With Summer Comes Territorial Urine Marking

Why cats are more likely to mark their territory in warm weather — and how to keep it from happening.


There are four main reasons cats will urinate outside the litterbox. The first is litterbox aversion, meaning that a cat finds her “toilet” unacceptable. Perhaps you only have one litterbox in the house when you should have two (three, if you have two cats). Or maybe you are not using unscented, finely grained litter — a cat’s preferred type. (They evolved in the desert so like to relieve themselves where it feels sandy.) Or maybe the litter is too shallow. All these impediments are easily fixed.

The second reason a cat might not use the litterbox to relieve herself is stress. If you have at least two cats in the house and they’re not getting along, or if your single cat is stressed because she is bored, she might end up “going” where she is not supposed to. (If you can’t adequately reduce the emotional stress that leads to inappropriate urination, a psychotropic medication such as an SSRI might help.)

The third reason for urinating outside the box concerns hormones. Sometimes, when a female cat comes into heat, the accompanying hormonal surge leads her to urinate where you don’t want her to. Intact males may urinate away from the litterbox as well. Most house cats are spayed and neutered these days, but if yours is not and is urine marking, spaying or neutering will virtually always correct the problem.

Finally, there’s territoriality. As the weather warms, you might find lines or small puddles of urine along windowsills, or by the patio door. Why? During summer, you might be more inclined to keep windows and doors open, and your cat can smell cats outside. She’s letting them know, “This space is mine.” It’s common in suburban areas where cats are more apt to be allowed to roam. And it’s particularly common in homes where feral cats know a cat lover lives. They might like to come around for a meal or some water.

Effective solutions

Fortunately, getting your cat to become less likely to feel she needs to mark her territory with urine is straightforward.

  1. Don’t make your home a flophouse for feral cats. We get it that you want to take care of homeless felines — and we applaud it — but put food and water bowls away from your residence.
  2. Consider installing motion-activated water sprayers. You don’t want to punish cats for coming by, but you do want to discourage their visits. When a motion-activated water sprayer “senses” the presence of a cat, it will spray a jet of water. Cats don’t like that and will learn not to bother coming around.
  3. Take down your bird feeder. We often say a bird feeder provides good environmental enrichment for a house cat — something to look at. But they don’t only attract birds. They attract other cats that are attracted to the birds. If you take down your bird feeder, be sure to fill in the enrichment gap for your cat with other activities.
  4. Close the window and pull down the shades. It’s a draconian measure when you want to let in the summer sun and air, but it’s a tradeoff you may want to make for not finding urine-soaked areas around your home. A good compromise might be closing off only those windows that look out onto spaces unwelcome cats tend to frequent.

Note: If you use fans to circulate air in a room where you have closed the windows, your cat may stay out of it. They don’t like their fur ruffled by the wind created with the whirring blades.


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