Dear Pammy, Will a male cat spray? – Way of Cats blog

Cat Spraying No More

catspray, cat

A reader writes:

I’m interested in adopting a cat, but don’t know if I should steer clear of all males because of the spraying issue. Do you have any words of wisdom?

Dear Readers,

Of all the things to worry about, this really unpleasant problem is also the most easily prevented.

In the wild, a mature male cat would be expected to mark the boundaries of their hunting territory with extraordinarily stinky urine, sprayed as much, and as high, as possible. While it’s not as common as the male cat’s urge to “spray,” intact female cats have been known to use this territory marking signal, too.

Altering a cat prior to their reaching sexual maturity means this potential behavior never gets started; for either sex. The hormones never reach the brain, and the behavior does not “activate.”

Whenever I had, or helped with, a spraying issue, there were additional factors that had created the situation.

Waiting too long.

There’s still a lot of ignorance about


; even in medical professionals.

My previous vet assured me that if such behavior manifested itself with then five and a half month-old Reverend Jim, they “would of course neuter then!” This even though RJ, due to his stressed early months, was already toting a set of


. I didn’t understand why it was okay for them to neuter early “if there were problems” but not neuter early to prevent them entirely. So I found a new vet.

Here’s more information on

pediatric altering

; many shelters now won’t let kittens be adopted unless this procedure has already been performed.

Stressed background.

Survival challenges can push a kitten to mature earlier; mentally and physically.

This is why I was anxious to have RJ “fixed” as soon as he had recovered his physical health. A cat who is trying to survive will be driven to mark territory in an attempt to keep food competition away. Of course the abandoned cat usually didn’t get altered, either, and they can develop with a full set of wild behaviors; including this one.

Improper handling.

If we do adopt a cat who was neutered after sexual maturation, we should use training to help along the new behavior we want. Even though their bodies will no longer be prompted by the hormones, the behavior can linger if reinforced.

Keep the cat in a room to themselves for a while, and make sure they are happy and have plenty of food and toys and attention. While the hormones are winding down, we want to make sure there aren’t any stimuli that might prompt the cat to reinforce territory marking. Once the hormones subside, this will make sure the behavior connected with it will go away, too.


Cats who developed both the hormones and this behavior are the most likely to turn to spraying when under stress. But any cat, given enough pressure, can resort to this most basic Ownership Move.

Our cat’s wild instincts urge them to “mark stuff” to show it is theirs. If they feel in competition with other cats, if they have overwhelming input, or if the humans supposed to be taking care of them are a source of mixed signals or neglect; the desperate cat can’t help but follow this raw instinct.

I always took this kind of behavior as a sign this cat was meant to be an Only Cat. Because when I did manage to find a home who believed my assurances about the cause of the problem (and I had to be honest) it was true. Allowed to “run the place” and not having to deal with other cats did shut off this stress response.

Just one more good reason to spay and neuter.

    I often get asked

    why cats do that to shoes


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