Why does it happen and what can you do?

One of the most unpleasant behaviorial problems to deal with in cats is spraying. Unfortunately, this topic is a very common reason why cats get abandoned at shelters.

What is cat spraying? Spraying is also known as urine marking. A cat will not squat to spray, as would happen with normal urination; instead, a cat that is spraying will be standing straight up.

Why do cats spray? One common reason is that something is wrong, therefore, your first step should always be a visit to the veterinarian. If you and your vet have ruled out a medical reason for spraying, then it’s time to investigate behavioral causes:

• Within feline social groups, urine marking is used as a form of communication. By spraying in a specific area, a cat can let other cats know she has been there. Marking in an area also lets other cats know to stay away and establishes a cat’s territory.

• Anyone who has cats knows they can be quite sensitive to changes in the environment. If you have moved to a new location, done major renovations, brought home a new family member, or lost one, you might discover your cat beginning to spray. One recent study shown that spraying brings relief and reduces stress for cats in a new environment.

• Cats can leave “messages” about potential mating encounters by spraying. This is why so many cats that spray are unneutered males, although spraying can be found amongst fixed males and spayed and whole females, too.

• If you live in a home with more than one cat, spraying can occur if there is conflict between the cats. Even multiple cats, who get along well, may mark within the household simply because of the presence of other cats.

• We can also see urine marking in homes with only one cat, where there are cats roaming freely outside and the house cat is aware of the presence of the other cats.

How To Stop Cat Spraying

As mentioned before, your absolute first step is a trip to your veterinarian to rule out medical causes of the behavior. Any steps you take to correct this behavior won’t work if your cat is sick. If it is behavioral, step one is identifying the cause.

Cleaning can reduce cat spraying. Regardless of the issue causing the marking, you need to make sure that you clean any feline spraying in your home properly. It’s not enough to just use soap and water to remove the smell. It may not smell to you, but if not cleaned properly, your cat can definitely sense it. Use special enzymatic cleaners that are made specifically to break down pet urine. Don’t use any type of cleaner with an ammonia base, as this odor can stimulate more spraying since there is ammonia in urine.

How can your veterinarian help you reduce cat spraying? If you continue to struggle with cat spraying, discuss it with your veterinarian. Some cats may be placed on medication for anxiety to help alleviate the spraying.