Why Cats Mark by Urinating

Cats mark territory with urine indoors and outdoors.
i cat image by matko from Fotolia.com

While people communicate through speaking and writing, cats communicate with chemicals called pheromones. Some of these pheromones are secreted in your cat's urine, making their messages quite stinky for their humans. Cats urine-mark for a number of reasons, a behavior which can be frustrating to deal with.

Territorial Marking

Cats spray their urine on vertical surfaces, although some cats may urinate on horizontal surfaces as well. The urine contains pheromones that are unique to each kitty. When a cat sprays his urine on a surface, he is essentially letting other cats know that the surface and the area around that surface belong to him. Cats who smell the scent will either avoid that area or urinate over the area themselves to attempt to claim the territory.

Mating Call

The most common types of cats that urine mark are intact males that haven't been neutered. Intact females may also spray their urine in and around your home, especially when they are in heat. These cats use their urine as a type of personal ad to other cats in the area, letting them know that they are available to mate. Mainly this type of behavior is motivated by the presence of hormones in the body, such as testosterone in males and estrogen in females. In 90 percent of cases, neutering male cats solves this issue, stopping unwanted urine spraying for mating purposes, according to PetPlace.com. Females that are spayed stop urine marking in 95 percent of cases. Both of these procedures remove the reproductive organs from a cat and thus the sex-related hormones that encourage urine marking.

Stressed Feline

Cats can become stressed out due to a multitude of reasons, including the addition of another pet to the home, a new person moving in or a move to a new home. Sometimes, something as simple as moving a piece of furniture or the presence of a strange cat outside the window can cause anxiety for your cat. Some cats, even those that have been fixed, deal with this stress by urine marking. The scent of their own urine around them has a calming effect on an anxiety-ridden kitty. Cats that urine mark may also be experiencing conflicts over resources with other cats in your home, such as litter boxes or food. This is a problem especially common in multiple-cat households, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Medical Causes

Some cats, if experiencing pain or discomfort from a medical issue, will mark areas with urine. The scent of the urine can comfort the cat. In other cases, the cat may not be urine-marking at all; rather he is urinating outside of his litter box because he is suffering from a condition such as a urinary tract infection. Such conditions make it uncomfortable for him to urinate, something he may associate with the litter box; this makes him unwilling to return to the box to urinate. He may also have an increased urge to urinate and simply can't make it to the box. A trip to the veterinarian is definitely in order to rule out a medical cause for your cat's unusual urination habits.


Once your cat has been given a clean bill of health from his veterinarian and been spayed or neutered, you can try other options to stop his urine marking. Synthetic cat pheromone liquids, sold by pet supply stores, can calm your cat and discourage him from marking in the areas you spray them in. An anti-anxiety medication can help to ease your cat's stress, making him less likely to mark inside your home with urine. Providing at least as many litter boxes in your home as you have cats, plus one extra, helps prevent problems with urine marking, as does having separate feeding spots in your home, according to Best Friends Animal Society. Not feeling like he needs to compete with other cats in the home over food or access to the litter box will relieve your cat's stress and thus his urge to mark the area with urine.

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