My scent, my mark, my territory!
Marking the territory is a common behaviour in all felines. They do it in different ways, and they are all important; and they all have one thing in common: the smell.
In fact, odours are so important to a cat’s survival that they have a second organ of scent called the vomeronasal or Jacobsen’s Organ enabling them to ‘taste’ significant smells. I have already wrote an article on how sensitive to smells cats are in case you want to take a look: https://www.mynaughtycat.co.uk/post/air-fresheners-oils-and-incenses-will-hurt-your-kitty
Cats will use their scent glands in their face, paws, bum, sides, and tail and will rub them against everything they want to mark with their scent and make it part of their territory. Feeling their scent in their home will make it theirs, and will make them feel safe and comfortable.
So what are all the ways a cat will mark his territory?
Rubbing their face against something:
When they rub the sides of their face all over your furniture, walls, plants and everything in their path, is a way of saying "My mark, my scent, my territory"
When they rub their face against yours, or they give you those cute head bumps it's one of the ways cats get to say you are theirs, and of course, a sign of affection.
Oh, no! My sofa!- Yes, and the curtains or rugs and any scratchy surface that is taller or longer than them. Wherever they scratch, it's an important place for them.
It's a completely normal behaviour and they are not being "bad kitties" they need to mark these surfaces with the glands in their paws right under the nails and in between their fingers. There are many ways we can lead them to scratch that expensive scratching post and other things you got them instead. You can use catnip to ensure they are more attracted to the lovely scratching posts instead of your curtains.
Cats choose their sleeping spots very carefully. Those that are near a window and almost touching the ceiling waaaaaay high up will be their preferred sleeping spaces.
The place your cat sleeps over is a place that will totally smell like them (yes, even you), those long baths they take help this. This is why cats choose your freshly washed laundry clothes to sleep onto. They need it to be theirs too. Also, they are super comfortable, and if passed through the dryer they are warm and that is the best feeling ever for them.
Get an electric mat. Iron a towel and put it next to you. They are irresistible!
"Tail up, bum against the wall": we've all seen the pose, and then, smelled the results and of course, we hated it.
Urine spraying is the most horrible, and sadly known way of marking a territory for cats. It's a very unsettling issue for owners of unneutered kittens, or multi-cat households and even "well behaved" cats who did it just that one time.
It's their way of owning something, and they will do it when they are absolutely sure that piece of furniture is not theirs. It might smell like another cat or animal, or it might be new. But they definitely do not own it.
They also spray to mate. That is, when they reach 6 months old and are ready, males and female cats will mark their territory a lot more because they will attract the opposite sex cats with their deposits. So when the females are in heat, they might mark the territory too!
Cats spray during socially stressful situations, possibly to increase their self-assurance, or as a coping strategy for stress. So if you have just remodelled the kitchen, adopted a dog or another cat, had a baby, or moved houses, spraying might come into place.
It's different than spraying. Their pose is just the same as when they pee. They are just doing it in your living room or bed instead of the litter box.
There is also a perimeter marking:
All the areas where air and light can come into the house. All the windows, and doors. Marking these places delimits their space with the outdoors and will alert trespassers.
There might be other cats, or animals they can see out those windows, or maybe is just people. But they need to help their territory be safe. You can put as many cat mats and litter boxes and scratching posts as you can near these places.
They forget where the box was:
Kittens tend to get confused in large houses or if the litter box is well hidden, and senile cats will also forget where the litter box is, and are more likely to have bladder infections than young cats. Also, elder cats might need a lower litter box and a softer cat litter sand, just like kittens.
They hate the litter sand:
There are so many options and so many good ones that is hard to guess. Most people tell me they keep using the cat litter the cat used to have because they feel the cat is used to it. But that might not be the case, thinner sand is easier to scratch and doesn't hurt their beans. Clumping sand is easier to scoop up and odour free. And the golden rule: do not put more than 2 inches in the litter box! They don't need so much, and it makes it harder for them to find a good spot.
Please take your cat to the vet to rule out any diseases before considering their behaviour as "bad behaviour". Thanks!
What to do:
1) Check with the vet. Your kitty might have a bladder infection. Or any other illness you are not able to find without a proper check out.
2) The litter boxes should be 1 per cat + 1. Should be scooped up every day. Cleaned every 1 or 2 weeks (not before, they need their scent in there too) The more litter boxes you have near doors or windows, the better.
3) Up. up. High up! Add cat trees, perches, and shelfs way high close to the ceiling and next to a window. This will boost their confidence and help them mark their sleeping posts instead of yours.
4) Feliway! (remove any air fresheners you have) Plug these in every room. They really work!
5) Do not wash every cat mat at the same time, they need their smell in at least one of them.
6) Plan ahead: if you know there will be a party at home, a new baby, or something that might stress your cat, find a room where he can be at peace, away from the mess and the noise and make sure they have the 5 basic needs:
-High space to jump to and look out the window
-All his belongings that smell of him
7) The scratching post should be 2 times larger than the cat stretched. Otherwise they will not be able to stretch the joints of their arms and might choose to scratch something else instead.
8) Do not use bleach! It contains ammoniac just like the feline's pee. If you need to wash something up, even the litter box, use washing up liquid or any other cleaner (the odourless the better)
9) Get a litter box with a lid. These are super in case the cat decides to spray their litter boxes. Also, provides privacy. And retain their smell for them, not for you.
10) Consult with a cat behaviourist. When everything else fails, a cat behaviourist can find little details you might have missed.
Last but not least: Do not tell him off, do not put him on time outs, do not yell or spray him with water. This will only make him feel worse and more insecure. Remember they are trying to tell us something with their spraying, and it's completely natural to them.