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How to Stop Your Cat Spraying! The Essential Guide!

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: May 26, 2023 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: December 14, 2021  
Author:  Rebekah Carter
black and white head of a cat  and a green background

Feline spraying and urine marking are among the top reasons why cats end up in shelters. No one wants their home to have an odor like a cat has been to the bathroom all over it. However, it’s worth noting that there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of cat spraying from your furry friend.

Cat spraying is a complex problem, because it can be caused by a variety of things, from excessive stress, or illness to discomfort, and even just marking behavior tendencies. And it's always tricky to work out if your cat is sick. However, if you’re willing to take the time to figure out why your kitty is acting out, you can soon eliminate the spraying problem, and get back to enjoying a wonderful home with your pet.

Here’s your guide to recognizing cat spraying, and what you can do about it.

Is Your Cat Spraying? The Signs

The first thing we need to know is that cat spraying is not the same as a cat going to the bathroom outside of the litter tray. “Inappropriate elimination” as vets call it, is usually a sign that there’s something going on with your cat’s health, so make sure you speak to a doctor if you notice this.

To identify if your cat is spraying or urinating, examine how they look when they’re doing this behavior. When spraying, most felines stand up very tall and spray small amounts of urine on surfaces, like doors and walls. Cats that are urinating tend to squat and excrete a lot more urine, typically on horizontal surfaces.

Although urine spraying outside of the litter box can be just as frustrating as spraying, it’s less of a behavioral problem and more of a sign that your cat might be suffering from a medical issue. Kidney failure, a urinary tract infection, and diabetes can both cause your feline to pee outside of the litter tray.

Here are some other points to look at when figuring out if your cat is spraying or urinating:

  • The surface: Inappropriate elimination typically happens on horizontal surfaces, whereas spraying usually happens with vertical surfaces.
  • Tail position: The tail is often held straight up when spraying, and it may be quivering slightly.
  • Litter box use: A cat that’s marking or spraying will usually continue to use their litter box as normal for both kinds of waste.
  • Extra messes: Cats that are spraying rarely ever mark outside of the litter box with poop
  • Location: For cats that are spraying, the location is often crucial. When cats have a territorial issue, they tend to want to mark certain spaces as their own, such as around doors or scratching posts.

What Causes Cat Spraying?

As humans, we look at cat spraying and inappropriate elimination as annoying, frustrating, and disgusting. However, it’s actually a pretty natural part of cat communication. Spraying is one of the ways that a cat communicates with other felines, showing them where they live, and what they own.

It’s worth noting that all cats are capable of spraying. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you’re only going to have this problem if you have a male cat. However, the majority of cats that do spray are males that haven’t been neutered. That’s because hormones play a big role in your cat’s territory needs and dominance activities.

Unspayed female cats are more likely to spray when they’re in heat, as they’re trying to attract male cats with their scent. It’s also common for cats to spray when they know other felines are around. If you have a multi-cat household, or you live close to other felines that come sniffing around your house, you may have a higher chance of spraying.

With most cats, spraying is a territorial issue. It’s something your cat does when they feel threatened or anxious. For instance, if you’ve had stray cats hanging around in your garden recently, your indoor cats may be able to smell them outside. This could mean that your indoor cats spray the area around the windows and doors to remind other cats that this home is theirs.Similarly, pet parents who bring new cats into their household (or any pet for that matter), may discover that their existing cat needs to mark its turf.

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Similarly, pet parents who bring new cats into their household (or any pet for that matter), may discover that their existing cat needs to mark its turf.

Cats are extremely sensitive creatures that can often become frustrated and start marking due to changes in the environment. Perhaps you changed your furniture or got rid of an old sofa that your cat used to love. This might be enough to push your cat to start spraying so it can feel more comfortable. Some cats are also known to mark the clothing of people visiting your home.

black and white cat spraying in garden

Why Do Neutered Cats Spray? Some Common Causes.

