Tips for Marking Prevention Elimination

catbwOur last blog in January highlighted the importance of knowing how to identify whether the cat is marking or just peeing where it should not.  We described ‘associative’ marking as a form of cat communication and why such marking may occur.  This blog continues with helpful tips on overcoming and even preventing ‘associative’ marking.

Please note that you should always consult with your vet to determine if there is any medical urination or physical problems.  Such problems increase stress which would contribute to markings. That being said, listed below are action steps that you can take to either prevent or overcome ‘associative’ marking.  

Here are a few things to avoid when treating urine marking:

  1. Do not rub your cat’s nose in his urine.
  2. Do not throw things at your cat.
  3. Do not clean up accidents with an ammonia-based cleanser. Urine contains ammonia, so cleaning with ammonia can attract your cat that same spot to urinate again.  Clean accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralize pet odors.

Some tips for overcoming / preventing associative makings:

  1. Neuter or spay your cat. – This is a proven treatment to eliminate markings that are used to send a message to other cats that he/she is available to mate.   It is also a treatment that can reduce and with many cats even prevent marking associated with territory conflict.
  2. Reduce stress by trying to determine whether any change in the house or routine has taken place.
  3. Remove sources of stress from any loud noise from the cat’s environment.
  4. Use plug in synthetic cat pheromone (spray or diffuser) to create a calmer environment.  Place where the cat has marked.
  5. Increase play, training and quality time between the cat and those that live in the household and with the pet sitter.  Provide cat trees and scratch pads to increase exercise and reduce stress.

For multiple cat households:

  1. Determine which cat is marking. Note sure which one… speak with your veterinarian about giving fluorescein to one of your cats.  Fluorescein is a harmless dye that causes urine to glow blue under ultraviolet light for about 24 hours. Similar to number five above, to reduce conflict among multiple cats in the home, increase play with individual cats in different areas of the home to prevent confrontation, provide multiple scratching posts, toys, and perch areas (cat trees/shelves) to rest without confrontation. Also, provide multiple water and food bowls.
  2. Whether there is an issue with marking or not, households with multiple cats must have multiple litter boxes.  This is especially true if there is a cat mate are preventing another one from using the litter box, then conflict and stress increases and cats will send a strong message through markings and other forms of communication.
  3. Ensure that there is one litter-box per cat plus one extra litter box. Example, if you have two cats, there should be three litter boxes in the house.  Additional boxes may need to be placed where frequent markings have occurred.  Scoop at least once a day.
  4. Cats can mark in response to dogs as well as other animals.  If you have a dog, keep the litter boxes away from your dog’s food and water bowls.

*Content adapted from Animal Behavior Institute (ABI).

What is Feline Spraying/Marking?

sprayingThis blog summaries the distinction between cat urination markings and will be continued in the upcoming January blogs with a discussion about urination problems and how they can be either prevented or eliminated. 

It is important to know how to identify whether the cat is marking or just peeing where it should not. Urine marking refers to the ways in which cats spray urine to send information and put their scent out into their environment. Marking can be vertical sprays (most common), horizontal spraying (not as common) and associative.

As the picture above shows, spaying typically includes a cat backing up to a vertical object like the side of furniture, a wall, a pet carrier, etc. The cat stands with his/her body erect with the tail extended straight up in the air, and sprays urine onto the surface. The tail and body typically twitches while he/she is spraying.

The urine smells extra strong to humans because it is not just regular urine – the spray contains extra communication chemicals to send other cats key messages! It is thought that this spray may contain information about sex, age, hormonal state, assertiveness and general health.

Associative marking - there are conditions surrounding the cat that can promote cat associative marking behavior – examples include a cat being punished and becomes anxious or the owner is away from the cat for a long period of time and it urinates on something personal where the owner’s smell is concentrated such as a bed or clothes. From a cat’s perspective, they are ATTEMPTING TO REDUCE THEIR ANXIETY – they are not retaliating against you (which is what a human view might deduce from this behavior). 

Read next week’s blog to learn more about urine markings and problems and how to effectively address them.

*Content adapted from Animal Behavior Institute (ABI).

What is Prey Sequencing?

All cats need to have their natural ‘prey sequence’ satisfied.  As guardians of cats, we are responsible for ensuring that such innate needs are met. Prey sequencing is a pattern of behaviors that follows the same sequence every time.  For cats, there are two components, stalking and catching, that comprise a four Cat Playingstep process listed below.  Have you observed your cat exhibit these 4 steps?

  • Step 1 - Staring
  • Step 2 - Stalking/chase
  • Step 3 - Pounce/grab
  • Step 4 - Kill bite

Playing is one way that cats demonstrate the prey sequence.  Did you know that different types of toys or enrichment will elicit different components of the prey sequence?  If we play with our cat and elicit only the chase component (as is the case with laser pointers) we may not be fulfilling all of the cat's needs. Fortunately, there are any number of free or commercially-available items that can be used to address the entire sequence.  This is important since cats view toys as their prey and instinctively perform the prey sequence with their toys.

Your cat needs this sequence satisfied not only at home, but also during boarding periods.  The Hotel 4 Cats highly recommends that you provide your cat(s) with his/her favorite toys during their vacation boarding period.  Such toys help enable them to have a satisfied, active and playful time while they act upon their instinctive need to stare, stalk/chase, pounce/grab and go for the kill bit during their time away from home.  Your cat’s toys from home also help keep him/her calm with familiar loving scents from home.
Review the 20 frame sequence below and see if you can determine the frames that depict each of the four components.  What prey sequence does your cat’s toys supports?

We invite you to read our next week’s blog to get additional ideas of types of toys and ways your cat’s environment can be enriched to stimulate each prey sequence.
The above has been adapted from an Animal Behavior Institute (ABI) study guide.

A Cat’s Functional Contribution To Society

autumn catWhether you live in the country or the city cats actually play a significant role in our population. But what might that be?  

Cats have played a very important functional role in society.  They have been depended upon to protect and keep grain storage areas, barns and our homes clear of mice and rats. This can be verified not only by farmers and city residents but also by scientific research that has identified that when cats were nearly eradicated from areas, local rat populations quickly multiplied causing potentially costly business or personal financial damages, community health worries and ecological concerns due rats preying upon other animal populations.  

Although the above contributions are significant to humankind, many would agree that a cat’s invaluable contribution to society is their caring and loving support toward their guardians.  Those that share their lives with cats know that they have a gentle touch, a calming purr, charming playful gestures, bask in the sun during long-lazy naps and are low maintenance ---- all attractive characteristics.  But don’t let these characteristics mislead your perception about them.  They are not lazy….they just know their own value and don’t need to brag about it!  

So, the next time you hug your cat or see a stray cat walking through your yard, you may want to say “Thank You” for your love and for naturally protecting our communities from costly rodent invasions.

This blog has been adapted from Yahoo News “What If All the Cats in the World Suddenly Died?”