Indoor marking

A good understanding of feline communication is needed to understand the issue of indoor marking.

Educating owners about the way in which urine and faeces can be used as a means of leaving important messages in the feline world is often a major step in dealing with these problems. Cats have a highly developed olfactory sense and social odours have particular significance in social communication in the feline world (Bradshaw, 1992). The role of urine marking in communication between intact males and females at breeding times is well documented (Gorman & Trowbridge, 1989), but urine is also used to provide temporal information. The role of marking in feline time-sharing systems or as a form of territorial identification is likely to be more relevant in cases of indoor urine marking in domestic cats (Leyhausen, 1965).

Although urine spraying is the most common form of indoor marking to be referred for behavioural therapy, cats can also mark their territory by depositing faeces in prominent places (middening), by squat marking with urine (Borchelt, 1991), and by scratching to leave both a visual and an olfactory message. Whatever the outward manifestation of the marking, it is important to understand why the cat feels the need to deposit messages within its core territory. In the wild, cats use the central part of their territory for the activities of eating, sleeping and playing, and marking behaviours are only performed at the periphery of the territory or out in the home range beyond (Bradshaw, 1992).

In the past, marking has been associated with confident individuals who are trying to assert their control, but it is now thought that marking is the act of an insecure cat that feels the need to identify with the territory. The presence of scent signals that identify the location as their own appears to result in increased confidence, and while spray marking is important for communication with other cats when it is used in the great outdoors, it is thought that indoor spraying is an important method of self-reassurance (Hart & Hart, 1985).

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