The good news is if you take all the steps mentioned in the section on Places to Eliminate prior to bringing your cat inside, you will hopefully avoid marking behavior. If a cat has plenty of places to climb and hide and multiple cat boxes to use in a variety of places, marking behavior can be avoided as the cat feels there are plenty of places to leave a scent.
Marking is a different problem than a litter box issue. Marking is a communication problem. Cats communicate with each other by leaving their scent through rubbing their facial glands on items and/or spraying urine. A cat who urine-marks often backs up to an area, shaking his (or her-- female cats mark too) tail and sprays urine on the item.
When your cat lived outside, this was done to tell other cats this territory is taken. Some cats are willing to share territories, and urine-marking can tell another cat how long ago a cat was there and when that cat may return. When our cats are brought inside, this behavior may continue or a cat may urine-mark when stressed or ill. If there are other cats in the house or cats that can be seen outside the house, the cat may feel the need to mark.
Before anything else, bring your cat to the vet to make sure there aren’t any health problems your cat may be trying to tell you about. Next, you will want to give your cat access to a smaller area. That way he will feel more comfortable that the area is his and others will not be intruding. A large house may be overwhelming for some cats in the beginning.
Watch the cat, and interrupt any marking behavior with a favorite toy such as a laser light or a feather on a string. Even tossing food to chase might interrupt. You can also use a squirt bottle, but this may add stress to what is already a stressful situation, so this would be the last result as it may only cause more marking. It won’t look pretty, but you can place tin foil around the areas where your cat is backing up to spray. Most cats don’t like the feel under their paws.
If there are cats outside, block your cat’s view to the outside world for a while so he doesn’t see the other cats. This can be done by using frosted contact paper on the windows, which allows light to come in but no view of anything outside which may cause stress. Make sure to have multiple litter boxes if there are multiple cats, and take the lids off the boxes so the cat has different ways of exiting the box and doesn’t ever feel trapped.
A Comfort Zone Plug-in that uses cat pheromones to calm your cat may help with marking behavior. This just plugs into the wall near where the cat may be marking. The scent mimics the pheromones released in the facial glands of a cat which allows the cat to feel more familiar with the surroundings. This can be crucial in helping cats adjust to a new environment.
Lastly, be sure to clean all areas where the cat has sprayed thoroughly with a cleaner that does not contain any ammonia, which can smell like urine to a cat. Citrus cleaners can help deter a cat from going back to that area as cats usually do not like the pungent smell of citrus. Just make sure not to use citrus cleaner around the cat box area. You WANT him to use that area. Nature’s Miracle has a good line of cleaning products with a variety of scents that are pleasing to you and your cat and fairly good at removing cat urine. The sooner you get on top of this problem, the better.
This advice is from Animal Behavior Consultant Cheryl Falkenburry. Read more about Cheryl and her work.