Spaying & Scent Marking in Cats


He uses his urine like we use a pen, this is not normal urinating, this is the process of ‘spraying’, believe me there is a difference. The difference being that when a cat urinates, they use a squatting position on horizontal surfaces, like a litter tray. Spraying is not a litter box shyness problem, if they start spraying up walls, they are still more than likely to use their litter box for urinating and the rest. Spraying has different causes and therefore needs to be dealt with differently.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Cats are very territorial, using a variety of signals to mark their territory and give other cats clear boundaries not to overstep. Along with spraying, they also mark their territory with scratch marks, scent rubbed off their skin and feces. It is perfectly normal for unaltered males to make their territorial claim by spraying.

This starts right about the age of sexual maturity because it is triggered by hormonal changes, however it can become an inherent part of the cats behavioral pattern. Females also tend to spray, especially when they are in ‘heat’. This is to announce to the males in her vicinity that she is in ‘heat’. She does this by releasing special scents in her urine and spraying it in several key locations.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking I will get my cat spayed / neutered then they wont need to ‘show off’ or ‘announce’ their awakenings. However, spraying can even occur with neutered males and spayed females, especially if you have waited to neuter a male cat after he has reached sexual maturity, by then, spraying may have become a fixed habit to him.

Spraying is linked with territory, a cat may start to spray when it senses a potential territorial threat, this could be in the form of a new dog or cat arriving in the household, or a stray cat that comes near the house. Often, though, the threat is less obvious as the cat can be sometimes insecure or overstressed, their reaction is to spray.

How to Deal with Spraying

There are several things you can do to try and solve the problem:

  • I would recommend that a vet examine your cat, as a change in urinating habits could indicate a potential medical problem that may need veterinary attention. Your vet will then determine any problems or give your cat a clean bill of health.
  • If the cat is unaltered, I would recommend that you get it neutered as soon as possible, you will find that in many cases, this will solve the problem completely.
  • If you are certain the reason for spraying is some perceived threat from another animal, then I would recommend analyzing the problem and try to accommodate your cat with the privacy and space it needs, a room of its own may be a suggestion. If the problem is to do with animals that are outside the home, you should try to reduce your cat’s exposure to those cats.
  • A cat can get stressed not only through territorial disputes. Try to lower the cat’s stress by maintaining a routine, thus keeping the cat relaxed and calm.
  • As mentioned in previous articles, don’t punish your cat, they cannot comprehend what punishment means and will probably retaliate with scratching, biting and even worse behavior.

The smell of its own urine could encourage a cat to spray again on its same spot. Clean the stain thoroughly by using special cleaning products that completely eradicate any odors rather than covering them up. Avoid products that contain ammonia as these could actually remind the cat of the smell of urine. During my research I have found a special product called ‘Feliway’ which can be very effective when dealing with problem spraying (don’t worry I am not on commission), you can check information on several sites, or just type ‘Feliway’ in any search engine.

Finally if the problem persists, I would recommend consulting an animal behaviorist. Your vet should be able to refer you to a local cat behaviorist. In most cases it probably will not get as far as this stage, but it is an option to consider.

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