Cats Spraying | Why It Starts and How to Stop it. – Home & Roost

Cats Spraying | Why It Starts and How to Stop it.

Cats Spraying | Why It Starts and How to Stop it.

Melinda Connor |

Has your cat started spraying urine on your curtains, carpets or your favourite spot on the couch? Well, cat owners, it's time to sit up and take notice because your kitty's trying to tell you something's wrong! In this article we late a look at what cats spraying means, and how to deal with it.

What Does It Mean When A Cat Sprays?

Cats communicate in different ways. For example, a persistent meow close to dinner time could be your kitty's way of saying "feed me, I'm hungry", while wailing at the door means it wants to go out, or be let in. A purring sound at the end of the day is your cat telling you it loves you.

Another, less pleasant way of communicating for cats is to spray urine around the house. By marking its territory around the house is your fury friend's way of telling you, quite literally, it's pee'd off about something.

What's The Difference Between Spraying And Urinating?

Indoor cats will urinate or wee in their litter box, while outdoor cats will answer Mother Nature's call in a bush or on the lawn. Weeing is usually done on horizontal surfaces, with your cat assuming the squat position.

Occasionally, due to illness, being stuck in a room or out of fear, male and female cats will accidentally wee (or even poo) outside of their litter tray. Other reasons your kitty might be peeing or pooing inside include:

  • health problems such as cystitis
  • age
  • a litter box problem (i.e. too clean, too dirty, a new tray or new cat litter)
  • fear (perceived or real)

Urine spraying on the hand is something completely different. According to International Cat Care, inappropriate elimination is usually associated with cat behaviour problems. Indoor and outdoor cats typically spray urine on a vertical surface, like your curtains. And they do this in an upright position, with their tail raised. A urine mark also has a distinct smell compared to cat pee.

What Are The Reasons Cats Spray?

As already mentioned, when your cat is spraying, it's usually a sign that something's wrong. It could be that there's a new cat on the block and your pet feels threatened or scared, or there have been changes in the home.

To help you understand this better, let's look at the possible reasons in more detail.

cats spraying

Cats spray to mark their territory

Cats will typically spray or mark their territory if they think other cats are invading their space. Even an indoor cat will feel threatened if they see or smell another cat outside, causing it to spray inside.

Urine spraying establishes boundaries

In multi cat households, spraying urine is often a way for cats to establish boundaries and clear up any misunderstandings of who's in charge.#

Changes in the home can cause urine spraying

Any changes in the home, no matter how small, can cause your cat to spray urine. Moving to a new house, a new baby or pet, a change in routine, or even a death in the family can be stressful for a sensitive kitty.

Cats spray when they want to attract a member of the opposite sex  mate

Thankfully as humans, we don’t literally pee on someone to get their attention In the cat world, however this behaviour is completely normal. Cats, both male and female, will spray when they want to mate. 

Intact cats are more likely to do this, however, if your cat was spayed or neutered as an adult, they may still carry on this 'learned' behaviour.

How To Stop Your Cat Spraying

Here's the thing, once your cat starts urine spraying around the house, it's difficult for them to stop. No matter how well you clean it up, or if you miss a spot and the 'meow de parfum' begins to fade, your kitty's scent receptors (all 200 million of them) will kick in,  forcing your cat to spray once again.

But there are a few things you can do to stop the spraying behaviour.

Carry on reading to find out how!

Rule out any medical problems

The first thing you need to do is rule out any possible health issues. Cystitis, hyperthyroidism, arthritis or bladder stones could be the reason your cat is not using its litter tray. If you're unsure of the cause, ask your vet to do a complete health check.

Neuter or spay your kitten

An unneutered or intact cat is more likely to spray, whether it's to mark its territory or attract a member of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, this isn't a cure-all. Even after being neutered, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center,  some female and male cats will still spray if they are anxious, stressed or frightened.

Keep other cats away

Even an indoor cat will mark its territory in the house if it can see or smell an uninvited cat outside. Our 10 tips to keep cats out of your garden will be handy if this is the reason your cat's spraying.

Keep your cat busy

Another way to stop your cat spraying is by keeping it busy, mentally and physically. Make sure it has a scratch post, tunnels and interactive toys. A food puzzle is also a great way to keep your kitty stimulated. These activities will help reduce any anxiety your cat may be experiencing.

Make sure there are enough litter trays, water and food bowls

If you have multiple cats, it's important to have a litter box for each of them, as well as a few extra. Place the litter boxes in different areas around the house and make sure they are all accessible. If you have an unwell or elderly cat, make sure they can comfortably climb in and out of their litter tray.

