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How to Stop Cats from Spraying

By Wendy Rose Gould
July 12, 2019 • 3 min. read
behavior issues cats
behavior issues cats

Cats have many endearing qualities, not limited to purring, playfully pouncing, looking at you with those inquisitive eyes, and curling up in tiny little balls looking adorable as heck. They can also be a bit ornery and, at times, downright frustrating creatures. Perhaps one of their most infuriating habits for cat parents is the fact that some cats mark their territory via a pretty foul process referred to as spraying.

Spraying is evolutionarily ingrained in some cats, and they really don’t care if it ruins your couch or makes the whole house smell like urine. Below we’ve outline what spraying is, why your cat might be guilty of this behavior, and equipping you with some advice to help stop feline spraying in your home.

Spraying Versus Urinating

As mentioned, spraying is a very effective way for your cat to mark their territory. The spray is filled with a bevy of hormones and serves as a beacon to other felines to either come hither or stay away. Though they’ll do this anywhere, you may notice that your indoor cat tends to spray near doors and windows since this gets them as close to the outdoors as possible. Both male and female cats spray, though males tend to exhibit this behavior more than the ladies.

The act of spraying looks pretty strange. Your cat’s tail sticks straight up with their rear pointed toward the intended object, and then a horizontal projection of urine-like fluid is released. You can tell the difference between urinating and spraying because spraying affects walls and upright objects whereas urine is typically found in puddles on the floor.

Reasons Why Cats Spray & How to Stop the Behavior

Below we’ve outlined some of the most common reasons why cats spray and how to nip the issue.

Hormonal / Sexual Excitement

A cat in ‘heat,’ or an un-neutered male, may spray because of sexual excitement. In fact, this is arguably the most common reason why cats spray. The best way to solve this issue is to have your pet spayed or neutered. In most cases, your cat will cease the behavior immediately.

Litter Box Problems

In the same way humans are picky about the bathrooms they step foot in, cats also care about the condition of their litter box. It’s best to have one litter box per cat in every home, plus one extra. Dirty boxes and poorly located boxes — including those that are hard to get to or are located in a cramped space — can also cause behavior spraying issues. The type of litter and how full the litter box also matters to a cat. Every cat has their own preference, and figuring out the perfect litter box situation can take some guessing until you get it right.

Stress and Anxiety

Cats are very sensitive to change, and any minor or major disruption can cause them to spray. Stress triggers includes rearranging your furniture, introducing another pet to your home, having a baby, moving houses, a change in litter, a change in food, going on vacation, or seeing/running into stray cats. Some cats are also inherently prone to stress. Synthetic hormones like Feliway can help calm your cat, and some pet owners also swear by pet-approved CBD treatments. In difficult or ongoing cases, your veterinarian may also prescribe anxiety medicine.

If you’re moving, keep your pet isolated from the action in a closed-off room. When introducing a new pet, keep the newcomer in a separate place and gradually introduce your pet into rooms, then stage a meeting with a barrier between the animals. After bringing home a new baby, remember to pay attention to your pet and give extra love.

Old Age

Senior kitties can experience a range of issues that lead to more spraying. These include endocrine disorders, dementia, sensory loss, and heightened stress. Older cats are also a bit more stubborn and set in their routines, so even minor disruptions can lead to anxiety and then spraying. 

Health Issues

There are a number of health-related issues that may cause your cat to begin spraying. These include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and tract stones, Diabetes, and Hyperthyroidism. Don’t automatically assume the worst but do schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to ensure that all’s well with your kitty cat.

No matter the reason why your pet has sprayed, it’s important to clean up the area swiftly and thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. Your cat will likely continue spraying the same area repeatedly if it hasn’t been adequately cleaned.

In addition to snuggles and tending to their medical needs, one of the best ways you can show your love is by making sure your pet is covered with pet insurance. If you aren’t already a pet parent with us, you can get a quick and free quote here.



wendy gould
By Wendy Rose Gould

Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been in journalism for over a decade, and has been freelancing almost that entire time. In addition to lifestyle reporting, she also works with brands to create marketing content for their websites and blogs.

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