Spraying is one of the biggest problems that cat parents face with their cats. Our first instinct is usually to discipline the cat for this "undesirable behaviour". However, in the cat's world, spraying is totally normal. Feline urine marking usually happens when a cat feels threatened. Your cat may be spraying to communicate about territory or something else. To stop this habit, you first need to identify what causes your cat to start spraying, and how to effectively remove the markings. Any traces of the previous spraying can trigger your cat to re-mark the area.
Cat spraying or litter box problem
You may need to do some detective work to find out if your cat is spraying or simply avoiding her litter box and showing "inappropriate elimination”. Here are some clues to look for:
Are the markings on horizontal or vertical surfaces? Normal cat elimination generally happens only on horizontal surfaces (e.g., floors, laundry, etc.). Whereas urine that’s sprayed typically shows up on vertical surfaces (e.g., furniture, walls, etc.). A cat that’s spraying will probably still be using her litter box normally. As such, you’ll see normal elimination (pee and poop) in her litter box, at the same time noticing urine markings on walls, furniture, and other vertical surfaces.
Are the markings on specific “types” of surfaces? For cats that are spraying, the location they are doing it in is typically more important than the “type” of the surface they’re doing it on. They will spray in areas they want to claim as their own and the type of surfaces that they spray on does not matter. On the other hand, inappropriately toileting cats will often “do their business” on a surface they prefer. This often turns out to be “cushy” surfaces like your carpet or laundry. They prefer this surface to whatever is in their litter boxes. When it comes to litter box issues, other possible reasons why your cat is avoiding her litter box could be the cleanliness or placement of the litter box. Just like how we prefer a clean bathroom with privacy, your cat prefers a clean litter placed in a quiet location. She may feel uncomfortable with the dirty cat litter, or the litter box is in an area where there's too much noise or foot traffic.
Common reasons why cat spray
Territory Cats spray to mark their turf In multi-feline households, spraying is one-way for cats to establish boundaries. Sometimes, a stray cat lurking around your home may cause your cat to start spraying. Even if your cat never goes outside, she can see or smell the stray and may start spraying around the door or window to mark her territory.
Change and stress A stressed cat is more likely to spray. Change is stressful to cats. The changes don’t have to be big. It may be something small and insignificant to you like moving around a piece of furniture in your living room but that can upset a sensitive cat. Be mindful of changes in routine. Did you recently change your work/home routine? This can be the reason why your cat is spraying. Changes in routine must be done gradually to allow your cat the time to acclimatise to the new routine.
Mating Contrary to popular belief, spraying is not a male cat issue. Both female and male cats spray, although unneutered males are more likely to spray, and they also have the strongest smelling urine! Neuter or spay your cat. Though this does not stop your cat from spraying, neutering, or spaying will greatly decrease the urge to spray.
Pain and discomfort Sometimes, a cat may spray due to pain and discomfort. If you suspect that your cat may be suffering from ill-health or notice sudden changes in weight and appetite, lethargy, lameness, withdrawal and hiding away, please arrange to visit the vet as soon as possible. For busy cat parents, adding the Cat Litter Company Health Indicator to your cat’s litter may help to notify you of a range of health problems your cat may have including cystitis, bladder stones, urethral plugs and bladder infections. All you need to do is sprinkle the bag of Cat Litter Company Health Indicator crystals evenly across the top of your cat’s litter. The crystals will change colour when it comes in contact with your cat’s urine. Simply compare the colour of the crystals to the enclosed chart to see if your cat has any concerning health issues.
How to clean markings
Before you can stop your cat from spraying, you must clean up any urine markings and clean them well. Traces of the previous spraying can trigger your cat's desire to re-mark the area again. Use an enzymatic odour remover designed to neutralize cat urine odours like this Simple Solution (Regular) Stain & Odor Remover For Cats & Dogs. The enzyme will help to break down, neutralize, and permanently eliminate stains and odours, preventing repeat markings. It can be used on carpet, upholstery, or other water-safe surfaces in your home, and it’s safe around children.
Following the clean-up, you can use a cat deterrent spray. The NaturVet No Mark! Stops Cat's Desire to Urine Mark For Cats is a good product to consider though technically, it’s not a chemical deterrent spray. This product contains stimulated pheromones that have a calming effect on cats. Pheromones are chemical that an animal produces that changes the behaviour of another animal of the same species. Some describe pheromones as behaviour-altering agents. In the case of the pheromones found in this product, it helps cats to be less anxious, more content, and thus less likely to spray. The simulated pheromones have no foul odours and are harmless to your other pets, people, and plants.
Whatever you do, do not clean up urine markings with an ammonia-based cleanser. Urine contains ammonia, so cleaning with ammonia will not remove the odour but may even attract your cat to that same spot again.
How to reduce cat spraying
Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered Spaying or neutering your cat will decrease spraying, and this is true for both male and female cats. Talk with your vet for a professional recommendation.
If your cat responds to catnip, giving her a catnip-filled toy may help. Catnip induces a state of euphoria which will have a great calming effect on your cat, and the toy will redirect her attention, keeping her occupied with play. Give her a soft and snuggly Kong Rat Refillable Catnip Cat Toy that will calm her nerves and keep her entertained! Playing can help to reduce markings, as pent-up energy can lead to stress and nervousness.
Help your cat build confidence Spraying is often a sign of insecurity. Help your cat feel more confident by setting up cat towers that she can claim as her territory. The more territory she "owns," the more confident she feels. If another pet (dog or cat), is bullying your cat causing her to start spraying, you will need to re-introduce them, so they get along better. Temporarily, you may need to keep them apart, in separate rooms and set up separate feeding stations. To help build positive associations, start by swapping scents and then slowly releasing them back into each other's lives, starting with supervised visits.
Place litter boxes in low-traffic areas Although marking is not an elimination problem, the objective here is to avoid conflict between pets. If a cat feels threatened, she may start marking. In households with multiple cats, keep the litter clean. Scoop at least once a day and completely replace the litter once a week to help reduce the “other cat” scent. The Kit Cat Snow Peas (Confetti) Cat Litter has excellent liquid absorbent features that effectively eliminate odours naturally. It’s 100% eco-friendly, non-toxic and has excellent odour control properties.
Many times, spraying is a sign that your cat feels stressed and insecure. They're generally acting out due to fear and stress. As such, yelling or punishing her is not going to help. It may even cause the situation to get worse as she may become more stressed. Find and remove the stressor. Even subtle changes to her environment or routine can cause a big reaction. Continue to show her love and affection. With time and training, she will build her confidence, feel more comfortable with her surroundings, and stop spraying.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.