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What is Cat Spraying and How Can You Stop It?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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What is Cat Spraying and How Can You Stop It?

Cat spraying, sometimes called "inappropriate urination," "marking," or "territorial urination," is a very common problem for cat lovers. Both male and female cats, young and old, will engage in this behavior. Why do cats spray? How can you stop cats from spraying?

Spraying is, first and foremost, a way to show dominance. Cats are territorial by nature. In their society, it's very important to show who is "boss." Both wild and domesticated cats will mark territory by spraying urine or leaving their feces uncovered. Doing so sends a sign to other cats that says "This is my territory-back off!"

Spraying is also often a method communicating anxiety, stress, or a desire to mate. Although most common in intact (unneutered) male cats, both male and female cats will spray. Neutering and spaying in many cases will stop spraying behavior but in some rare cases it merely reduces it.

So what can you do about spraying? It depends on why your cat is spraying in the first place. Follow these tips:

  • Territorial issues: Too many cats, too small a space, or dominance struggles between cats can result in spraying. In this case it is best to determine whether the cats can be separated or the stress otherwise alleviated.

  • Anxiety issues: Overcrowding, dominance, unpleasant noises, loneliness, and changes in the home can cause cats to become anxious. Other stressors include house guests, new family members, and new furniture or pets. Some cats will see other cats outside in the yard and feel threatened and try to mark inside.

    Work hard to ensure you have a happy interesting environment for your cat. Lots of cat trees, climbing posts, cat scratchers, window beds and perches and toys are critical. For tips on how to make your cats home environmentally interesting – go to: 12 Ways to Prevent Boredom. Different cats like different types of play time. Find out how to pick the right toy for your cats. Please read Tips for Playing with Your Cat.

    Do you know how to tell if your cat is spraying or urinating? If not, read Feline Urine Marking.

    I hope this helps you understand "what is cat spraying" so you and your cat have a happier life.

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