An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Smooshie's Pee Fest: Vertical Urine Marking (also known as Spraying)

Dear Greyce,

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote you. And you were great at designing a new litter box for me – which I love. I’m now 8 years old and have a new problem: I spray walls, piddle on carpet, and have even pooped outside the box! My latest urine tests show that I don’t have a medical problem. So Greyce, what’s going on?

This has been going on for a bit over three months now. Mainly I’ve been peeing in areas of the house, in addition to using my box. And I did poop twice downstairs, too, a couple of months ago. The only new thing was that a carpet cleaning company came in to clean with an environmentally-friendly product (the same month I pooped).

I have 1 litter box - the lovely one made especially for me because I have problems squatting. It is located by the seldom-used back door, in a corner on a landing in between a few stairs leading up to kitchen and a flight of stairs leading down to the basement. It’s purrfect. I have a natural clumping corn-based litter which I enjoy using. And my box is scooped at least daily.

Oh, the details of my new sites!

First there’s the basement – which is a basic, unfurnished - though carpeted - rectangle. There are windows really high up and I don’t get an outside view, so I know I’m not reacting to the sight of other cats. I’ve used four spots on the basement carpet, only two of which are relatively close together. I always pick spots that are against the walls so my pee also gets on the walls and baseboards. Since I’ve starting using this area, all the doors to other rooms in the basement are closed. Themselves have started to use a microbial product called Ure-Out to deal with the stains; it has a scent.

Second, there is the main bathroom (upstairs). I’ve done the side of the tub (about 8 inches from the ground), the bathmat and the bottom of the shower curtain. Herself cleans up with an environmentally-friendly product that has a scent.

Themselves have only seen me ‘in action’ once and it was in the bathroom. I was standing against the shower curtain and side of the tub with my tail quivering, and I bet you know the rest of the story.

So, Greyce, what do you advise?



Dearest Smooshie,

It is always lovely to hear from a Cat Advisor alumnus, even though it is about another litter box problem. From what you have described, I believe you are vertically urine marking – that is, spraying urine while standing up against something. The tail quiver is a clear indicator; ditto your description of the places you are doing the deed.

Any change in litter box habits can be (though not always) a sign of anxiety and can be triggered by a host of factors. For example, I wonder if your two pooping deeds were related in some way to residual smells brought forth (up through the carpet fibres) from the carpet cleaning? But I will never know and you aren’t telling.

So let’s move on.

First the bad news: From what I can gather, there have been no changes in the household (other than the carpet cleaning) that could be considered triggers. We can do nothing about things we do not know.

But there is good news: I do know what you should do about it. It rests largely on the use of a product I adore, called Feliway. It is the synthetic version of the facial pheromone we cats use to rub against things, to give us a sense of comfort. By using this product, you will get the idea that you have rubbed the spot and have no need to urine mark it anymore.

Before Feliway, we could only recommend changes to your environment (like blocking windows if that was an issue) and anti-depressants. Now we have another item in our litter-box-problem arsenal: Feliway. (No, I don’t get paid to endorse this product but I have seen it work). It has a high rate of effectiveness, especially for spray marking.

A curious cat like yourself will wish to become familiar with this product. So just go to the labels section on your right and select Feliway. Look for the article, What Good Is Feliway? Two websites are listed in it and I advise you look at both. The comfort zone site has a detailed instruction book you can download, if you wish.

So here is what I’d like you to do:

Get out your credit card and proceed to your nearest pet supply store. Buy the following:

1 Feliway diffuser (including liquid); make sure to buy the diffuser and not just the refill by mistake.

1 bottle of Feliway spray.

WITH BOTH PRODUCTS. MAKE SURE the Feliway you have (in both the diffuser and the spray) have NOT EXPIRED. Herself found out the hard way that this is one product where the expiry date really means something. Simply put: If it is out-of-date it will not work.

In addition, go to the place where your folks purchased your lovely litter box and have them make you its twin.

When you have finished shopping, I want you to take the following steps:

1. Install your new litter box (complete with litter, of course) in that basement room away from any entrances and a few feet from the nearest wall.

Anyone with knowledge of cat behaviour will chide me for this recommendation, because it is alleged to have nothing to do with spraying. But I say, ‘Fie on them!” because many of my cat colleagues with your kind of problem have responded well to the presence of the litter box located in the area of their misdeeds. So there!

2. Make sure your folks read the instructions for Feliway in detail – including cleaning practices.

Clean soiled areas with an odourless solution – like water, club soda or surgical alcohol. DO NOT clean the walls with anything else; products such as bleach, ammonia, strong-smelling disinfectants, biological washing powder, detergents or deodorizers will interfere with Feliway’s ability to work for you. You need to be able to detect the Feliway with your fine sense of smell.

3. Install the Feliway diffuser in an electrical outlet in that basement room, after you are certain the top is securely fastened. Keep it going 24/7 (that’s all day and all night). You won’t have to worry about obstructions since there are no furnishings or drapes to worry about. Keep it there for at least a month. If it runs out before then (it shouldn’t), get a refill.

4. Have Themselves use the Feliway spray to spritz over the areas you have marked on walls or vertical surfaces – in the basement and the bathroom – once a day for a month.

THREE POINTS TO REMEMBER: a) Don’t spritz until the area is dry (from cleaning or wiping up); b) Shake the bottle each time, before using.; and c) Smooshie, stay out of the room for about 15 minutes to allow the alcohol in the Feliway to evaporate. We don’t want you getting confused by that smell and feeling the need to spray because of it.

5. Have your secretary keep a calendar to record when and where you spray (and any other items of note, such as a possible trigger). This is a useful monitoring device and will help all of us know how things are going.

You should notice a change (in the desired direction) within two weeks, but even still you MUST continue with the spray and diffuser for at least a month.

6. Contact me around day 20 -25 of this regime and let me know how you are doing.Then we can decide if we need to extend the Feliway for a longer period, or not.

7. And since anxiety is likely an issue, remind Themselves of your need for daily interactive play sessions (if you are not receiving those already). As a refresher, select 'play' from the labels on the right and find the article, Only On My Terms, which has interactive play suggestions.

Smooshie, the odds are that this problem can be solved.

I’m counting on you!


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