How to deal with cats spraying around the house

Cat Spraying No More

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Cat Toileting Problems

The scoop on solving

Cats are naturally clean animals that are very particular about their toileting habits. So, how do you deal with a feline that starts toileting inside or spraying around the house?

Inappropriate toileting

There are many reasons why cats toilet inside the house. Your feline could be suffering from a bladder or bowel infection and may also associate use of the

litter tray

with pain even after the infection has been treated. Your cat may also toilet inside if it’s frightened to go outside and has no litter tray inside. Other cats in the household may be preventing access to the litter tray or the tray might be too difficult for an elderly cat to climb into. Alternatively, the litter box may not be clean enough or the


type might have been changed to one your cat doesn’t like. In some cases, cats have been accidentally shut away from their tray and then use clothing or bedding out of desperation. Felines may toilet indoors if there is a residual odour that attracts them to toilet in a certain area or they may be marking their territory.

How can you change it?

– Take the cat to your vet for a medical check-up.

– If there is no medical problem, or once the problem has been treated, confine your cat to one area of the house – such as the laundry, bathroom or spare bedroom – with a litter tray overnight and during the day when you cannot be watching it.

– Ensure the litter is changed completely every day. If you have more than one cat, you’ll need a litter tray for each cat and one extra. Litter trays should not be placed in busy areas, as cats like privacy.

– Clean all soiled areas with enzyme-containing cleaner and prevent your cat from accessing that area for at least one week, then allow supervised access only.

– Make sure other resident cats are not bullying your cat or controlling its access to the outdoors or to litter trays.

– Gradually increase your cat’s access to the rest of the house under supervision.

– Progress to total freedom but ensure access to the outdoors or the litter tray is unhindered.

– If you don’t like litter trays inside, gradually move the tray to the cat door or other exit, then outside. Make sure, though, that in bad weather there is always an accessible litter tray in a covered, sheltered area. Cats do not like going out in the rain and toileting in mud. - If you have identified a problem between the cats in your household you may need to consult a behaviourist to help you improve the inter-cat relationships.

Urine spraying

Urine spraying is a normal marking behaviour used by cats to define territory. Urine provides information about the territory holder that is of interest to intruding cats and may act to deter entry into the area. Cats are more likely to spray urine when they are feeling insecure about their environment. Both male and female cats may spray, although entire tomcats spray more than females and neutered males.

Urine spraying may occur in the house for many reasons, including cats trying to establish relative status (such as when young cats become socially mature and one wishes to be in control); in response to neighbouring cats entering the house to steal food or attack the resident cats; in response to neighbouring cats frequenting the garden and approaching cat doors; in response to frequent or major changes within the household such as renovations, new furnishings, a new baby, a change of partner, a boarder or a new pet.

How can you change it?

– Identify the underlying cause – you may need a behaviourist to help you with this.

– If your feline is reacting to other cats invading its territory, the spray pattern will usually be around entry and exit points (cat doors, ranch sliders, front and back external doors and window sills). You need to deter cats from entering the property. Make sure no food is available to them, put in a magnetic collar or

chip-activated cat door

so they cannot enter the house and spray them with water when they enter the property.

– You should decrease your cat’s view of the garden if it is reacting to seeing other cats entering the property. This can be done with blinds or just by confining the resident cat to part of the house that doesn’t overlook the garden.

– Invest in a Feliway diffuser system (pheromone diffuser) and have this plugged in near the problem areas, which will help to reduce anxiety.

– If the problem is between cats within the household, the spray pattern will be more random. If two cats in a household are not getting on well and one or both cats are spraying as a result, consult a veterinary behaviourist for advice on modification. You will need a specific protocol for your cats.

– If the problem is triggered by people within the household, spraying is often on their clothing or specifically in their room. The relationship needs to be resolved. Essentially, the new person should try to spend quality time with the cat – feeding it and generally creating a positive non-threatening association.

– Clean all sprayed areas with enzyme-containing cleaner and confine your cat to areas where it can be supervised at all times. Have a water pistol handy and if you see it back up to spray, use it to interrupt the behaviour, and move the cat in the laundry or outside.

Note that if a cat is particularly stressed by visiting cats and has been hurt by them or is afraid to venture out because of them, it may need some form of anti-anxiety medication. This may also be true if there is some severe and uncontrollable environmental stressor within the home environment. Your veterinarian or veterinary behaviourist will advise if medication is necessary and appropriate for your cat.

Dr Elsa Flint is a veterinarian and animal behaviourist with more than 18 years’ experience.

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