Akirahs Story - Marking Territory With Cat Urine

By: vitalgirl
Cat owners who have had problems with their cat urinating in the wrong place, or spraying, may understand some of my recent experiences well. As a little bit of background, I have 4 cats. One of them, whom I am closest too, is a Tonkinese called Oscar. He is also the oldest cat I have, aside from one who adopted our household, and whose exact age I don't know. Her name is Milo, and she is of similar age to Oscar I would say.

Aside from some occasional hissing, and some jealousy on Oscar's part, Milo is not the problem however. The chief culprit is a moggie I found in the shed in the ground of the apartment I live in. It was raining outside, and when I investigated, I found 4 tiny kittens. To cut a long story short, I ended up raising one of them, Akirah, from when he was about 10 days old. I'd given his mother an opportunity to take him back, but she only took his brothers and sisters.

Akirah has grown into a big boy. He has been desexed (of course! I never understood why people don't desex their cats). But even before he was desexed, he would urinate in inappopriate places. I thought he would grow out of it. It was generally pretty manageable, so I didn't really take proactive action. He would use the litterbox as well, so this wasn't a problem.

But then another cat showed up outside. I'm not sure where this cat comes from, whether it is a stray, or the owner just lets it out at night (another thing I never really understood about some cat owners, given that this is when most fights occur).

Akirah started to spray more, marking his territory. I didn't realize until I did some reading that there was probably an element of stress and insecurity involved. I generally try to keep this in mind when I'm cleaning it up, as I certainly don't want to add to his feelings of insecurity.

Funnily enough, not long after this other cat appeared on the scene, I noticed a change in his behaviour when I opened the door to let my cats outside during the day. Akirah usually ran straight out, eager to explore the world outside (he is a very playful cat). But then he started to just sit at the door. He'd sniff the edge of the door, and I'd gently try to nudge him out, but he wanted none of it. He was quite happy to stay inside, and watch my other cats play outside.

This gave me a clue that he was in fact disturbed by this other cat, even though he seemed to be quite aggressive at times. He would fight through the door when the other cat appeared at night, and he's managed to rip through some of the fly screen at the bottom of the door. Because he was aggressive, I didn't think that he could also be afraid of it. But his hanging back, in the safety of the apartment, seemed to indicate otherwise.

Cats are very complex creatures. I think a measure of trying to understand their perspective, and what they may be feeling, is important when trying to deal with problem behaviours. It's very easy to get angry or frustrated, especially when cleaning up strong smelling cat spray. Taking that anger or frustration out on the cat, even by scolding them, can stress our cats even more. This is particularly true if we come home after work to find our cats have sprayed whilst we were out. Cats, who love us dearly and are eager to see us after we have been away all day, won't understand why we are suddenly being cold towards them, or scolding them. And they certainly won't understand having their noses rubbed in old urine.

We have to learn to put aside our own emotional responses, and remember the joys of their unconditional companionship - even when the first thing we are greeted with (aside from 4 eager faces all trying to say hello at the door), is the smell of cat urine. I have even noticed that my cats act up more when I spend a lot of time cleaning it when I get home, rather than follow my usual routine of petting them and saying hello.

There are a lot of products on the market to help retrain cats, calm them down, deter other cats, and remove the smell of old urine. And dealing with the cause of the behavioural problem, rather than scolding the cat for doing the only thing he or she felt able to do at the time, out of fear and insecurity, is a far more effective approach in the long run.
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