’s ovaries and uterus so that it is not able to father or mother kittens.
However, if your cat lives in a predictable environment where it doesn’t have competition or conflict and doesn’t need a mate, it will probably not mark its territory because it doesn’t feel the need. However, having said that, roughly ten percent of neutered males and five percent of spayed females continue to spray to mark territory regularly.
The good news is that the urine of a neutered or spayed cat is less pungent smelling than that of an unneutered one.
Treating Inappropriate Cat Marking Behaviors
While marking is necessary and part of being a feline, it can also indicate poor training in your cat. When you notice the following behaviors, it means that your cat is indulging in inappropriate marking behavior.
- Marking territory with poo
- Urinating indoors to mark territory
- Peeing on furniture or rugs
Here is how to treat such behaviors.
a) Remove the Stress Triggers
Bad marking behavior is typically a response to a trigger. Your cat may be responding to a stress trigger by marking its territory to deter the perceived threat. Your job as its cat parent is to look for the trigger and remove it to make your cat feel at ease.
Here is what to do if the trigger is another person or a new pet that needs a home.
Train your cat to live in the same space with your new baby or a new pup or kitten. If it is a new pet, here is a step-by-step guide to follow. Get a family member or friend to help you with this.
- Put up a screen to divide the room.
- Take your cat and let your friend/family member take the new pup/kitten.
- Stand at opposite sides of the room with the screen between you.
- Let the animals go at least a few feet from the screen. Both animals can smell and see each other.
- When you see the pets notice each other, call out their names and toss them a treat simultaneously. Make sure you aim the goodies behind them.
- Do this for two days. That helps your resident cat to associate the new pup or kitten with its name and a treat.
- As the animals run after their treats, they leave their scents on the floor on their side of the room. Now, switch the animals so that they are on each other’s “side” of the room. It allows them to get used to each other’s scent. But do not force any of them if they are not comfortable changing sides.
- As the pets get used to each other’s scent and become familiar with the new presence, they relax because they are not feeling threatened anymore.
If it is a new person, let your cat get used to the new member’s scent by leaving their clothes in strategic places. The more the newbie’s scent permeates your environment, the more familiar and comfortable your resident cat will become with them.
It may take time for your cat to overcome its fears, but be patient and make the introduction gradual.
b) Spay or Neuter Your Cat
Advertising for a mate is one of the primary causes for marking. If your cat is marking its territory inappropriately to attract a mate, consider spaying or neutering it to eliminate the need for sexual territory marking.
Since your cat will no longer try to attract a mate, it won’t feel the need to mark its territory.
c) Determine Which Cat Is the Culprit
In a multiple cat household, figure out which cat is the culprit and deal with it. Find out what is stressing it and alleviate the stress.
Do not punish all the cats simultaneously for the marking behavior of one cat.
My cat, Sophia, came to us from a multiple pet household. While she was at her previous home, she always marked the house with urine and poop, which is why they found her a new home.
When she got to our house, she appeared to relax after a few weeks and with some training. Soon enough, she stopped the marking and was more receptive to the touch of my family members.
The best thing we could have done for Sophia was to get her out of the multiple pet household because the competition and constant dominance was her trigger to inappropriate territory marking.
It is critical for the wellbeing of all the cats that you find out which cat is bullying or too dominant and retrain it to play nice with other housemates. Start by isolating each cat and see which one indulges in the inappropriate marking behavior.
d) Consider Using Commercial Pheromones
Pheromone products are helpful with spraying and other aggressive marking territory behavior.
For example, you can use these pheromone products to manage territory marking behavior in your cat when moving into a new house.
You can use FELIWAY CLASSIC spray, a popular pheromone product, and spray it in the house to help your feline friend feel at home. Once it feels at home, it is less inclined to mark its territory.
Not only will it help with mitigating the territory marking, but it can also help with issues like hiding and scratching that may come with the move into the new house.
Train Your Cat to Stop Territory Marking
- First and foremost, do not hit the cat or get violent with it. Marking is an integral part of a feline’s existence. Instead, exercise patience and continue showing your cat love.
- Remember, aggression towards your cat makes it distrust you. And if your feline friend doesn’t trust you, it will be afraid of you, making it harder to train it.
- Clean the soiled area properly but do not use a strong-smelling cleaner that will interfere with your cat. We recommend not using ammonia when cleaning a room marked with urine. That is because the ammonia smell mimics the ammonia in the urine and triggers your cat to continue peeing indoors.
- Identify ways to make the soiled areas inaccessible or unattractive. In some cases, cat parents have decided to feed or give treats in these areas to change their cat’s association of the spot with territory marking.
- Restrict access to windows and doors that have a view of the outside. This limits your cat’s view of the outdoors and sightings of other cats that may trigger territory marking behaviors. As long as your cat feels there is no competition, it is unlikely to mark its territory.
- Keep guests’ belongings and your baby’s play or travel items away from your cat. These are some of the objects that feature a stranger’s scent, triggering the need for marking, and you want to remove all the triggers from the cat’s environment. Set your cat up to succeed at managing territory marking.
Cats Mark Inappropriately When Stressed
Contrary to what some people think, your cat doesn’t just mark territory blindly. It only does so when it perceives a threat that may come into its territory and edge it out or hurt it.
Your cat may not know that your baby, visitor, or other pet is not a threat. And that is where you come in. Your role in introducing your feline pet to the rest of the world is critical to it marking or not marking territory.
Remember, your cat relies on you to act in its best interests. So, remove the triggers, protect it from undue distress from outside cats, and be patient with it. And when it marks its territory appropriately, let it.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku