Stop Cat Spraying!

This week I’ve got a theme going with poopy puppies last Wednesday and cat litter-ary problems today. And this week two of my cat behavior consults centered on problem toileting behaviors.

When you live with and love pets, you have to accept that a certain amount of crappiocca comes with the territory. That doesn’t mean you must LIVE with a spraying cat.

Here’s a few basics and refreshers for savvy cat owners, and maybe new information for first time fanciers. For those of y’all with Christmas kittens, take notes for the future and maybe prevent these problems in your furry wonders!

  • Spraying with urine is a marking behavior and typically is aimed at vertical objects. House soiling is urinating downward over horizontal surfaces. Each can have different causes, so to solve, you must figure out which it is.
  • House soiling very often has to do with 1) health problem, 2) the cat hating the box (for any number of reasons), 3) being prevented from “going” because other cats own the facilities. Cats faithful to the box that suddenly lapse need a vet check asap!
  • Boy kittens reach sexual maturity right around six to nine months, and then start advertising their hunk-icity by spraying urine like it’s kitty cologne. That drives the girl cats wild. Owners, too, but for different reasons.
  • Girl cats may also spray urine to advertise how cute they are to the feline Romeos once they go into heat (estrus) which can happen as early as four to five months!
  • Spay/neuter surgery removes the hormones that prompt as much as 85-90 percent of the spraying.
  • Even “fixed” cats may still spray or soil, especially in multicat households as part of jockeying for social position.
  • Cats use “self scent” (urine, cheek rubs and scratching) to calm themselves down during times of stress. So a cat may “tell off” that stray cat outside stomping on his lawn, or baptize your bed–because it smells like his beloved owner–when you’re gone on vacation.

This Ask Amy offers a few tips and advice for a spraying feline, but more details are available in the latest books ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCAT Household.

I know a lot of cat-savvy folks read this blog. What are some other reasons cats get creative outside of the box? Please share! (It may turn into another Ask Amy…)

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


Stop Cat Spraying! — 9 Comments

  1. The subject of your blog today definitely caught my attention. I’d say that it’s near and dear to my heart, but the reality is that it’s the bane if my existence. I have a multi-cat household. Strike one. I was a breeder with intact cats. Strike two. Currently all cats are spay/neutered, and since that was done (last September 2012), I’ve been making a concerted effort to get a handle on the inappropriate peeing in my house. Some is marking and some is not (by the same cats) so I don’t know how important it is to determine whether or not they are “marking” or “soiling.” I do have to say that in reading everything I can get my hands on concerning this subject, that it’s very frustrating to get the same advice over and over. Since I was a breeder, I get my share of emails and phone calls from people fighting this issue, some who have or who are currently working with an animal behaviorist. I don’t have a lot to add to your excellent video (I also have your book) and advice, however, I decided in September to start anew, READ THE DIRECTIONS and follow all of the advice. One thing of note that is not usually emphasized with the Feliway is that in the directions it says you need to apply it TWICE A DAY for a minimum of 30 days (45 days for difficult cases) to all spots that are being sprayed or hit. I did this with about a 30 – 50% success – keeping a journal. In some areas the cats simply did not respond. I’ve tried a couple of new things that may or may not be of interest… and I eventually made a video of my experience in the overall management of this issue. I’m currently down from four *bad* kitties to one kitty who still has some issues but overall the problem is much reduced. The intact stud’s behavior was solved with neutering. One female is on Prozac which had helped but not cured her, but with my organized maintenance program, she has now gone a month or two without a mistake as has the other (neutered) male. So that just leaves the one little female—she sometimes sprays and sometime soils. 90% of the time she does this in “approved” locations (i.e. the empty boxes with paper towels in the bottom – and unbelievably she will use a box as small as a shoe box and not go over the edge). It’s interesting that of my eight cats, the three initial perpetrators continue to use the empty boxes to pee about 50% of the time. One of the other cats has also taken to using them on occasion. The only cat who uses the tiny boxes which I have put in places where a large box would be an eyesore is the one remaining perpetrator and she always “squats” when she uses them. In the five months of this experiment, I’ve never found anything but urine in them. I’ve had to rig high backs in the larger boxes by attaching plastic inserts to contain the spray, but there has been little, to no spraying in the normal litter boxes.

