Causes of urine marking in cats and effects of environmental management on frequency of marking

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Dec 15;219(12):1709-13. doi: 10.2460/javma.2001.219.1709.


Objective: To evaluate effects of environmental management alone on marking frequency in cats with urine marking and to obtain demographic data on cats with urine marking and data on owner-perceived factors that contributed to urine marking behavior.

Design: Single-intervention study.

Animals: 40 neutered male and 7 spayed female cats.

Procedure: During a 2-week baseline phase, owners maintained a daily record of the number of urine marks. This phase was followed by a 2-week environmental management phase during which owners cleaned recently deposited urine marks daily, scooped waste from the litter box daily, and changed the litter and cleaned the litter box weekly while continuing to record urine marks.

Results: Male cats and cats from multicat households were significantly overrepresented, compared with the general pet cat population in California. The most commonly mentioned causative factors for urine marking were agonistic interactions with other cats outside or inside the home. Environmental management procedures resulted in an overall reduction in urine marking frequency. Among cats that marked > or = 6 times during the baseline phase, females were significantly more likely to respond to treatment (> or = 50% reduction in marking frequency) than were males.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Results suggest that male cats and cats from multicat households are more likely to exhibit urine marking behavior than females and cats from single-cat households. Results also suggest that attention to environmental and litter box hygiene can reduce marking frequency in cats, regardless of sex or household status of the cats, and may come close to resolving the marking problem in some cats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agonistic Behavior
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cats / psychology*
  • Eliminative Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hygiene
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Sex Factors
  • Territoriality
  • Urine