Cat Spraying: What Is It and How Do You Make It Stop?

Cat spraying is a problem that can be difficult to deal with. All cats can spray, whether they are male or female, young or old, fixed or not fixed; however, it is more common with males than it is with females. Intact kitties are more likely to spray than other cats. The spray has an extremely unpleasant smell because it contains pheromones. Spray from intact males has a stronger odor than spray from a cat who has been fixed. And the probability of urine spraying indoors is directly related to the number of cats in the household.

In this article we are going to tell you why cats spray and what you can do to stop it.

First of all, what is cat spraying? Your cat backs up to a vertical surface with its tail lifted vertically and directs a small amount of urine in a fine spray from beneath its tail. You will notice an intense quivering movement of the tip of the tail, sometimes treading, and a look of intense concentration on your cat’s face. This is called spraying.

Cats use their urine as a means of communicating. Cats can learn a lot about other cats from their urine, including their age, their sex and their sexual availability. Intact male cats may spray to show that they are ready and on the lookout for girlfriends. They are telling other male cats to stay away. When an intact female cat sprays, their urine indicates where they are in their cycle.

Cats are territorial creatures by nature, and spraying is a way for them to show dominance. Both wild and domesticated cats will mark their territory by spraying urine or by leaving their feces uncovered. By doing this, they are sending a sign to other cats that this is their territory, so stay away. Spraying around doors and windows could indicate the presence of another cat outside.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Cat spraying can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Marking boundaries
  • A desire to mate
  • Indoor cats reacting to an outdoor cat in the neighborhood
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Difficulties adjusting to environmental changes
  • Conflict resolution

To learn more about why cats spray, go to Why Do Cats Spray?

So what can you do to stop cat spraying?

Neutering and spaying will usually resolve spraying behavior, but in some cases it will only reduce it.

If you have too many cats in too small a space there may be struggles for dominance. If it is possible to separate the cats, this may help to resolve the spraying.

Don’t yell or punish your cats for spraying. This will only cause your cat to feel more stressed and the behavior can escalate.

Clean the sprayed area thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner, then try to change your cat’s association with the sprayed area. Try placing toys or scratchers near the sprayed area. Place your cat’s food and water bowls in that area. Also, try using synthetic pheromones around the marked areas.

Reduce the competition in multi-cat households by providing more vertical territory, more scratchers and more hiding spaces. Make sure there are enough litter boxes in your home – one per cat, plus one. Spread the litter boxes in different areas of the house.

If you add a new kitty to your household, keep him separated from your cat and introduce him slowly.

Anxiety issues like overcrowding, dominance, unpleasant noises, loneliness and changes in the home environment can cause a cat to become anxious and result in spraying. Try to give your cat a happy, interesting environment with cat trees, climbing posts, scratchers, window beds and toys. To learn more about creating an interesting environment for your cat, go to Is Your Indoor Cat bored? 12 ways to Prevent Boredom.

Why Is My Neutered Cat Spraying?

Neutered cat spraying is a big problem for cat lovers. You may have neutered your cat with the expectation that it would stop him from spraying only to find that the behavior continues. It may take a month or so for your cat’s hormonal activity to calm down after neutering. But cat spraying is not always sexually related. So if the activity does not eventually stop, your cat may be marking due to other issues. Maybe urine marking has become a habit for your cat. Or your cat may be triggered from the scent of spots where he previously marked. Or, it could be that your cat is spraying because he is stressed.

Neutered cat spraying can be a difficult thing to deal with. While you find the behavior frustrating and offensive, your cat thinks it’s perfectly normal. Neutered cat spraying is often caused by stress. Spraying its scent onto a wall or piece of furniture helps to reassure the cat.

Your neutered cat spraying may be caused by a number of factors including:

  • Changes in your cat’s environment
  • Marking his territory
  • Litter box issues
  • Your cat has marked the area before and the scent is causing him to remark the area
  • Stress

To learn more about the causes of stress in cats and what you can do to help, go to 14 Things That Stress Cats Out!

