What is Spraying?
In general, the term urine spraying means when a cat "marks" his environment. When a cat sprays he will back up to a vertical surface (such as a wall) hold his tail high while rapidly twitching it and emits a forcible spray of urine on the surface. Often his back feet are treading while spraying.
What is Marking?
Marking is the general term meaning both the standard urine spraying while standing and urine marking while squatting.
Why Do Cats Spray?
Spraying is a form of communication in felines. Spraying and marking are a normal communication tool and is most often seen in intact male cats. However, intact females may spray. A cat sprays the urine and, later, another cat may happen on the mark, sniff it and receive the message contained in that urine (i.e., the female is in heat). There is belief the urine spray contains various information including reproductive status, individual identity, and when that cat was there. Many owners believe that when a cat sprays it is upset, angry or spiteful. Felines do spray when they are upset, so getting to the root of the problem is the best way to remove it.
Sometimes spraying may be a sign of lower urinary tract disease. Any time your cat urinates in an inappropriate location you should consult your veterinarian.
Do Females Spray?
Intact females can and do spray, especially when in heat. Spaying (removal of the reproductive organs) reduces the likelihood of urine spraying and is an effective way to stop spraying. Estimates as high as 90% of males will stop spraying when neutered (castrated). Unfortunately, this leaves 10% of neutered males that may still display spraying behavior and there are estimates that 5% of spayed females will still engage in this behavior.
Always consult your veterinarian any time your cat starts urinating in inappropriate places to:
- Rule out a health issue, and
- Find out what course of action to take to stop it from spraying.
If your veterinarian rules out any health issue, and it is altered, there are a few things that you can do to stop spraying. Alternatives include:
- environmental management,
- behavioral modification,
- pheromone therapy,
- drug therapy.
- Add more litter boxes to the household. In general rule, there should be one litter box per cat in the house, plus one (i.e., if there are 2 cats, there should be 3 litter boxes available).
- Every day, scoop the litter boxes. Wash the litter boxes weekly and put new litter in the clean, dry litter box.
- Use an enzymatic cleaner on the place the cat has sprayed.
- Create an environment of "plenty" in the house by adding multiple feeding spots, different litter box locations, and resting perches spread throughout the home.
- Identify and resolve conflicts the cat has with other pets.
- Make sure it is not reacting to what it feels is an "unpleasant" change making the cat angry with you.
- Identify and limit exposure to any triggers for spraying.
- Provide indoor social activities: more attention, play, treasure hunts for food, etc.
Never punish a cat for spraying.
Contact your veterinarian about the use of pheromone therapy in your home. Feliway® is a synthetic copy of a cat's facial pheromone. Felines use their facial pheromone to mark their territory as safe and secure. Pheromones comfort and reassure it while it copes with challenges (i.e., changes in the household, a new cat, etc.) and/or help prevent or reduce the stress caused during that change.
Contact your veterinarian regarding the use of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (i.e., fluoxetine) to treat spraying.
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