Whether they’re in the wild, or in their own yard, cats are territorial creatures and rely on nonverbal communication to signal to other cats the extent of their domain. Spraying and marking are ways in which your cat asserts his or her presence.
What Is Marking?
Marking is normal behavior that helps to define boundaries and reassure the cat that the area is familiar. Marking involves spraying urine and depositing “pheromones” in the selected area. Your cat has special glands in the facial area, around the tail region and in the foot pads. Experts have identified 17 different substances acting as chemical markers in cats. A cat will rub its face or cheek against an object to release the pheromones, communicating that the area is familiar and safe. The presence of facial pheromones has a calming effect on cats. Items that have been marked with facial pheromones are less likely to be sprayed with a urine marker.
What Is Spraying?
Urine spraying is often stimulated by a new visual or olfactory cue in the environment and is a way for your cat to define her boundaries and confirm her social standing. For example, your cat may spray as a result of seeing or smelling a new cat in the yard, or when you introduce a new person, pet or item into the household. Spraying is also connected with mating behavior. A male cat, excited by the scent of a female in heat, will spray to mark his domain and discourage competition. Spraying is not an elimination problem but if your cat suddenly stops using the litter box you should seek medical advice.