Originally published on EntirelyPets.com
Spraying is marking behavior, not a litter box problem. It is an important part of nonverbal communication among cats, helping to establish and define boundaries and reassure cats whose area is whose. Sprayed cat urine contains pheromones, a substance produced by animals that is used for communication. Combinations of pheromones work like fingerprints: they identify the cat.
Why Do Cats Spray?
There are several different pheromones that are secreted by different regions of the body. By signaling to other cats, they affect a number of behaviors, including attracting a mate. Some pheromones are used to mark objects and boundaries, while others send a signal of familiarity and well being. Cats have various methods to mark their territory. They may scratch, rub against things, or leave their feces uncovered. Spraying is the most common method of urine-marking. Intact males have the greatest motivation to mark because of their testosterone-driven territorial agendas, but neutered males also spray if aroused. Though females can spray, especially intact females in heat, they urine-mark more commonly from the squatting position. The very first thing to know is that cats are not malicious or sneaky; They don't go around marking objects by spraying to irritate you. Cats have developed behavioral patterns that helped them survive and reproduce in the wild. These patterns which include marking or spraying through urination are natural and are in the genes of every domestic/wild cat. Usually adjustments in the home can solve the problem. However, when urination is employed as a signaling device, there may be a motivation underlying the behavior. This motivation must be understood before the problem can be properly addressed.
1. It usually involves a small amount of urine on interesting and varied locations and often has a discernible pattern. Various places may include countertops, appliances, windowsills, drapes, desks, screened porches, bags, clothes or beds.
2. Your cat will usually turn its backside to the object, twitch its tail and spray urine on the vertical surface, usually at another cat's nose level. It is telling other cats that this territory belongs to them. It might also be telling other cats that they are ready to mate.
What Can I Do?
Once you figure out WHY the cat is spraying or urinating in a strange place only then you can deal with the problem. It should be noted that there are commercial sprays that can help some cats stop from spraying. Before using the spray, you should have figured out why the cat sprayed where it did. If your cat is spraying, here are some things that you can do:
Examination: Have your veterinarian examine your cat to eliminate the possibility of a medical problem.
Litter Boxes: Make sure there are enough litter boxes, at least one more than the number of cats in your household. Make sure the litter boxes are cleaned regularly and litter boxes are strategically placed at all levels of the house.
Spay and Neuter: If your cat has not been neutered, consider having it done. This may solve the problem completely. Most castrated toms stopped spraying from the day they were operated.
Clean-Up: Clean urine marks thoroughly with a special product designed to neutralize the odor. Urine-Off Odor and Stain Remover eliminates all types of urine stains and odor. Avoid ammonia-based products, which smell like urine. The smell of urine or ammonia encourages the cat to spray on the same spot again.
Eliminate Stressors: If your pet is in a stressful situation, such as conflict with other cats or separation anxiety, try to identify and eliminate the cause of the stress.
Pheromonal Sprays: Use a commercial pheromone product such as Feliway Spray to help stop cat spraying. Both male and female cats, because of hormonal and behavior problems, can start spraying urine on objects or areas. Feliway contains pheromone-like substances which discourages this behavior when it is applied to the area the pet has sprayed. Also try Feliway Electric Diffuser to restore a feeling of calm in the cat by releasing a synthetic scent hormone, which permeates throughout the environment.
Restrict the view: When your cat sees another cat, its natural response is to mark its territory – your house. You can cover up the view of the great outdoors by using blinds or curtains to cover windows, moving furniture to deny access to certain windows, shut the doors to certain “high risk” rooms, and close off your screened-in porches.
Be Consistent: Change often causes spraying. Feed your cat at the same time each day and keep its food, litter box, and bed in their usual places. When you have visitors, put your cat in a separate room (especially if your visitors have cats of their own and may carry in their scent).
Patterns: Recognize the typical pattern of urine-marking and consider possible initiating factors. Think about the events that occurred at the same time as the urine-marking, such as a new person in the house, the absence of a key household figure, or the introduction of a new pet, especially another cat.
Cats may suffer from medical conditions that make them urinate outside the litter box. If you encounter any problem that involves urinating outside the litter box (spraying or otherwise), consult your veterinarian. Some of these conditions may be life threatening if not treated right away.