Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Indoor marking

Synonym(s): Indoor spraying

Contributor(s): David Appleby, Amy Pike, Meaghan Ropski


  • Indoor urine marking may be performed by up to 12% of all cats, including about 10% of neutered males and 5% of spayed females.
  • Cause: normal behavior used to communicate in both sexes, commonly caused by increased emotional arousal (positive or negative) caused by territorial marking, anxiety or stress. Sites affected are of behavioral significance, eg points of entry and exit or are associated with the owner's scent.
  • Signs: deposition of urine and/or feces in the home or excessive scratching of items within the home.
  • Diagnosis: indoor marking involving urine and/or feces must be distinguished from inappropriate urination and/or inappropriate defecation Indoor toileting.
  • Indoor urine marking classically usually occurs from a standing position, the cat backs up to the vertical surface, the tail twitches, and a small amount of urine is deposited. Not all componens are necessarily present in every case.
  • Using feces as a marker (middening) involves purposeful deposition of feces in behaviorally significant locations.
  • Medically causes for urination and defecation outside of the litter box must be explored and ruled out.
  • Prognosis: marking, whether by urine, feces or scratching, is a normal cat behavior and prognosis is good if the inciting triggers can be identified and managed, and appropriate scratching surfaces are provided and used. If management cannot be achieved, may result in rehoming, relinquishment or euthanasia.
    Print out the Owner factsheet on Spraying - urine marking in the house to give to your client.



  • Marking using urine, feces, or scratching is a normal behavior but when it is exhibited in the home it is often a response to environmental stresses (including visitors, home improvement or moving, new additions, whether human or animal), household cat conflict/aggresion, non-household cat conflict/aggression, a change to their routine or interactions with the owners, and punishment.
  • Indoor marking can occur in association with other anxiety-based behavioral conditions.

Predisposing factors


Multicat household

  • Anxiety, fear, or household cat conflict/aggression for reactional indoor marking using urine, feces or scratching.
  • Presence of a sexually active potential mate for sexually related indoor urine marking.
  • Excessive disruption to a core territory or chronic territorial conflict with other cats.


  • Moving house.
  • Separation from owner.


  • Normal feline behavior but in a location that is unacceptable to the owner.
  • Inappropriate or excessive response to stimuli.
  • Social conflict.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Tynes V V et al (2003) Evaluation of the role of lower urinary tract disease in cats with urine marking behavior. JAVMA 223, 457-461 PubMed.
  • Hart B L & Copper L (1984) Factors relating to urine spraying and fighting in prepubertially gonadectimized cats. JAVMA 184, 1255-1258 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Horwitz D F & Mills D S (2018) BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine. 2nd edn.
  • Horwitz DF (2018) Blackwell's Five Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion Canine and Feline Behavior. 2nd edn.


  • For veterinarians wishing to refer cases on to a behavioral counsellor:
    • Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC):  www.apbc.org.uk/.
    • A list of registered Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB) is available from the website of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour at: https://www.asab.org/.
    • European College of Animal Welfare and Behaviour Medicine - Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law (ECAWBM-AWSEL) www.ecawbm.com/.
    • American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB): www.dacvb.org/.