The Real Deal - A Case Study in Stopping Urine Marking

Have I mentioned that I have wonderful clients?  Well, I do.  This particular wonderful client, let’s call her Ms. W, loves cats.  She has two beautiful adult female cats that have been enjoying life together, problem free, in Ms. W’s lovely home.  

Everything was going just fine, until Ms. W happened to pass through a cat rescue and fell in love with a strong, handsome man that she had to take home with her.  He is a white and grey tabby, strapping young fellow that she calls Toby.  Ms. W took Toby home with her and let the new housemates get acquainted naturally.  For the past few months everything seemed to be going well, until Mr. W noticed glistening, discolored vertical lines on her walls (just above cat height) and took a sniff.  I think you know where this is going.

Ms. W brought Toby to see me yesterday to take a good look at him and check him for urinary issues. On physical exam, Toby was completely normal...well, he is a bit overweight.  

It is always best to have your veterinarian perform a thorough physical exam to rule out medical causes for this urinary problem.  Once medical reasons are ruled out, it’s time to consider other causes for this behavior.  You see, there are lots of reasons why cats urinate outside of their litterbox.  Cats under stress - both emotional and physical -  urinate outside the box.  Science is not sure exactly why this is, but I think it is their way of communicating to us that something is not right.  People often use the word “spite” when the are referring to this behavior.  This word is not in my vocabulary to describe any cat.  Ever.  I think spite is a uniquely human emotion.

Ms. W’s cats gave her a big clue about the root cause of this behavior.  Urine in a vertical line down a wall is most often associated with urine marking. Cats use urine as a means of communication without having to have a direct confrontation.  Clearly, Toby’s arrival has caused stress in the household but we can’t be sure that it is Toby doing the marking.  You see, Ms. W has not caught anyone in the act, and female cats can spray too.

The best thing that Ms. W could do was hit the restart button.  When she put the cats together in the same living space right away, she inadvertently set up a very stressful situation for all three. Introducing cats very slowly is the key to harmony (and likely no urine marking) in a multicat household.

So, Ms. W and I are coming up with a plan and we are going to work together.  Ms. W is going to put Toby in a bedroom by himself.  She is going to make sure that he has all of the environmental enrichment that he needs to feel safe, secure and happy in his “studio apartment”, including hunting for his food (Want to know more about this?  Check out, two litter boxes, adequate hiding spaces, multiple water sources, vertical space to climb and hide, and adequate scratching post options.

Ms. W’s original two cats will have the run of the house that they are used to, which will make them very happy.  The ladies will have a chance to get to know Toby, and he will get to know them,  by sniffing him under the door gradually and without physical confrontation.  Ms. W will be able to improve the scent communications by adding positive feline pheromones (Feliway) to the environment.  She will continue with this living arrangement for one month and let us know how it goes....and we won’t be reuniting them in the same way.  

If the urine marking stops, we will know we are on the right track.  If not, we will investigate further, and you can follow me as together we solve this feline mystery.