Part 1 of this series introduced the behaviour of spraying as a form of scent marking in cats, differentiated this behaviour from that of normal urination, discussed the main reason for spraying, and explained the use of neutering as an effective means of reducing or eliminating the problem behaviour. Today we will look at spraying as a normal behaviour for identifying territory.
Every cat has its own home base which is surrounded by the home range and beyond that the hunting territory. The home base is usually considered to be the actual house in which the cat lives, and for some cats in multi-cat households, it is reduced even further to merely a particular resting place. The home range usually includes favourite places for playing and sleeping and the extent of it is determined by various factors, including the number of cats in the area, the food supply and the sex, age and personality of the cat and its surrounding neighbours. It is generally considered to be the garden surrounding the house.
Beyond the home range lies the hunting ground and this is connected to the home range by specific routes. These long, circuitous paths go around the neighbouring territories which are defended by other cats. Time-scheduling appears to play an important role in the feline world, and cats that share territory boundaries may establish routines whereby one cat has the right of way in the morning while the other has the right of way in the evening.
Cats deposit very distinctive odours in and around their territory. Such smells are known as pheromones, which are secreted in a fatty viscous form by glands placed all over the body. Pheromones can simply be released into the air, but are specifically directed to concentrate scent on marking posts. Urine and faeces are good vectors for distributing pheromones. The signal may last for hours or even weeks after its deposit. Outdoor spraying is a normal territorial behaviour in a cat. Cats advertise their presence in a territory by spraying visually conspicuous sites. Cats “time share” territories, so the marks enable the cats to space themselves out so that they do not meet often. It is when cats start to spray indoors that, not only is it a stinky problem for the owner, but it is often an indication of a deeper-lying emotional issue with the cat.
The majority of pet cats do not spray indoors, because the core to their territory is secure from challenge by other cats and our pets are most likely to be emotionally calm there. Owners are there to protect them and they can rest without fear of disturbance. In the territorial sense, it would also be a waste of time and energy to mark an area already defined as occupied and safe.
The third article to this series will discuss spraying indoors as a means of coping with stress.
Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2019