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sleep, or play. Addition of cat nip, cat treats, or interactive play near or on soiled items may change the association. Previously soiled areas may be made aversive though
a malodorous compound (naphthalene, citronella) or a scented chemical cleaner (citrus of pine scents). Ammonia containing cleaning products are not recommended for cleaning soiled items. Treatment of house soiling may include retraining the cat to a litter box through confinement and supervision. This may allow the change of a substrate preference from carpet to litter over the course of several weeks. Owners should reward elimination in appropriate areas and block access to or remove items from the environment that are typically soiled. Drug therapy is
usually not indicated in house soiling cases unless stress
is a causative factor. Stress is more likely to be a causative factor in multi cat households where one cat may block access to litterboxes. Of most importance is the addressing and correcting of litter box factors. Factors to consider include litter box accessibility, the number of boxes, type
of litter, litter box hygiene, and the type of litter box. Soiled areas should be made inaccessible or unattractive.
Urine Spraying/Marking
Spraying or marking usually consists of a small volume of urine with the exception of soiled personal items. Vertical surfaces are sprayed by the cat backing up, standing
tall in the rea, and twitching the tail while depositing urine. Typically the outskirts of the territory are sprayed or specific areas such as windows or doors with threats to the territory. Horizontal surfaces are marked less frequently and generally have a concentration of human scent, such as bath mats or personal articles. Marking with feces (middening) is rare. The most common cause of spraying or marking is the stress of other cats living inside the home or the visualization of cats outside the home. Marking is a normal social and sexual behavior
of cats. The smell of soiled areas attracts the cat to eliminate in the same area.
The prevalence of urine spraying/marking has
been suggested to be as high as 25% of single cat households. Probability may approach 100% that one cat is spraying in households ≥ 10 cats. Ten percent of castrated males continue to spray and five percent of spayed females continue to spray.9 Intact cats mark greater than gonadectomized cats.
Differential behavioral diagnoses for marking include house soiling, a generalized anxiety, or separation anxiety. The condition is unlikely related to medical disease; there is no difference in the urinalysis between voided or sprayed urine samples.10 Urine spraying/ marking is a normal form of territorial communication. Stress or anxiety associated with other cats in the home or outside of the home is the most likely behavioral cause. Inter-cat aggression in the home may be present therefore active or passive aggression should be screened for in multi cat homes. Males spray and fight
An Urban Experience
more often in household with female cats than with males. 11 Changes in the environment or schedule can result in stress. Conflict may be related to a person in the home or stress may be associated with the absence of a preferred attachment figure.
Surgical spaying or neutering is highly effective in reducing or preventing the behavior. Castration is 90% effective in eliminating/markedly reducing spraying behavior and ovariohysterectomy is 95% effective in eliminating/markedly reducing spraying behavior.12 Behavioral treatment of urine spraying/marking is similar to that of house soiling with the one major difference being the addition of psychopharmacotherapy. Veterinarians who correctly diagnose and differentiate urine spraying/marking from house soiling are more likely to recommend environmental management
and medication for treatment.13 Litter box factors
are addressed and improved when treating spraying and marking. Using an enzymatic cleaner, scoop the box daily, and cleaning and replacing all litter weekly was noted to improve urine marking (71%♀, 36%♂ responded with ≥ 50% decrease in marking).14 Stress factors should be identified and avoided or treated concurrently.
Anxiolytic medications are highly effective in eliminating or markedly reducing the behavior. Pharmacotherapy and supportive therapy will be discussed in detail.
1. Horwitz DF. Behavioral and environmental factors associated with elimination behavior problems in cats: a retrospective study. Appl An Beh Sci 1997;52(1- 2);129-137.
2. Bramberger M, Houpt KA. Signalment factors, comorbidity, and trends in behavior diagnoses in cats:736 cases (1991-2001). JAVMA 2006;229(10);1602-6. 3. Sung W, Crowell-Davis SL. Elimination behavior patterns of domestic cats (Felis catus) with and without elimination behavior problems. AJVR 2006; 67(9):1500-4. 4. Neilson, JC. Is bigger better? Litterbox size preference test, in Proceedings. Am Coll Vet Behav/Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2008 Scientific Paper and Poster Session 2008;46-49.
5. Borchelt PL. Cat elimination behavior problems. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1991;21(2):257-364
6. Neilson, JC. Pearl vs. clumping; litter preferences in a population of shelter cats, in Proceedings. Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2001;14.
7. Neilson, JC, Portland Ore; Unpublished data, 2008
8. Neilson, JC. Litter odor control: carbon vs. Bicarbonate of soda, in Proceedings.
Am Coll Vet Behav/Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2008. Scientific Paper and Poster Session 2008;31-34.
9. Hart BL, Cooper L. 1984. Factors relating to urine spraying and fighting in prepubertally gonadectomized cats. JAVMA 1984;184(10):1255-1258.
10. Tynes V, Hart BL, Pryor PA, Bain MJ, Messam LLM. Evaluation of the
role of lower urinary tract disease in cats with urine marking behavior. JAVMA 2003;223(4):457-461.
11. Hart BL, Cooper L. Factors relating to urine spraying and fighting in prepubertally gonadectomized cats. JAVMA [1984, 184(10):1255-1258.
12. Hart BL, Eckstein RA. The role of gonadal hormones in the occurrence of objectionable behaviours in dogs and cats. Applied Animal Behavior Science April 1997, Volume 52, Issues 3-4, Pages 331–344.
13. Bergman L, Hart BL, Bain M, Cliff K. Evaluation of urine marking by cats as a model for understanding veterinary diagnostic and treatment approaches and client attitudes. JAVMA 2002:221(9):1282-1286.
14. Pryor PA, Hart BL, Bain MJ, Cliff KD. Causes of urine marking in cats and effects of environmental management on frequency of marking. JAVMA December 15, 2001, Vol. 219, No. 12, Pages 1709-1713.

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