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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 22459
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
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our cats relationships have broken down and theres a lot of

Customer Question

our cats relationships have broken down and theres a lot of fighting going on they are also marking all over my house, but i dont know which ones are the most stressed and which are actually marking. please help, i have 9 indoor/garden only cats. this has been going on a few mths now! i provide plenty of litter boxes food/water bowls, high places low places, cat trees, cat shelving etc, i have tried feliway and zylkene but dont know what else to do except rehome some, but which ones thats the question. two of the ones i have caught marking have been vet checked and they ruled out medical and said its behaviour. ive tried cleaning with biological washing powder and surgical spirit and also a pet cleaner from the pet shop, but kind of given up as its more where arent they peeing rather than where are they peeing!! :-( Also theres an un neutered tom next door and other cats in our area, i have seen them round our garden. Ive also had a cat behaviourist out but all she did was sit and chat, not hands on with the cats, she was very good but only told us what we already knew and had tried! im at my wits end with the marking thanks, Rebecca.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.

Good afternoon Rebecca,

I am so very sorry to hear that your feline household is caught in this upheaval. From the sounds of it, you have done everything correctly and have exhausted all of the usual avenues that we approach in these situations. As you have noted, discordance of this nature could easily be triggered by issues outside your control (ie your cats feeling their territory is being threatened by the outside neighborhood cats). And if an outside issue is the trigger and likely unremovable, control and restoring the peace may be near impossible.

In this situation, with so many potential triggers potentially affecting so many cats with some many different personalities and emotions, you will be very hard pressed to manage this. Your situation is especially difficult if you then do not know who is stressed so much that they feel the need to mark because you are being forced to treat blind. So, you are at a disadvantage even before you started trying to address this.

Therefore, the only hope would be to at least figure out who the affected cats are. This of course can be very difficult but perhaps consider setting up a web cam or CCTV to monitor them when you aren't in the room. It may mean reviewing a lot of video but this may give you an idea of which cats are behind this situation. Furthermore, if you have a cat flap, I would strongly advise monitoring this with a camera to make sure you don't have a neighbor cat invading the house (you'd be surprised how much this happens) because that will easily trigger the disharmony and in some cases we find that its the stranger cat starting off urinating in the house himself.

Otherwise, rehoming some of the feline population may need to be considered. Because while they did live in peace before, we have to appreciate that peaceful multi-cat households of this level are less common then chaotic ones (since cats are fundamentally territorial and in the wild would not live in groups by choice). So, if there is now chaos then lowering the population level may help move them towards moving back to peace or at least tolerance. If the Balinese (which oriental breeds tend to be particularly sensitive) have been seen to be spraying, then perhaps consider rehoming them first. If the signs settle in their absense, then perhaps you will be in a better position to continue to settle the house or at least be able to figure out who else may be struggling.

Overall, I am sorry to say that there is not magical fix to a situation like this (I wish there were and I'd not hesitate to share it with you if there was). Furthermore, it sounds that you have done everything right and have explored all options. Therefore, we do have to consider that the only chance of making a move in a positive direction in this situation would be to use technology to spy on who the sprayers are (so we can identify the problem cats) and considering removing known offenders from the group. I appreciate that this will be difficult to do, but things cannot continue as they are. Neither the cats or yourself is happy and that isn't fair to either of you. Once we do that, we'd have to reassess the group, address residual odors (to prevent that from prompting a new round of spraying), and hope we can find a trigger that can be addressed and removed to allow restoration of the peace.



I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

Dr. B.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi, thank you for your reply. I have been thinking of cctv but it's just finding the right system etc. Basically what im wondering is if i was to keep the 2 balinese that i know are marking and 2 kittens (1yr olds) that i know arent and rehome the others, do you think that will relieve enough stress to stop them marking anymore or do you think i will still have a problem but will end up with no cats by the end of it? im at a loss as to who to try and rehome. Since asking the origional question and this reply, one of my female cats (not balinese) went up on the cat shelf and peed over the already marked wall right in front of my eyes! she stood about a foot away from the wall and sprayed! so i have been delayed getting back to you due to trying to clean the wallpaper but failing misserably. it will all need stripping cleaning and painting :-(


Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.

Hi again,

I certainly don't want to see you end up with no kitties and that is certainly not our goal. Its just with so many cats, your putting yourself into a near impossible position (unless we are spying with video) to pinpoint who is having the issue and tease out what the trigger may be. Lessening the numbers is just making the difference from trying to manage a small population -- as a mum with kids would -- vs. --being the mayor of a kitty city --trying to make blanket treatments to hopefully address what might be bothering who ever is having the issue. And the situation is even harder for you when it has been going on long enough that the cats fighting with one another can break down their relationship further and add additional stresses to the situation.

And we have to consider that since cats are naturally non-sharing territorial animals, relocating the 'problem children' will (1) remove them from influencing other cats who might be borderline as well as (2) removes from those stressed cats from stressful situation that is triggering their spraying. So, its not just removing them to stop them causing the problem in the house but also removing them to get them away from the issue that is making them do this.

