How to Prevent Cats From Spraying

Cat Spraying No More

catspray, cat

Have you ever walked around your house and noticed an unpleasant odor coming out of the corner of a particular room? Did you ever stop to think that the culprit behind this offensive smell was your cat? Today, one of the most common problems that cat owners face is the undesirable habit of spraying – easily recognized as one of the largest behavioral issues of felines. This marking conduct goes beyond a setback with the litter box (which is what most owners believe is the source of the issue). However, don’t worry – you can solve this problem…

What is Cat Spraying?

Cat spaying is just another way to describe the common behavior of urine spraying (or urine marking). Generally, a cat will stand up, back into an object, hold his tail in an erect manner, and then release urine backwards onto the object. The substance that a cat emits contains a different chemical composition than the urine released when ‘going to the bathroom.’

Oily secretions associated with the anal glands are contained in the sprayed urine, which leads to a rather overpowering scent – similar to ammonia or a heavy musky odor [1]. Additionally, cats urinate on flat surfaces, while spraying is completed on vertical surfaces (like a wall). The gender of a cat does not signify spraying, as both males and females showcase this behavior, although tomcats seem to display this action more often.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Spraying is a method cats use to mark territory. The sprayed urine also contains pheromones that cats use to communicate with one another. This method of identification also attracts cats in heat. While spraying can take place during sexual interaction, cats will also emit this substance in times of conflict with other felines, or when they are undergoing a period of stress.

A cat does not spray in the house to upset their owner. This is a natural act – hidden in the makeup of every domesticated or wild cat. Spraying also increases in frequency depending on how many felines in your home. Single-cat households show a 25% chance of spraying, while nearly 100% of multi-cat households will suffer at the hands of this behavior.

The ability to spray does not come until a cat has reached the age of sexual maturity and hormonal changes make the action possible. For instance, females tend to spray when they are in heat. As a rule of thumb, neutered cats typically do not spray when indoors.

To better understand why cats spray, consider the following reasons:

a) Mating:

A cat may spray to alert other cats they are ready to mate.

b) Anxiety:

You probably didn’t know that changes in your schedule could upset the routine of your cat and cause them to spray out of anxiety. Increased absences from home, working late hours, and spending less time with your pet can cause a cat to spray indoors.

c) Territorial Unease:

Cats spray to mark their territory and a few changes to their environment may cause this unwanted behavior. Bringing a new cat into your home is a common trigger. Perhaps, you have recently moved into a new residence. Often times, having too many cats in your home can cause an issue with spraying.

d) Stress:

Spraying is a common action in cats that have become stressed. A few triggers include watching a neighborhood cat meander in the front yard while your cat is indoors; family members fighting with one another; or the act of being scolded.

e) Litter Box Issues:

Some cats will spray due to an unsanitary litter box; poorly located litter box; or a change in product.

f) Targeted Items:

On occasion, if your cat has had a negative experience with an item in your house, they may single out this object and intentionally spray it. An example is the door that slammed shut on your kitty’s tail. In this case, marking this item is a sign of his or her stress, anger, frustration, or pain.

Cat Spraying Prevention

The odor associated with cat spraying is rather unpleasant and in order to avoid this unwanted behavior, consider the following prevention measures listed below:

a) Neuter or Spay:

Neutering and spaying your cats will decrease the amount of spraying in a household, but will not completely eliminate the issue. One study states that 77% of cats ceased or drastically reduced their spraying behavior within six months of being neutered. However, don’t forget that a neutered cat can still spray. For instance, 10% of male cats neutered before ten months of age will continue to spray throughout adulthood. Also, if you have a lot of cats in one household – at least one cat is expected to spray (regardless of the neuter status amongst all your pets).

b) Identify the Cause:

Recognizing the method behind the madness is a good way to thwart your cat’s attempt to spray indoors. For example, when looking out the window – a cat that constantly catches sight of other felines in their yard may react by spraying to mark their territory. Try blocking their view by keeping the curtains shut. The scent of another cat may come through a screen door during the summertime. Keep the door closed to prevent spraying.

c) Build an Outdoor Pen [2]:

If you own an unneutered tom cat, you will find it difficult to live in the same house with your pet. However, there is no need to get rid of your feline friend because of his spraying – simply construct an outdoor run (usually built with chicken wire and basic wooden frames). The ideal run will provide cat shelter (small house); sunbathing region; cat tree; and a collection of varied perches. Please note that the top of the run must offer escape-proof comfort. When colder weather takes over, a heating device will keep your cat warm.

d) Discourage Neighborhood Cats:

Motion-activated devices and other products are available for owners to take advantage of when they wish to eliminate the triggers that cause their cats to spray. Items, such as the Critter Gitter ($50), the Scarecrow (~$60), and the Sofa Saver ($40) encourage outdoor cats to stay away from your doors and windows.

e) Protect Spraying Targets:

Sometimes, a cat will spray in one or more favorite locations, but you can make these parts of your home less attractive to your pet by using products, such as Ssscat (a motion-activated product that sprays cats with a nontoxic aerosol for abut $35). While this product prevents spraying of these locations – keep in mind that your cat will only find new places to terrorize.

f) Distraction:

Some pet owners have deterred spraying by placing their cat’s food dish or toys in the same place as their usual targets.

g) Drug Therapy:

A cat may respond to drug therapy for their spraying problem, as an assortment of medications have shown promise – including anti-anxiety drugs like BuSpar or Clomipramine; progestins; and Valium.

h) Enzymatic Cleaners:

To prevent a repeat performance of spraying, use an enzymatic cleanser to eradicate odors that may encourage future spraying.

i) Avoid Punishment [3]:

Hitting, spanking, or slapping your cat for spraying will not make the situation any better. In fact, spraying may actually increase because of the stress associated with the punishment.

j) Decrease Competition [4]:

The chances of a cat spraying in the home decreases when multiple felines do not feel the need to compete with one another. Try playing with your cats at the same time and giving each one equal attention. They should also eat and sleep together.




[2] You & Your Cat by David Taylor (pg. 142)



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