Territorial Marking in Cats

Territorial marking is a natural feline instinct. Even with domestication, the instinct is still very strong, that’s why you may have seen your kitty marking his territory by spraying urine or by leaving his scent as he scratches or rubs his face and body against people or objects in an apparent attempt to stake out his claim.

In cats, scent is used as an important avenue for communicating with other felines. These creatures have a very keen sense of smell. Even when your resident cat is not home when a new kitty arrives, the new arrival will know that there is a cat living in the household because of the distinct scent markings it has left behind.

Marking as an Innate Behavior

Cats have scent glands on their cheeks and flanks. As your cat rubs against you or an object, he leaves his scent. This is a distinct olfactory message that tells another cat that he has been there and that he has already claimed the object or the territory. When your cat rubs against you, he also leaves a message for other cats to back off.

When you have two or more pet cats in the household, expect battles for territory while they are still getting to know each other and establishing hierarchy. However, as they start to know their place in the household, your feline pets will be able to create stronger social bonds among themselves. Thus, you will find them sniffing and rubbing against each other, and even grooming other cats in the house.

Scratching is Primarily a Marking Behavior

You may think that cats engage in scratching primarily to keep their nails trimmed and sharpened. However, this is just a minor reason for the behavior. Scratching is first and foremost a cat’s way of marking and claiming territory. As your kitty scratches on a post or furniture, he is also leaving his distinct scent to warn other cats and prevent them from staking their claim.

There are also scent glands on the cat’s feet pads that release pheromones that can help the animal leave a mark on claimed territory. When your pet has been destroying your carpet or furniture with his behavior, try putting up some scratching posts so he will have a legitimate surface to scratch on.

Spray Marking

Spray marking is not only exhibited by dogs. The behavior is also common among cats. A cat that engages in spray marking usually pees on a horizontal surface; or he may back up against a vertical surface and spray it with urine. Both male and female cats can exhibit spraying and urinating on different surfaces.

For many animal behaviorists, urine marking may also be a cat’s way of dealing with stress. Marking his boundaries is a way to relieve his anxiety.

Sarah Walker
Sarah Walker