So, we cannot forget that if these cats are showing signs of stress (spraying) that removing them from the environment would remove the stressor affecting them from their lives. This is why I have noted that the Balinese might be the first two to be relocated. They may not be the primary cat but their spraying tells us that the situation is causing them stress that the treatments alone cannot remedy (since the trigger(s) remain)

Depending on your set-up, an alternative here may be to consider separating these cats into groups rather then rehoming them from your home (then from the home if we are still struggling). For example, the Balinese could be maintained in one room and the others divided up by who they currently are getting on with/who are top suspects.
This division may even make monitoring them with CCTV easier for you. And once you are aware of who specifically is having issues, you will be in a better position to address their personal situations.

And if the top suspects are limited to particular rooms, you will be able thoroughly clean the rest of the house with an enzymatic odor neutralizing cleaner (LINK1 LINK 2) to break down the ammonia in the urine (since some cleaners will eliminate the smell to us but not them). Hopefully, this will then resolve the desire of any borderline cats to spray.

So, if possible that would be an alternative to try here before breaking up your kitty family to different households.

Dr. B.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi thank you, XXXXX XXXXX a good idea, but unfortunately i dont have the room to be able to do this, it would mean keeping the known offenders down stairs as thats ruined any way now, and the ones im not sure if marking, upstairs. However i/m concerned that keeping them upstairs with no access to our cat safe garden might cause them more stress anyway.omg i just dont know what to do. Homeing isnt going to be easy where i live either, it will take time to home so many, plus people want kittens more than adult cats, and it would need to be indoor homes as ours have never been out the garden so not street wise. I think im just going to have to home all the ones that are known markers then :-( the thing is the balinese are so not stressed all the seal point plays fetch and retrieve with me and they sleep on my lap and cuddle me in bed, etc. :-(


Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.

Hi again,

I know that this is difficult for you and I do not envy the position you are in. This is why I have suggested trying to separate them into groups or potentially rehoming some (maybe even temporarily into foster families if a cat rescue could help) to just try to make this a wee bit more manageable for you and give you at least a chance to work on identifying a trigger, settling them, and trying to restore the peace. Because as it is, I feel you are just stuck in a cycle of them being unhappy, reacting, you being unhappy, and unable to address what is settling them off. And it breaks my heart for you because I can tell you have really tried and the kitties are just not giving you a break.

You mentioned that you are concerned about putting the non-sprayers somewhere they do not have access to the garden. But if the garden is being invaded by other neighborhood cats, which undermines your cats' possession of said garden, that could be enough to trigger spraying (as the house spraying would be a reclaiming of the territory as theirs). So, despite it being a 'cat safe' garden, it isn't a territory that is safe from other cats.

So, if we are concerned that this was the trigger, removing access to the garden if there is someone else marking/claiming it, wouldn't actually be a negative. It could potentially remove a trigger and if it is the only one, then we could see cessation of spraying. But mind you that is only as long as (1) the neighbor cats don't start urinating near vents/doors/windows (so the cats inside can smell it and be set off again) and (2) it is the only reason behind the behavior (which sadly there is no rule saying cats can only do things for one reason).

I agree that rehoming would be hard, especially since there are so many cats in need of homes. And while turfing the 'problem kitties' out would be a method in trying to restore people for as many cats as possible (which is us trying to keep as many home with you while tryng to allay the ongoing problem), it isn't a perfect solution. Because even if they are removed from your group, we do have to acknowledge that this is the most common reason cats are rehomed and its a stigma that will make these even harder to home.

Overall, it is without a doubt a difficult situation. One or more of your cats started spraying because of an anxiety trigger (ie other cats in the garden territory, not getting on with a cat in the house, etc). So, he sprayed -- his way to send a message since cats don't do email. Other cats in the house either have the same issue (thus reacting this way too) or potentially are having issues with the fact that cat number one is reacting in the manner. And as it goes on, it can even become a habit (as they get used to this being what they do) and the original meaning can even be lost at that stage.

Furthermore, if the cats are upset about something they cannot control (like an outdoor cat, etc), then they may choose to redirect their aggression. So, this can then lead to the fights you have seen. As well, if the sprayer's work upsets the others, they may then get aggravated and pick a fight over that.

And this leaves us in a middle of this chaos, trying to tease out what has gone wrong and wishing for once our cats spoke English. Your addressing the stress was appropriate but if the triggers are still in place then they will be blocking your progress. Therefore, we still need to try to find the trigger (which may be easier once we know who/how many are reacting) or we have to consider removing the reacting cats from the trigger.

So, do consider CCTV if we can't isolate/monitor due to limited space. Make a list of all the culprits and monitor their interaction with others and the garden. This may give you a clue of what is fundamentally bothering them. If you can find the cause and can remove it, we may see them settle. But if we cannot identify the cause or remove it, then that may be our cue to consider seeing if there is somewhere else for them to calm down and find peace.

Dr. B.