The most common reasons for cats to spray is that they have a territorial dispute. Kitties that haven’t been neutered tend to be the biggest problem, because of the higher amounts of hormones in their body. That’s why most experts will recommend spaying or neutering a cat if you notice spraying.

So, what do you do if your neutered cat continues to mark your home?

Well, while neutering can reduce the likelihood of spraying, it’s not a one-size-fits-all cure. At first, you may simply need to be patient, because it can take a while for a cat’s hormone activity to calm down after the neutering process is over. It’s also worth remembering that spraying behavior won’t always be linked to territory or sexual tendencies.

Your cat may be triggered into spraying when he or she smells the spots they’ve previously marked. Some cats continue to spray because they’re stressed, and some simply get into a bad habit. Here are some of the most common reasons why cats spray.

1. Marking boundaries

Cats spraying and marking their territory is basically the same as them telling other neighborhood cats that they own your home. This is usually a common occurrence when you have other cats in your neighborhood that come too close to your home, or if you have a multi-cat household. Try to prevent other kitties from coming into your garden as much as you can if you want to avoid territorial disputes.

If possible, you could also place a litter box near the doors and windows where your cats tend to spray, as a way to reduce the risk of them spraying on the furniture.

2. Mingling scents

Sometimes, a cat will continue to spray in a specific area for extended periods of time, because they recognize their own scent there. Even if you’ve cleaned your sofa after a cat’s urinated on it, they’re likely to still be able to smell the underlying scent, and it may trigger them to spray. Using enzyme cleaners is a good way to get rid of lingering smells.

Your cat may also spray the belongings of their favorite people in an effort to mingle scents, which is a kind of bonding activity for cats. It might sound horrible, but this is one of the ways that a cat shows that they’re connected to you.

3. Stress and Comfort

Insecurities and general feelings of stress are more likely to trigger issues with cat spraying. Cats do a wide range of things to make themselves feel better when they’re anxious or upset, including excessive grooming, scratching, and marking various areas of the household. It’s more likely for a cat to spray when they’re exposed to something frightening.

For instance, if you’ve just moved into a new home, or you’ve introduced a new pet to the home, spraying might start. Your cats can also end up getting stressed when you’re traveling a lot, or when they’re not feeling well.

4. Resistance to Change

Kitties, just like many people, aren’t always comfortable with change. Your cats like routine, which means that they appreciate knowing when they’re going to eat each day, where their litter trays are, and what their schedule looks like. If you suddenly take on a different job which means that you’re home during different times of the day, this can cause confusion and spraying in your cat.

The most significant change to a cat's environment that is likely to prompt spraying is the arrival of a new pet in the household, a new baby, or other significant life events. However, sometimes simply getting a new piece of furniture can be enough to prompt spraying.

5. Conflict resolution

As much as you might love having multiple cats in your household, more than one feline paves the way for spraying problems. Even if your cats get along quite well, there’s a good chance that one will have more dominance than the other, and they’ll often spray to show that fact.

Spraying can also be a kind of conflict resolution. When kitties feel anxious, threatened, or out of place, they spray to communicate their territorial boundaries and status. This behavior can even stop cats from fighting too much, as it helps to let each cat know what the other considers to be “theirs”.


How to Stop Your Cat from Spraying

Whatever the reason for your cat’s smelly activities, you’re going to be looking for a solution. There are various ways that owners can encourage their cats to stop behavior like spraying. However, it’s important to be patient. Significant changes in habits take time, just like they do for humans.

The first thing you should know is that you should never punish a cat for spraying. Don’t rub the cat’s nose in the patch, yell, or hit the cat in any way. Cats do not respond to negative reinforcement. Instead, if you act poorly towards your cat, you’ll increase their stress levels, which means that negative behaviors will often increase too.

Additionally, if you punish your cat, you risk breaking the important bond between you and your cat, making it difficult to become friends with your furry pal again when you calm down.

