Q: We own 12 spayed and neutered cats. They all see the vet and are healthy. A few months ago, one or more of our cats (we don’t know which one) started spraying the carpet, our towels, our pillows and the bathtub. I have tried to clean with vinegar to no avail. This morning I found poop on the carpet! Please help.
A: Cat’s territorial marking through spraying and midden marking often occurs when there are a large number of cats living under one roof. Your cats may be having challenges demonstrating their status in the flexible cat hierarchy or there may be inter-cat aggression occurring between a few of the cats. Too many cats in too small of an area will also trigger cat territorial marking.
A number of changes to the environment can help modify the behavior. Start by providing the cats with a variety of high places (vertical territory) in all of the rooms of your house. In addition to giving them more space, increasing the vertical territory will allow the cats to demonstrate their status in the hierarchy by where they position themselves in relationship to other resident cats. Examples of vertical territory include cat trees, shelves, cabinets and other tall household furniture. Installing shelves 18 to 24 inches from the ceiling will also help expand the cats’ territory. When building shelves and adding cat trees, make sure there are many access and exit points available to the cats so they cannot be cornered.
In addition to spraying and midden marking, cats mark their territory by scratching objects. Since scratching is a more acceptable way of marking territory, adding scratching posts and horizontal scratchers throughout the house may also help change the behavior. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws, so whenever cats scratch they are broadcasting information about themselves and marking their territory.
When cleaning up targeted areas, use an enzyme cleaner, such as Anti-Icky Poo to remove the smell. I do not find vinegar effective for cleanup of urine. Because cats have a highly developed sense of smell, they will repeatedly target areas that are not adequately cleaned with an enzyme cleaner.