Cat Spraying: What And Why?

Cat Spraying: What And Why?

A cat is capable of spraying regardless of whether it’s been spayed or neutered. Most people believe that only un-neutered male cats spray, but that isn’t the case.  Spraying can occur in any breed, age, or gender, although it is more common among un-neutered male cats.

It’s not always easy to tell why your cat is spraying. According to an article in Applied Animal Behaviour Science from 1997, it was reported that about ten percent of all cats spray in adulthood. This could be caused by many things including, but not limited to medical issues, mating behavior, and stress.

Not only is the smell of cat urine repulsive, but it can also affect your health as well. Cat urine, like all types of human and animal waste, carries harmful bacteria which could lead to illness. Bacterial infection like cat-scratch fever and salmonellosis could be caused by exposure to cat urine and feces.

Bucket Spraying Cat

Parasites also exist in cat secretions, such as the frightening “Toxoplasma gondii“, which is responsible for fever-like symptoms and even an increase in irrationality and rage issues.

Cat urine, which is what cat spray is made up of, contains a high concentration of ammonia. Ammonia is a natural chemical compound made up of nitrogen and hydrogen, but it isn’t exactly healthy to breathe in.

If someone has respiratory issues, such as COPD or asthma, the ammonia from the cat urine can harm their lungs further. The ammonia affects even healthy lungs, so the effect on someone with pre-existing respiratory issues is even greater.

Many animals spray their urine for various reasons. Some spray for self-defense and others spray to mark their territory and send a message to predators and prey alike. Animals that spray include Striped Polecats, Skunks, Millipedes, Bombardier Beetles, Woodhoopoes, and all sorts of various cats like lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars.

What Is Cat Spraying?

Spraying is when a cat squirts a small amount of urine in places outside of the litterbox, usually on a vertical surface. When spraying, a cat will back up to a vertical surface with their tail up, and squirt out a small amount of urine.

Cats have different ways of communicating socially, and one of them is through urine-marking.  By urine-marking, your cat is essentially leaving a message.  Cats have natural oils on their skin which they leave on things when they rub on them, which is another way they leave messages. They also have glands that release chemicals called pheromones.

When your cat leaves his mark, one way or another, he’s essentially trying to claim his territory. When cats spray, they typically spray very small amounts of urine. Urine-marking from cats comes in two forms: spraying on vertical surfaces, and urinating on horizontal surfaces. The spraying may not be a result of a litterbox issue.

Wood Spraying

To figure out whether your cat is spraying or just urinating, check to see that the mark is on a vertical surface. Cats will usually back up against something like a door, piece of furniture, a wall, or otherwise, and spray.  If the urine mark in question is large and on a horizontal surface, your cat isn’t spraying. This form of urine-marking is referred to as “indiscriminate urination.”

Indiscriminate urination is an inappropriate elimination like spraying, but it isn’t caused by the same reasons. Indiscriminate urination doesn’t usually have anything to do with marking territory, as it’s more like defecating outside of the litterbox. It’s more likely to be caused by an unclean or cramped litterbox, or some other lurking medical conditions.

Why Is My Cat Spraying?

Any number of things could be the cause of your cats spraying. It’s not too unreasonable to want to know why. Although your cat may be spraying due to litter box or medical issues, the most common cause is anxiety. To correctly determine why your cat is spraying, you’re going to need to know what to look for.

When your cat sprays, it’s because it wants to feel more secure in its environment.  To determine why your cat is spraying, you must try and isolate the source of your pet’s stress. There are some things you can look at first:

How Many Cats Do You Have?

Cats are very solitary animals. When they engage in social activities, it’s usually in short form. Most cats tend to spend the majority of their time alone. If you have more than one cat in the household, it’s possible that one of them is a bit of a bully.

Most cats do well with other cats. Even though they are mostly pretty individualistic animals, they tend to enjoy social time with other cats. It’s true that cats in the wild hunt alone, and don’t operate in packs like many other mammals; they still enjoy the company of other cats.

3 Cats in House

Although cats are capable of being social and even thoroughly enjoying it, you have to introduce unfamiliar cats to one another gradually; especially adult cats who are by nature more territorial. It can take up to a month or longer to successfully introduce cats to each other while avoiding stress.

If you have recently gotten a new cat, your older cat may have a hard time adjusting to that. Stress and anxiety can bring on timidity, insecurity, and fear, which can lead to spraying in cats. Cats like to feel in control and charge. A new cat in the situation might throw off their groove. It’s also possible that your new cat doesn’t feel secure or welcomed in his new environment.

The Litterbox

It may be that your cat is spraying because of the state of the litterbox. Some cats can be particularly picky when it comes to the cleanliness and placement of the litterbox, and even the type of litter. Your litter box should be big enough for the cat and cleaned frequently.

