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Urine spraying is a common behavioural problem, which isn’t limited to un-neutered male cats. It’s a natural feline behaviour in both male and female cats, and can be caused by a variety of factors. If you’re having problems with your cat spraying indoors it’s important to understand the cause of the problem, so that you can take steps to put a stop to it.
What is spraying?
Spraying is a powerful visual and olfactory method of communication that cats use to mark their territory, and consists of urine being ‘sprayed’ onto vertical surfaces such as walls, doorways and furniture. There’s a difference between normal urination, when your cat squats to urinate (often in a litter box), inappropriate urination (such as behind the TV) and deliberate urine spraying while standing upright, a behaviour that increases during mating season in both males and females. Cats about to spray will back onto their target, their tail will often quiver and without any crouching they will spray urine.
What causes a cat to spray?
One of the most common reasons for a cat to spray concerns safety and security; if your cat feels threatened or insecure in any way, he may use spraying to try to mark his territory and reassert his authority. This can be a common behaviour in multi-cat households, or when a new cat, dog or even baby comes into the family. Any change in routine can cause stress and an anxious cat is more likely to spray. One of the many reasons in favour of neutering male cats is that un-neutered cats are more prone to spraying. Your in-tact boy is likely to spray to advertise himself to females, especially if he senses a female cat in season and typical tom cat urine has a particularly strong and pungent smell. If you’ve ruled out the above reasons, then it’s worth taking your cat to the vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical problem (e.g. a lower urinary tract condition) that’s causing him to spray.
How to prevent your cat spraying
To prevent your cat spraying indoors, first you need to pinpoint the cause and identify what you can do to remedy it. If you believe the spraying is caused by stress, do as much as you can to remove the stress for your cat. This may not be that easy, but using a pheromone diffuser such as Feliway can go a long way to help to calm things down. If the spraying seems centred around one particular place, try moving your cat’s food bowl to that area, as naturally he won’t want to spray where his food is. The only potential issue with this solution is that your cat may just go and find another spot to spray, but it’s worth a try.
How to remove the odour
It’s important to clean the sprayed areas thoroughly – if your cat smells a residual odour he’s likely to be triggered by the smell and keep spraying again in that same spot. Use soapy water to clean the spray, rinse well with clean water and finish with a mixture of 50% water and 50% white vinegar to completely eradicate the urine scent. Don’t use ammonia based cleaning products, as these mimic the smell of urine and will trick your cat into thinking another cat has been spraying there, which could make the problem worse.
Have you ever had a cat who has sprayed urine? What did you do to modify their behaviour and stop them spraying? Please share…
Image: Takashi Hososhima via Flickr