In the previous blogs, we reviewed the types of cat marking behavior as well as the four basic causes. Unfortunately, owners of house-soiling cats frequently abandon or give up their pets to shelters where many are un-adoptable and are eventually euthanized. However, there are several things that can be done to remedy cat marking behavior.
Guidelines developed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) propose two universal suggestions for the management of all cases of house-soiling. The first one is optimizing the litter box/tray. Litter boxes should be provided in multiple, low-traffic areas so that each social group has an adequate number of toileting sites in different places. You should have more more litter boxes than you do cats, and they should all be in different locations within the house...not all grouped together in one location. The litter box should be 1 ½ times the size of the cat from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail. Additionally, the litter box should be scooped daily and completely replace the litter into a clean box once a week to help reduce the offending scent of the “other cat.”
The second strategy is fulfilling the "five pillars" of feline environmental for your cat. These include providing a safe place for your cats to climb and hide; providing multiple and separated resources such as food, water, toileting areas (again, yes, that’s important!), play areas and resting or sleeping areas; provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior; provide positive and predictable human-cat social interactions; and provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat's sense of smell.
Additionally, because marking is often a sign of stress or anxiety, behavioral therapy can provide additional treatment help. Your veterinarian or an animal behavior expert can evaluate your cat’s behavior problem and help you develop a treatment plan.
In households where there are multiple cats determining who’s misbehaving may be a little tricky and you may need to do some investigating before you attempt to remedy any marking behavior. Isolating one cat at a time to see if the marking behavior stops while he’s in isolation may provide some answers. This process of elimination is not guaranteed, especially if the culprit’s behavior is stress-induced. In this case, isolation is only removing him from the source of stress and the inappropriate behavior may not occur.
Your veterinarian can provide you with specific treatment suggestions for each diagnostic category, take-home instructions for cat owners, and what steps practitioners can take if the frustrated client is considering euthanasia. House-soiling and spraying is a challenging and emotionally charged issue. Effectively managing this common behavioral problem can reinforce veterinarian-client-patient relationships and ultimately help reduce the number of cats who are abandoned, sent to shelters and euthanized.