Litterbox In house

Many people don’t realize the importance of maintaining a clean litterbox and choosing the right location for it. A cat may also not respond well to a covered litterbox. I’ve known cats that wouldn’t use a litter box because it was covered. Some cats might find it intimidating or too confining, especially if it’s in a high traffic area.

The Daily Routine

Your cat’s spraying behavior could also be caused by a disturbance in the cat’s regular schedule. For example, if you went away for a weekend and had a friend or family member come over to feed the cat and change the litter, your cat may become anxious because you’re not there.

Even seemingly simple everyday things like re-decorating or having new people around can trigger a cat to become anxious and stressed and spray as a result. Be mindful of keeping things in the same place, and any new or overly exciting experiences that might startle the cat, or cause them to feel insecure.

Cat Daily Routine

Some cats are more sensitive than others, and even things as seemingly simple as loud unexpected noises or movements can cause short-term anxiety and be very scary for them. People with loud voices or walking with heavy footsteps may be unsettling as well.

Some cat’s extra sensitive behavior could be a result of their treatment as a kitten, either being abused or neglected or not having a lot of contact with people. Due to this, some cats don’t like being boxed-in or cornered, and they sometimes lash out.

Outdoor Disturbances

Another possible cause of stress in cats could be the presences of strays or other outdoor neighboring cats. When your cats see another cat outside, they’re a little taken aback and on guard. They want to protect their homes. This can lead to your cat spraying near windows or doors.

It gives cats a sense of security to spray in their own homes when they feel as though their dominance might be challenged by another cat. Cats can foster healthy relationships with one another, but it takes time. Cats that are strangers could either startle a cat or cause them to become aggressive and territorial; both of which lead to spraying.

Medical Issues

Nobody wants to confront the fact that their beloved pet may be sick, but in the case of spraying, it may be a possibility.  Some medical issues that lead to spraying include but aren’t limited to:

  • Recent medical treatment
  • Old age (neurological issues)
  • Excessive glucose in the urine (diabetes mellitus)
  • arrow-circle-rightHyperthyroidism
  • arrow-circle-rightLiver disease
  • arrow-circle-rightUrinary tract, kidney or bladder stones
  • arrow-circle-rightFLUTD, and inflammation of the bladder (cystitis)
  • arrow-circle-rightFeline leukemia (FeLV)
  • arrow-circle-rightUrinary tract infection

How Often Do Cats Spray?

Un-neutered male cats are the most likely to spray. Any cat is capable of spraying, but un-neutered male cats are the most likely culprits. Female cats don’t spray as often but depending on their environment they could.

Cats spray when they feel threatened, or insecure. Your cat will continue to spray until its needs are met. It’s different with every cat so there’s no way to know exactly how often your cat will spray. The best thing you can do is take preventative measures.

Why Does My Spayed Or Neutered Cat Still Spray?

If your cat is fixed and it still spraying, it points to underlying medical conditions or stress. Most cats will stop spraying within six months of getting the procedure. Just because a cat is fixed doesn’t mean that it can’t spray. Any cat can spray if it wants to.

Neutured Cat Can Spray

Neutering and spaying your cats can be very helpful for some reasons. It prevents diseases, reduces the risk of your cats roaming, reduces fights between cats, and will prevent spraying. In general, most vets prefer to spay and neuter the cats when they are nearing the age of sexual maturity. After spaying or neutering, your cat will eventually return to its regular self.

Spaying and neutering your pets, however, won’t guarantee that they don’t spray. It’s still possible, but it’s very likely that you can get to the bottom of it and sort it out.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Spraying?

Regarding getting your cat to stop spraying, if you’ve already spayed and neutered, the most effective method is to cover all of your bases. Although it’s possible that your cat has some underlying medical issues, the more likely culprit for the cause of the spraying behavior is anxiety. It’s your job to figure out the cause of this anxiety.

The Household

The best place to start is the litterbox. Many cats can be picky when it comes to picking a place “to go.” If your cat has been spraying, it’s possible that they don’t like where the litterbox is placed. Try moving the litterbox to a new location and make sure nothing is blocking or obstructing it.

Studies show that most cats prefer fine-grained, unscented litter as opposed to clumpy scented litter. When choosing a litter type, it’s better to select an unscented litter and just clean the litter box itself more frequently.

It’s recommended that you have one litter box in your house for every cat, and one extra (if possible). It’s best to put the litterbox in a discreet area, because of a lot of people, cats like to do their business in private. Make sure that the litterbox is in a convenient location for the cat too; with at least two points where they can exit.

litterbox per cat

If you have more than one cat, make sure that you provide multiple litterboxes, sleeping areas, and food and water bowls so that your cats and not competing for the things that they need. That competition could create unhealthy social dynamics which lead to stress and anxiety.

