Despite popular myth, urine spraying is not confined strictly to intact male cats. All felines, whether male or female, neutered or unneutered, may spray urine to mark their territory. Cats use territorial marking to outline their property, discouraging other cats from claiming that territory. Indoor spraying is not only frustrating to owners, but it is unsanitary for those living in the house. Therefore, spraying should be addressed as soon as the behavior is detected.
Before Anything Else, Have Your Cats Spayed or Neutered
While spraying is not limited to unneutered males, spaying and neutering is often the most effective way to eliminate the behavior, especially in young cats. Some owners avoid this procedure because they feel it will be too traumatic for the cat, but the recovery time is quite short, and most cats are back to their active and happy selves within just a day or two. If you have any reservations about the procedure, talk to your veterinarian to address your concerns.
Spraying and Feline Competition
In multiple cat homes, competition may exist over who owns what. A cat may be afraid of another cat or be in a constant struggle over who “owns” the territory. This competition leads to one cat eventually spraying in the home, which, in turn, leads the other cats to spray. Owners must take extra care to level the playing field and eliminate competition as quickly as possible.
Food can often be a source of tension in the home, which can lead to competition between cats that extends beyond kibble. During feeding time, alternate which cat gets fed first at each meal, so that no single cat develops a superior sense of self. If one cat is constantly going after another pet’s food, simply separate the animals at feeding time.
If you notice your cats competing for your time and attention, it can be useful to separate the cats and spend one-on-one time with each. Place one cat in a room by herself while you play with the other, and vice versa. This will not only focus your attention on one cat at a time, but it will also allow that cat to forget about the others during play.
Have There Been any Changes in the Household?
Cats may also spray urine if there is some type of stressful change in the household. For example, moving to a new house or the arrival of a new baby or pet in the home can lead to urine spraying. In other words, cats may spray as a way of dealing with stress and anxiety.
If your cat’s living circumstances have changed, you’ll want to take lots of time to focus your attention solely on the cat. Play, snuggle, and give lots of affection to let your cat know that the changes in the environment won’t affect your special relationship.
Add More Litterboxes and Keep Them Clean
If you notice spraying occurring in the same are over and over again, place a litterbox in that area to encourage the cat to use it instead of your carpet or furniture. This won’t always work, but it can often be a useful tool to help curb the behavior and save your carpet and furniture.
If you have more than one cat, you should have more than one litterbox. Cats are clean by nature and they don’t enjoy using a box that is constantly full or that carries the odor of other cats’ urine and feces. Try adding extra boxes around the home, and be sure to scoop the litter every single day to keep the box fresh and encourage your cats to use the boxes appropriately.
When all Else Fails, Visit the Vet
Some spraying behaviors are a result of an underlying illness and have nothing to do with behavior or emotional issues. In these cases, the cat may just not be able to make it to the box when it’s time to go. If you can’t identify a potential cause of spraying, or you’re finding it difficult to correct, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have the cat examined. The problem could be as simple as a urinary tract infection, or it could be more severe. Kidney diseases are common in older cats, and many are life-threatening. It is best to take spraying behavior seriously and err on the side of caution, rather than hoping it will go away on its own.