My One-Eyed Cat Keeps Spraying

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, discusses why a cat might feel the need to establish status in a cat hierarchy.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: September 23, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: I have a one-eyed Oriental cat named Popeye who has some issues. When I got this cat, he was less than 1 year old and used the litterbox. For the last couple of years, he’s pooped in the cat box and but urine everywhere. I constantly clean after him. I have tried everything on the market, and some things my vet suggested, with no luck. I have pretty much resolved myself to clean up after this cat forever. Other than the cat spraying, he's a great cat. I also have another Oriental cat, a Maine Coon and a rescue. They all get along and the cat in question was the third cat in line to come here.

A: Your cat’s behavior can be changed — but without more information, I can only suggest generalized solutions. I assume all four of your cats are spayed and neutered.

Popeye is marking his territory and establishing his position in the feline hierarchy through spraying. Additionally, the litterbox situation may contribute to the problem. Poor litterbox maintenance, not enough cat boxes and poor locations for the litterboxes can trigger urinating outside of the litterbox.

Cats mark territory in a variety of ways, some we find more acceptable in our homes than others. In addition to spraying, cats mark their territory when they scratch surfaces. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their feet, so whenever they scratch, they broadcast information about themselves to the world. The visible scratches also help mark territory and identify the scratcher. Placing both horizontal scratchers and scratching posts in all of the rooms of your house will provide your cat another way to mark territory.

Provide lots of vertical territory for all of your cats throughout the house. One way cats demonstrate their status in the flexible cat hierarchy is by where they sit in relationship to each other. The cat hierarchy changes, depending on a variety of factors including: who is in the room, the time of day, food availability and others. Vertical territory can be cat trees, shelves, perches and household furniture.

Good cat litterbox care is an important part of the equation. Provide large uncovered litterboxes in different areas of the house. Place them in locations where the cats cannot be cornered or ambushed and they have expansive views of the whole room and its entrances. Because you have four cats, you need five litterboxes that are scooped every day. Dump the boxes every two to four weeks, wash them with water and then refill with fresh litter.

Because cats will target the same areas repeatedly if they are not urine-scent free, clean up all of the urinated and sprayed areas with an excellent enzyme cleaner.
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Reader Comments

s    Lake City, FL

12/8/2012 11:43:04 PM

Very important and informational article. Thank you esp. for including the fact that if not cleaned thoroughly, a spot will be targeted again- nothing else I've read recently about cat spraying has mentioned that.
Thanks again for needed and thorough article!

Samantha    Mission, BC

9/28/2011 12:01:18 PM

Good article.

Karen    CBS, NL

9/27/2011 8:34:17 AM

great article. thanks

Shirley    Tucson, AZ

9/27/2011 4:11:12 AM

Good advice and thank you.

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