When cats become all of a quiver
Cats have become a much-loved pet, domesticated over thousands of years, though they retain much of the biology and behaviour of the wild cats they originated from.
This means that they have very complex needs so looking after them well can sometimes be challenging. A good example is their natural territorial behaviour which can be expressed using a range of methods, including spraying urine, which obviously becomes a problem when your cat feels the need to do it indoors.
Cats use urine as a scent signal or ‘mark’ for themselves and to communicate with other cats in their territory. ‘Entire’ (unneutered) male cats are particularly active in this behaviour, using it to communicate with rival males and potential mates, although both male and female cats actually have the ability to spray.
However, in some cases, the spraying behaviour may be due to anxiety or stress, therefore reasons for your cat exhibiting spraying behaviour can be very varied. It can include situations such as decorating and building work, threats from neighbouring cats or a new cat in the household. However, each individual is different, as is their situation and there could be many different causes for this behaviour.
The motivation for spraying behaviour is very different from the need to urinate. There is also a clear difference between a cat relieving itself in a normal way and in scent marking. To urinate, the cat squats and deposits a volume of urine on a horizontal surface- the carpet, duvet or bath are commonly chosen sites. To spray, the cat stands up, usually making a treading motion with the hindlegs, tail upright and quivering. A small volume of urine is sprayed backwards onto a vertical surface such as a wall, leaving an obvious scent mark. Cats commonly choose a spot close to the door or window to spray.
If your cat is either urinating inappropriately or exhibiting spraying behaviour, this may be due to a health or behavioural issue.
While neutering may help, it does not always prevent the development or onset of spraying behaviour, as it can also be linked with health and behaviour problems. The action that you take in order to treat your cat’s spraying behaviour depends on its cause.
There are a number of things that you can try in order to treat the problem including speaking to your vet. They will check that your cat is healthy and rule out any urinary problems and can refer you to a recommended clinical animal behaviourist who may be able to help if it is found to be a behavioural issue.
Make sure your cat can reach all the things that it needs (bed, water, litter or outdoors) without having to pass things or other animals that may scare him/her.