For female unspayed cats in a natural setting, urine marking is a normal behavior used to attract a mate. In urine marking, the cat will sniff the target area, bend all legs slightly, and urinate a small amount on a vertical object. Some cats crouch to spray. Only 5% of female cats mark indoors but the problem is hard to treat.
As mentioned, marking is a way for a female cat to attract a mate. Therefore, in an indoor setting, cats may begin marking as a normal instinctive behavior. This behavior may be reinforced inadvertently and eventually become habit.
Studies have found that certain environmental situations contribute to this behavior problem. Frustration and stress seem to be key factors. A new cat in the home, lack of attention, punishment, a change in routine, a new house, or even a new person in the home can lead to urine marking behavior.
The first thing you need to do is identify the cause of the problem. If you are able to identify the stressors that may be causing the problem you may be able to reduce them. This will eliminate cues that trigger the behavior, making the behavior easier to correct. The references at the end contain ideas for reducing some of the common stressors.
The second thing you should do is thoroughly clean any soiled areas with a cleaner that does not contain ammonia. The smell of ammonia attracts cats since it is similar to their own urine. A vinegar and water solution, or a cleaning product from a pet store or veterinary clinic should be used to clean the area(s).
There are several suggested behavioral methods of treating this problem. Be creative and use supplies around your house but remember that any method you use should not further stress the cat. The following are some popular methods:
As you use these methods pay close attention to the cat's reaction. If the cat's anxiety level increases then discontinue and move on to another method.
Unfortunately, results of behavior modification methods vary. Some cats may be cured while others will simply change the urine marking site.
If the above suggestions fail, your veterinarian may prescribe treatment in addition to behavior modification. Two commonly used drug treatments follow:
Drug dosages can be reduced as the behavior decreases and treatment is eventually discontinued or maintained at low levels. Always ask about side effects and drug reactions of any medication your veterinarian prescribes.
Good luck and please be patient! Remember, the cat is following mother nature's orders, not purposely being bad!
Beaver, Bonnie. Feline Behaviour: A Guide for Veterinarians. W.B. Saunders Company: Philadelphia, PA. 1992. pp 209-213.
Beaver, Bonnie. Veterinary Aspects of Feline Behaviour. The C.V. Mosby Company: St. Louis. 1990. pp 168-170.
Farrell, Valerie and Neville, Peter. Manual of Feline Behaviour. British Small Animal Veterinary Association: England. 1994. pp 60-63.
Hart, Benjamin and Lynette. Canine and Feline Behavioural Therapy. Lea & Febiger: Philadelphia, PA. 1985. pp 136-145.