Step 1: Spay or Neuter your Cat

The easiest way to reduce your risk of spraying issues with a cat is to spay or neuter your feline friend. Most vets will recommend doing this anyway, as it can be much better for your cat’s health and protect them from a range of issues. Although it might seem unfair or cruel, most vets agree that it’s one of the best things you can do for your furry pal.

Step 2: Clean thoroughly

If your cat has already shown a spraying issue in your home, you need to clean that space as carefully as possible. Remember that smelling the underlying urine on a piece of furniture is often enough to prompt repetitive behavior from a cat. An enzyme cleaner will help to remove the smell and any stains. However, you may need to apply the cleaner and scrub multiple times until the smell is totally gone. Try and keep your cat away from the furniture until you know it’s safe.

Step 3: Examine household conflicts

If your cats are already spayed and neutered, and there are no lingering smells around the home, examine the relationships between your pets. Conflicts between felines are some of the most common reasons for bad behavior. If another cat or dog is chasing your cat around and causing excess stress, then you might want to look into separating the pets and reintroducing them slowly.

If the spraying results from other felines coming into your yard and spraying the plants outside, then the best thing you can do is keep your cat indoors and try to block their view with curtains or blinds. There are also some safe cat repellants out there that use light and noise to get rid of other cats from your garden.

Step 4: Reduce causes of Anxiety

Stress and general discomfort are common reasons for spraying in many cats. Cats that are anxious will be more likely to spray to comfort themselves. If your cat is upset because they’re unwell, a new cat has just been introduced into a household, or you’re moving home, ask your vet for advice. Some kitties will need extra support to get through this difficult time.

Often, it’s helpful to use pheromone sprays and systems to help your cat feel more at ease. These are pretty easy to find online.

Step 5: Keep your cat mentally stimulated

Cats are often very clever creatures with sharp minds. Although some cats spend a lot of time lazing around the home and not doing much, they do need regular mental stimulation to feel at their best. If you spend a lot of time at work, then you might find that your cat gets bored through the day, which leads to stress and spraying.

Invest in some toys that your cat can play with on its own, such as a laser pointer for cats, or cat food puzzles where they can get themselves the occasional treat. When you are around, make sure that you play with your cat as often as you can, and set aside times for cuddles too.

Step 6: Buy more litterboxes

If you have a multi-cat household, you also need multiple litter boxes in various locations around the property. This should ensure that your cat always has access to a litter tray, even when another one is in use. In general, most experts recommend having at least one extra litter box for the number of cats you have. For instance, a home with 3 cats would have at least 4 litter trays.

Ensure that your cats are comfortable going to the litter tray too. The space should be large enough for them to move around inside freely and stand up straight if you’re using a hooded tray. Avoid anything that’s complicated to access.

Step 7: Speak to a vet

Before you assume that your kitty is suffering from cat behavior problems that you just can’t fix, it might be worth speaking to a vet or a professional. Ultimately, most of the spraying behaviors that cats engage in usually don’t have anything to do with illness. However, there are some cases where urine outside of the litterbox could be a sign of something more serious.

It’s particularly important to speak to a veterinarian if you think that your furry pal is peeing outside of the box, rather than just spraying or marking territory.

Good Luck with Solving Your Cat Spraying

Remember, even if you get advice from your vet on how to reduce spraying, and you follow all of the tips mentioned above, it may take some time before you see results. Cat spraying isn’t something we enjoy as pet owners, but it is a natural activity for your cat. The best thing you can do is be patient and follow the instructions provided carefully until you see results.

Get a good bottle of cleaning solution and a soft cotton cloth that you can use regularly whenever your cat does spray and try to keep on top of keeping your home free of smells. If the problem continues, go back to your vet and ask for more advice. You will eventually get to a point where spraying isn’t an issue again. Be patient. Oh, and maybe think about getting an air purifier for cat smells in the meantime!

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About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.