    I’m including the link to my video below, but I have no vested interest in promoting this video, so please edit it out as well as reference to it at your discretion. A few things I didn’t cover in the video are other details which you addressed in your post in regards to measures to reduce tension between cats by increasing feeding areas, sleeping areas, vertical perches, etc. I also did not mention medication nor stud pants.

    Thank you for addressing this issue!

    • Hi Molly, EXCELLENT video! Sorry you’ve had such a tough row to hoe but you’ve certainly got a handle on it. It’s true that the cats win–if we listen to them (“I want a toweled box!”) rather than fighting with them. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation. Incidentally, gorgeous kitties. *s*

  2. Just bout ComPETability! Love your lighthearted style and all the helpful info!!


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  3. Great video, Amy, but you make me cold seeing you in that sleeveless shirt! I’m sitting here in sweats and a flannel shirt and I’m still cold! Brrrrrrrr 🙂

    About the pans: after all these years I’ve finally learned that not all cats like the same medium, even siblings. I have to keep two different types of litter in some pans and then just flat newspapers in a few others. (I’m running out of newspaper though, better go out a buy one)

    Location: keep at least one pan on each level of the house and in several different locations. You’ll need to try several different locations to find the best ones. My cats prefer most of their boxes in the utility room but require one in the living room and one in the bedroom as well. They are telling me that they need one in my office too but for now I’ve been keeping the door closed when I’m not in here.

    Types of pans: popular belief is that cats don’t like covered boxes but I’ve found that a couple of my cats prefer a covered one. So I keep one covered box, several giant boxes for the cats who stand up to go and lower sided boxes for the seniors.

    And I use Comfort Zone with Feliway diffusers, one in every room, to help keep moods in check. It doesn’t solve all the problems but I do notice “indiscretions” if I let them run dry.

    • Great post, Andrea. It’s so good to hear what works for others. Maybe I should start subscribing to the newspaper? lol. For now I’m making do with paper towels in some boxes. Very good to hear about your experience with the Feliway diffusers. I’m keeping several going on faith and you give me hope.

    • Hi Andrea–I recorded that audio back in the summer. Today I’m in heavy socks, sweatshirt (with cats on it, of course!) and sweatpants, it’s cold!

      Great tip about offering different substrates in the pans–and even different styles. Cats have very specific preferences. While I generally recommend the 1+1 rule (one pan per cat, plus one) when you have a large group that may not be possible. And in fact, cats that are buddies often will share facilities so you can break it down into the “groups” of cats and what the “group” preference may be.

      I like Dr. Elsey’s Litter Attract, too. Management is key–as both you and Molly point out!

  4. I must be blessed with great cats. (Well, I knew that anyway!). We have 8 adult cats: 7 males and 1 female, plus two adult female long-time foster cats. The females may hiss a little at each other periodically, but that’s about all. No problems with the males either: 1 is a senior outdoor “barn” cat who came in last year for retirement, 1 is a senior late-neuter with a clipped feral ear, 3 were neutered around the age of 2 years, and 2 were neutered before reaching sexual maturity, at about 4 months. All are indoor cats now and most came from the shelter group where I volunteer. We do have a pretty large house so they can get away from each other if they want, and they have an outside catio too. They all share 4 jumbo and 2 huge litter boxes, which are cleaned once a day. None of the cats are related.

    We have very few spraying problems at our adoption center too, which I’ve never understood. We keep a rotating 8-11 cats there (rotating them in and out of foster homes) until they are placed in their forever homes. Cats who don’t get along with each other are placed straight from foster homes without going through the adoption center.

    Am I just lucky, or what?

    • Wow, that’s wonderful! You must be doing a lot of things right. Extra space and lots of vertical territory helps enormously. At the adoption center, it may be that rotating the cats keeps any one feline from becoming “secure” enough to kick furry ass-ets of the others, or feel the need to spray.

      So glad it’s a good situation for you. The cats are glad, too! I love hearing these success stories.

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