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Stop Cat Spraying and Inappropriate Urination


Cats spray to mark territory and for mating. It is also called marking and is not malicious or sneaky behavior. Urinating outside the litter box is known as inappropriate urination. Inappropriate urination can be a behavioral problem or have a physical cause.

Cat spraying and inappropriate urination are common reasons cat owners take their cat to the veterinarian. Punishing or yelling at your cat will not help and may increase stress levels.

When a cat urinates it squats down, but when a cat sprays it stands upright and sprays against a vertical surface. Your cat will back up to a vertical area with an intense look of concentration, tail twitching and lifted, and spray a small amount of urine from beneath its tail in short bursts. Various places may include a wall, couch, bed, countertop, drapes, or piles of clothing.

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 what area (territory) belongs to them. Sprayed cat urine contains pheromones, a substance produced by animals that is used for communication. Combinations of pheromones are like human fingerprints.

Several different pheromones are secreted by different regions of a cat's body. By signaling to other cats, they affect a number of behaviors, including attracting a mate. Some pheromones mark objects and boundaries, while others send a signal of familiarity and well being. Cats have other methods to mark territory, such as scratching or rubbing against something, or not covering their feces. But spraying is the most common method of marking.

Intact male cats (not neutered) mark because of their testosterone, but neutered male cats also spray if aroused. Females cats spray, especially intact females when in heat.

If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, have your veterinarian perform an examination to eliminate the possibility of a medical problem or physical illness.

Cats are clean animals. Urinating outside the litter box is usually a sign that there is something wrong with either the cat or the litter box. A common physical problem causing inappropriate urination is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), but can also be caused by bladder stones, urinary tract infections, or diabetes. Physical problems can be life-threatening if not treated right away.

Behavior problems include litter box aversion, territorial marking, or a subtle form of bullying known as intercat aggression.

cat spraying

Adjustments You Can Make in Your Home

  • Provide at least 1 more litter box than the number of cats in your household, and keep them clean.
  • Provide toys and scratching posts to keep your cat busy.
  • Spay or neuter your cat. This may solve the problem in just a few months.
  • Clean urine marks thoroughly with a product designed to neutralize the odor. Nature's Miracle works very well. Avoid ammonia-based products as they smell like urine, and will encourage your cat to spray on the same spot again. Clean urine marks with a homemade recipe of 1 teaspoon dish soap, added to 1 part white vinegar, and 1 part water in a spray bottle. This is inexpensive and works.
  • Cats are sensitive. If your cat is in a stressful situation, such as conflict with other cats or separation anxiety, eliminate the cause of the stress. Encourage a positive relationship among multiple cats. Cats that get along are less competitive. Play with your cats together, and give each cat equal attention. Try to get them to eat and sleep together.
  • Reduce stress-related behavior including: urine marking, new pet or family member, moving to a new home, visits to the veterinarian, adjusting to a new environment, with a calming spray. Or use a diffuser such as Comfort Zone with Feliway for Cats.
  • Restrict the view outside. When your cat sees another cat its natural response is to mark its territory -- your house. Cover windows with blinds or curtains, move furniture to deny access to certain windows, shut doors to certain rooms.
  • Be consistent! Change causes spraying or inappropriate urination. Feed your cat at the same time and keep its food, litter box, and bed in the same places. Place your cat in a separate room when visitors arrive.

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