Other reasons your cat may stop using its litter box include:

  • a litter tray that's too clean or too dirty
  • new cat litter
  • location of the litter tray

You should also ensure each cat has its own water and food bowl. If one cat is more dominant than another, the stress of having to share food or water could trigger spraying.

Get your outdoor cat a shelter

Even if your cat spends a lot of time outside, it may take to spraying indoors if it feels scared or threatened. It could be another cat that's invading its space, a pesky neighbourhood dog or even everyday noises such as traffic or children playing.

Providing your kitty with an outdoor shelter is an excellent way to reduce its stress levels and reduce or stop it spraying in your home.

Reduce your cat's stress

When your cat sprays, it's their way of telling you it's stressed. Whether it's a new addition to the family, human or animal, moving house, conflict with another cat or redecorating a room, even the slightest change in a change in environment can stress your cat out.

This article has all the information you need if you're looking for ways to calm your cat down.

Spread your cat's scent around

If, for example, you're moving house or redoing a room, you may want to fight fire with fire and spread your cat's scent around yourself. This will stop your cat from feeling that its space is being invaded and it will be less inclined to mark its territory.

To spread your kitty's scent around and stop spraying:

  • Rub a soft cloth around your cat's face. This is where some of the scent glands are located.
  • Using the same cloth, dab vertical surfaces in the room or rooms where your cat is spraying. You will need to do this once or twice a day to break the habit.

Alternatively, you can purchase a product that contains a synthetic pheromone that has the same scent your cat produces. Many vets recommend FELIWAY, which can be used in the areas where your cat's spraying.

Use a diffuser

Changes in routine can also bring on bouts of inappropriate elimination. For example, being back at work after lockdown or having a pet-sitter care for your kitty while you're away can trigger spraying behaviour.

A synthetic pheromone plug-in diffuser can help reduce your cat's anxiety, without you physically having to spread its scent around.

Don't punish your cat

Sprayed urine is your cat's way of telling you something's not quite right. Shouting at your cat, punishing it or using repellents will only make the problem worse.

Best Ways To Clean Up

Unfortunately, breaking the habit is going to take some effort on your part. Your cat's nose is particularly sensitive, so making sure the area is scent-free is absolutely essential.

Ready to stop your spraying cats in their tracks? Grab your cleaning products, and let's go!

Wipe up the urine marks

Unless your cat's spraying in an unused room or area, you won't have trouble finding the exact spot. Urine marking has a distinct (and very unpleasant) smell, which is hard to ignore. Start off by wiping down the area with a kitchen roll. You could also use a towel or cloth, but remember to throw it away or wash it thoroughly afterwards.

Use cold water on dried urine marking

If the spray has dried on the vertical surface, pour some cold water over it and wipe it off with your towel or kitchen roll.

If the urine mark is on the carpet or fabric couch, pour cold water on it and then use the towel or paper to blot it up. Whatever you do, don't rub the stain! This will cause it to set it into the fabric, which is exactly what you don't want.

Grab your cleaning products

A pet-friendly cleaning disinfectant will eliminate any lingering odours and also kill disease-causing bacteria. Avoid any products with ammonia. Cats may mistake the smell for another cat's urine marking, resulting in even more spraying.

For best results, always read the instructions on the label and follow them accordingly.

Go natural

If you don't like the idea of chemicals in your home, you can always make your own cleaning solution with warm water and white vinegar. Spray the urine mark, blot and leave to dry.

Stop your cat from reclaiming its spot

To break the cycle, you must stop your cat from reclaiming the area where it's spraying. If it's in a room, you should keep the door closed so your kitty can't get in. In an open area where your cat has easy access, it might be a bit more tricky.

We recommend placing some aluminium foil over the area while it dries, or you could cover it with an upside-down bucket, tub or laundry basket. Just make sure your cat can't knock it over.

For more cleaning tips on removing cat spray and getting rid of unpleasant odours, this article has all the information you need.  

To Finish Off

When cats mark or spray inside your home, it's usually a sign that something wrong, mentally or physically. If you think it's a sign of an underlying medical problem, your best bet is to get your cat to the vet for a complete health check.

Of course, environmental stressors can also bring on this behaviour.

Whatever your cat's motivation is to spray, you must get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This isn’t a problem that’s going to go away on its own.

Have you had problems with your cat leaving urine marks inside your home? We'd love to hear from you, especially if you found an effective way to stop your cat from spraying. Simply leave your comment below.

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