Why Do Cats Spray and How to Stop Cat Spraying!

When you live with and love pets, a certain amount of crappiocca comes with the territory. That doesn’t mean you must LIVE with a spraying cat. You need to understand why do cats spray before you can stop the behavior.

lion spraying

Be grateful your cat isn’t a lion! This young male marks territory by urination.

Why Do Cats Spray

To the cat, his own urine smells like him/her. Think of it as kitty cologne and spritzing that familiar scent all around makes the cat feel happy and comforted the same way the smell of cookies baking “reminds” you of familiar safe things like Grandma’s house. When your cat feels stressed, he turns on the (ahem) water works to calm upset kitty feelings. Use these tips to help reduce kitty stress.

I’ve also known cats that spray urine over top of smells that either frighten them or that they associate with with something or someone they love. The cat who sprays the new boyfriend’s shoes, for instance, might try to make him smell “safe.” But spraying your pillow could simply mean “I own this space because it smells like my beloved so other cats STAY AWAY!”

cat spraying

Outdoor cats spray, and the scent can prompt your indoor cats to reply with sprayed urine.

How to Stop Spraying

Whatever the meaning or the cause, spraying urine can lose cats their homes or lives. People rarely consider cat spraying to be the back-handed compliment it is. Hit or miss potty behaviors are the top behavior complaint I receive and the number one cause of cats ending up in shelters.

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 new kittens, take notes for the future and maybe prevent these problems in your furry wonders!

cat soiling

Urine on horizontal surfaces indicates soiling rather than cat spraying behavior.

7 Reasons Cats Spray Urine

  • Cats spray urine as a marking behavior. Sprayed urine targets 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. Refer to this post for help solving litter box problems.
  • 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. A cat faithful to the box that suddenly lapses needs a vet check asap!
  • Boy kittens reach sexual maturity right around six to nine months and then advertise their hunk-icity by spraying urine like kitty cologne. That drives the girl cats wild. Owners, too, but for different reasons.
  • Girl cats may also use 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. Waiting until AFTER your cat sprays may reduce the effectiveness of the surgery.
  • 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.

To STOP cat spraying urine, 1) get your cat neutered or spayed, and 2) reduce kitty stress as much as possible. Neutering and spaying kittens early–before sexual maturity–greatly reduces spraying behavior. Read more here.

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…)

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