Correcting cat spraying takes time, so be patient. Try to increase playtime with your cat, reduce stress and enrich your cat’s environment. In multi-cat households, provide high perches and cat trees to increase vertical space. Never punish your cat for spraying because that will only cause more stress and it could lead to even more spraying. See your veterinarian and make sure that your cat’s spraying is not related to a health issue.

For more information, go to Why Is My Neutered Cat Spraying?

How to Make Your Female Cat Stop Spraying

Unlike urinating outside the litter box, spraying is when urine is sprayed on vertical surfaces, like walls, doors, and furniture.

While most cat lovers know that male cats will spray urine to mark their territory, they may be surprised to learn that female cats (both spayed and unspayed) can also exhibit this behavior, although it is not as common in females. Female cat spraying can also be caused by stress, litter box issues or medical conditions.

Intact cats are more than twice as likely to spray compared to spayed females.

Regardless of its causes, female cat spraying can be difficult to deal with. If your cat is exhibiting this issue, it is up to you to investigate the problem and find out how to eliminate it.

There are many reasons for female cat spraying, including:

  • Changes in your cat’s environment
  • Increased levels of stress
  • Showing fertility to male cats
  • Changing litter or moving your cat’s litter box
  • Neighborhood cats outside your home
  • Other cats in your home
  • Moving

Cats have an instinctive need to leave their scents. They can do this by scratching because the paw pads emit pheromones. They can also do this by rubbing their cheeks against an object because their cheeks also have scent glands. Spraying is another way that cats leave their scents behind to mark their territory. The behavior is completely instinctive, but it can also be caused by stress. Marking her territory helps to calm her.

To learn more about feline pheromones, go to What Are Cat Pheromones?

The more territorial your cat is, the more likely it is that she’ll mark her territory by spraying. If you’ve got a female cat that is spraying, there are certain steps you can take to help remedy the situation.

  • Thoroughly clean the area where the cat has sprayed using an enzyme-based cleaner
  • Try to remove the trigger that is causing your cat’s anxiety
  • Try to remove any other causes of stress in the home

If you’ve tried everything and your cat is still spraying, see your veterinarian. It could be that your cat has a medical condition or that she needs some anti-anxiety medication.

For more information, go to How to Make Your Female Cat Stop Spraying.

Is a Cat Marking in the House the Same as Spraying?

When you have a cat marking in the house, it is a frustrating problem. In fact, this is the number one reason that cats are surrendered to shelters and pounds.

Cat marking in the house is similar to spraying. The difference is that spraying is done on vertical surfaces. This is when a cat backs up to a vertical surface with their tail erect and squirts urine. Oftentimes, the tail will quiver while they are spraying. Regular urine marking is done on horizontal surfaces. This is when your cat squats to pee on a horizontal surface, like the floor or the furniture. Both male and female cats can spray and squat while urine marking.

Urine marking is not a litter box issue.

Some cats will eliminate outside the litter box at some point in their lives. Some of these cats have issues with some characteristic of their litter box. To learn more about this problem, go to How Do You Deal with a Cat Urinating Outside of the Litter Box?  The rest of these cats who are urinating outside the litter box don’t have any problems with their litter box. It’s a communication problem.

Urine marking is a form of indirect communication used by cats.

Whenever possible, cats in the wild will go off on their own and claim certain territories for themselves. Through urine marking, a cat is alerting other cats to his presence. He is showing what property belongs to him. Urine marking also tells other cats that they are looking for a mate.

A house cat may not have the same challenges as an outdoor cat, but they still look at the world in the same way and use the communication skills that nature gave them. If your cat’s world is predictable and conflict-free, or if they are spayed or neutered and don’t need a mate, cats have little reason to mark their territory. But if they are looking for a mate or if they are distressed because of something they will mark their territory by urine marking. A cat knows that urine marking will help to keep unwanted individuals away. It also makes them feel more secure.

You will need to do some investigating to determine whether your cat has a litter box problem or if he is urine marking. The cat uses less urine to mark its territory than he would when eliminating inside the litter box, so urine marking deposits are usually smaller than inappropriate eliminations outside the litter box. Also, the urine in urine marking has a stronger, more pungent odor. That’s because the urine mark contains more than just urine. It also contains pheromones, which are communication chemicals.

For more information, go to Is a Cat Marking in the House the Same as Spraying?