What is Cat Spraying?
Feline Spraying also called marking, is a cat depositing a small amount of urine on vertical surfaces, such as furniture, doorways and walls. The spraying cat may be seen to back into the area, the tail may quiver, and the cat sprays the urine with little or no crouching.
Spraying is marking behaviour and not a litter box problem. The cat does not need to pee; it just leaves a message for other cats.
Un-neutered male cats will usually start urine-spraying behaviour once they reach sexual maturity.
The age at which a tom cat sexually matures can vary greatly, but generally, it occurs between 5 and 12 months. Many factors can affect at which age a male cat starts spraying. Male cats in multi-cat households or near other cats are more likely to spray at a younger age.
Spraying is usually a territorial behaviour but can also be a stress-related phenomenon. Neutering or spaying a kitten at an early age can prevent spraying problems in the future. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best age to neuter your kitten.
Multi-cat households usually have a more significant problem with spraying than single-cat households. Overcrowding of cats will often result in problems with territory marking.
Sadly, feline spraying and inappropriate urination problems are among the most common reasons for pet cats to be euthanised and surrendered to cat shelters.
Why do cats spray?
- Urine marking is a communication system for cats.
- Cat urine contains pheromones, chemical substances that tell other cats specific messages.
- Spraying is a common component of cat behaviour during the mating season, with males and females communicating their availability with their pheromones.
- The male cat will also mark his territory, letting other males know that these are the boundaries and that this area belongs to him.
Stress can be the cause of your cat spraying.
Cats are creatures of habit and thrive in a consistent and familiar atmosphere. When their ‘comfort zone’ is disrupted, it can often result in stress which contributes to spraying.
It is vital to discover under which situations the problems occur, as treatment often depends on defining any specific anxiety-inducing triggers for the behaviour.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. These could be reasons your cat may be stressed and has begun spraying.
- Did someone new come to live in the house?
- Is there a new baby?
- Is there a new pet?
- Could your cat be a victim of a neighbourhood cat coming into your yard?
- Has your cat’s daily routine been changed in any way?
- Is your cat part of a multi-cat household?
- Has your cat been ill?
- Has the layout of your house or yard changed in any way that may affect the cat?
- Is your cat being bullied by another cat?
- Have you changed your cat’s litter brand or litter tray?
Do only male cats spray?
All cats, male or female, neutered or not, may spray. However, urine marking is most common in unneutered male cats. It is not usual for female cats to spray, but it can happen if she is in heat and leaving her scent to attract a male cat. It can also be a problem when cats are overcrowded in a household.
When an intact male sprays urine, it will have the characteristic tom cat smell that is very strong and unmistakable.
How can I stop my cat from spraying?
Several approaches you can take, but not all may work for your situation. These include:
- Neutering of a male cat
- Reduce cat stress and anxiety
- Pheromone diffusers and sprays
- Mechanical devices
- Removing odour
- Examining your cat’s medical condition
Neutering of a male cat
Castration of males or spaying of females can reduce the cat’s motivation for spraying.
Early neutering of your kitten will, in most cases, stop your cat from spraying in the future. Neutering after spraying activity has commenced may reduce it.
For older cats, one study showed that 87% of males completely stop spraying after neutering of which
- 78% stop immediately
- 9% stop in a few months
And only 13% of cats keep spraying.
Another study showed that 77% of cats reduced or stopped spraying within six months of neutering or spaying.
Reduce cat stress and anxiety
Remove the cause of feline stress
You can learn about what causes feline stress and how to manage it best. Once done, you can simply identify and remove stressful contributors to the problem of cat spraying.
Use cat anxiety medications
Anti-anxiety drugs from your vet may be used to prevent your cat from spraying. Discuss the use of medications with your veterinarian.
Clomicalm and valium are available only from Veterinarians and are used for treating cat spraying problems. Some cat owners report that their cats lose their personality and become zombies when on anti-anxiety drugs.
Personally, we don’t recommend anti-anxiety drugs.
Friendly Pheromone diffusers and sprays.
Feliway®, pheromone products offer a solution to help manage unwanted, stress-related behaviours in cats. This therapy works by spraying a ‘friendly’ pheromone in places where your cat sprays. Also available are plug-in diffusers. These pheromones pacify cats who spray urine around the house.
If you have a problem with your cat spraying in one area, a repellant called SSScat might work for you. SSSCAT ™ has two elements: a motion detector and an aerosol can. It will detect the cat’s motion and release a harmless spray that will deter your cat from frequenting this area. Once repeated a few times, the SSSCAT will keep the cat away from unwanted areas. See this video of SSScat in action.
You can usually purchase this product on eBay.
Watch this video to see how it works.
To keep cats out of certain areas, there is a product called ScatMat. The ScatMat responds to your pet’s touch with a mild, harmless, static pulse. Pets soon learn which areas to keep away from.
Removing the Odour
Clean up all areas where the cat has previously sprayed, as the scent can trigger them to spray again in the same place. First, wash all surfaces that have been sprayed with cat urine with a laundry detergent containing enzymes. Then mix up 50% white vinegar and 50% water in a spray bottle and spray the area well with the vinegar solution to discourage the cat from spraying urine in the same place again.
For cleaning up on carpets, try our home remedy method—cleaning, which uses common household products.
Treat Medical Conditions
Have your cat examined for lower urinary tract diseases to rule out medical conditions which could be causing the problem? For example, a painful case of cystitis or urethral blockage may have your cat associating the pain of urination with its litter tray, and it will therefore avoid its litter tray.