Cats can be affected by the cleanliness of the litterbox as well. The best way to keep the litter box clean is to scoop daily, and completely change the litter weekly. It’s also suggested that you clean your litterbox with warm water and unscented soap every week.

Make sure you thoroughly clean the area where the cat has sprayed. It’s imperative to clean the area quickly, so the smell doesn’t linger. You shouldn’t use an overly smelly cleaner, as your cat may try and cover up the strong smell with his own.

It’s also possible that one of your cats is a little bit of a bully if there is more than one in the household and someone is spraying. In that case, there’s not a whole lot you can do besides making sure they have ample space for themselves and their areas to fall back on and feel secure in.

Another thing to look at is whether or not your cat may be affected by an outdoor presence. Many times cats will see another cat through the window and become defensive, immediately rushing off to mark their territory, which just so happens to be your home.

If an outdoor presence may be affecting your pet, you can start by closing your blinds and moving your furniture away from the window if you can. If your cat is being stressed out by a stray or neighborhood cat on the other side of the window, they’re likely to go and spray on the closest thing nearby.

Play with your cats; make sure they are comfortable. Do your best to make sure that their environment is secure and that the places where they eat and do their business are private enough so that they won’t be disturbed.  Cats can mark and spray in response to dogs, as well as other cats.

Try to provide multiple perching areas for your cat. Cats like to be in areas that are away from everyone else. Try to clear off some shelves or maybe even purchase a cat tree. Your pet will greatly appreciate the chance to relax at a distance.

Medical Complications

If you’ve ruled out everything in the household as the possible cause of your cat’s spraying behavior, it’s possible that some underlying medical issues are present. I would recommend taking your pet to the vet to get checked if they’re spraying, just so you can rule out medical issues right away.

Is your cat spayed or neutered? If not, this could be the cause. It’s worth noting that most cats that are spayed or neutered do not spray, although it is still possible.

Spayed Cat Problems

If your cat doesn’t have any of these physical medical conditions, it’s possible that your cat may be experiencing acute anxiety and stress-related issues. In these rare cases, an anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed.

Set up an appointment with your vet and explain the situation. Tell him that your cat is spraying/urine-marking and that you’d like to find out whether or not it’s being caused by something that can be treated medically. Whether it’s in the form of surgery or medicine, your vet will let you know what can be done to treat the cat.

How Do I Get Rid Of The Smell?

Cat urine can be especially pungent. It carries a strong ammonia-like smell that is very acrid. You can use enzymatic deodorizers to get rid of the smell, which can linger if not dealt with quickly. When it comes to dealing with the smell, the sooner you act, the better. As soon as you notice the spray mark, you should scrub it thoroughly.

An enzymatic cleaner will be especially effective because it contains enzymes which break down various compounds in cat urine that are responsible for lingering odors. Allow the cleaner to settle in and then scrub deeply. If you can, open your windows to air the area out a little bit. This will help get rid of the smell more quickly.

You can also attempt to make a natural remedy, which probably won’t be quite as effective, but could still be useful. You can make your cleaning solution by combining two parts warm water and 1 part white vinegar. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and shake it well.

Feline Protein find in Cat Urine

You might need to repeat the cleaning process more than a few times due to the resistant nature of cat urine and its smell. It’s among one of the most difficult smells to completely get out of something, furniture or otherwise. There is a protein in the urine called Felinine. This makes the smell of the cat urine more pungent as time goes on.

Male cat urine is stronger smelling because it has a higher level of Felinine. The smell is determined by the number of proteins in his urine. Also, because cat urine contains fatty acids, it can become sticky, and hard to remove.

By restricting access to areas where your cat has already sprayed, you can prevent them from spraying the same places after you’ve already cleaned them. If this isn’t possible, you can try to place a litterbox nearby so they might prefer that instead.

The Conclusion

Whatever the cause of your cat’s spraying may be, it can be treated, one way or another. Work on figuring out what the real cause of your cat’s spraying behavior is. If you cover all your possible bases, there’s no way you’ll not be able to treat it. In the meantime, you can make sure you keep your home clean and clean up all cat spray right away.

Hopefully, this article could help point you in the right direction to solve your feline-related issues. Cat spraying is not uncommon and not too difficult to resolve. The hardest part is figuring out the cause. Once you’ve determined the cause, it’s as simple as rectifying the issue.

Nine times out of ten, your problem with your pet can be resolved at home without the involvement of a vet, but it’s still good to have your pets checked on regularly (even if they aren’t spraying). Remember not to verbally or physically discipline your cat for spraying, as they don’t do it out of aggression and won’t understand what you’re trying to tell them.

Resources

PetMD

VetStreet

Care

WebMD

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