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What is Phantom Spraying or Virtual Spraying in Cats?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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What is Phantom Spraying or Virtual Spraying in Cats?

Spraying behavior in cats is a common behavior wherein cats will mark the environment with chemicals in their urine. The "spraying" occurs when cats stand with their back to a vertical surface such as a wall or door, raise their tail (frequently quivering), move their front legs back and forth as though marching in place with an intense look in their face and spray urine on the vertical surface.

This surface is often at "nose" level for other cats to smell this method of communication. The volume of urine passed ranges from small and almost insignificant to a stream. On occasion, some cats will go through the entire spraying behavior and ritual but no urine is passed. This is called phantom spraying or "Virtual" spraying behavior.

It appears some cats enjoy the behavior associated with spraying but don't feel the need to release urine or actually mark the territory.

In these cats, because no damage is being done with the spray, there is often no recommended treatment. Corrective action is only necessary if they begin expelling urine.

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