Maddening Middening or Just a Stool Away from Home?
You won’t find much information on middening on the Internet, but sometimes a stool is not just a stool. Stools left around the walkways of the home or on your pillow might be a form of marking done by your cat to delineate territory. Middening is as different from its defecation counterpart, in both motive and effect, as spraying is from mere urination. Middening comes from a little-heard English word that (as we’re sure you know) derives from the Old Norse term for a dunghill or manure pile.
If you type in middening into a search engine, it will, maddeningly, try to correct your spelling to maddening. “Was it maddening you were looking for?” Just say no. The fact that the search engine thinks you can’t spell, and won’t give you much information on middening in any event, is an indication of how rare middening is, at least indoors (it’s more often observed in cats outdoors). But when it does happen, middening can be synonymous with maddening!
Middening is a form of marking (technically, “non-spray marking”). More dominant or confident cats may midden to send territorial messages, while less confident or anxious cats may midden on a human’s things in order to mix cat and human scents into an anxiety-relieving cocktail. The latter is also called associative marking.
Middening is not only a strong visual signal, visible from a distance (unlike spray-marking), but a very strong olfactory signal as well. Cats usually deposit their midden in very prominent locations so it’s not easily missed by other cats, a.k.a. the competition: in hallways or the frequently walked paths of household cats, near doorways leading outside or into certain rooms in the house, and on elevated locations like couches, on top of the dining room table, tables, beds, and the pillow on your bed. They often choose to midden on paths that lead to important resources or in locations that are important pieces of real estate (and about which a cat may feel competitive with other cats).
Many cats will simply defecate in these listed locations as well, but it’s more common for them to defecate in less prominent locations like the corner of a dining room. Typically middening is done away from the center of the home, and away from the nesting area’s food and cat beds. However, a dominant cat who wants to deter other cats may even midden territorially in front of litter boxes or food bowls.
In multi-cat households, one cat may feel an impulse to cover the odor of a housemate’s waste with his own. A sort of cherry on top, if you will. Cats who are insecure about their territory might even step outside the group litter box and leave stool right next to it. The cat’s motivation – marking – makes this middening rather than mere defecation.
Signs of mere defecation also include your cat trying to cover up the stool with nearby laundry, or claw marks in the carpet from their attempts to cover their stool. Cats will not cover a stool if they’re leaving it for marking purposes. They want it to be seen!
If you’ve got a rare middening problem, you need help. We can show you how to solve it.
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