Urine Spraying

Cats sometimes engage in a behavior called urine spraying or urine marking. The cat stands, backs up to an object, holds his tail up erect and quivering, and releases urine out backwards onto the object. The urine sprayed differs chemically from the urine cats normally release from a squatting position because it also contains oily secretions from the anal glands. Sprayed urine is extremely pungent. Some people describe it as smelling like ammonia; others say it has a heavy musky odor. Cats occasionally spray from a squatting position.

Why do cats spray urine? They spray during territorial disputes, during aggressive conflicts, and during sexual encounters. The majority of cats who spray just do their spraying outside. They advertise their presence in a territory by spraying visually conspicuous sites. Cats “time share” territories, so the marks enable the cats to space themselves out so that they don’t often meet. Some cats spray urine inside their homes. Often indoor spraying results from conflicts between cats in the home or from the resident cat feeling threatened by outside cats.

Most often, cats who spray are reproductively intact males (toms) but females do sometimes spray. Neutering is the most effective way to curb spraying in a tomcat. In one study, 77 percent of cats stopped or significantly reduced spraying within six months of being neutered. Neutered cats can spray as well. Ten percent of male cats neutered before 10 months of age will still spray as adults. In households with numerous cats, at least one cat will likely spray, even if all the cats are neutered.

What To Do:

–Neuter or spay the spraying cat.

–Identify the reasons why your cat may be spraying. For instance, if your cat is reacting to the sight of cats outside, block your cat’s view. If your cat is reacting to the scent of cats outside, possibly through a screen door or from odors on your shoes, prevent your cat from coming into contact with these scents. Keep the door closed and remove shoes outside, before entering the home.

–Discourage cats from hanging around outside your house. Motion-activated devices, such as the Critter Gitter™, the Scarecrow™, or the Scraminal™, all function to frighten outdoor cats away. The Scat Mat™ and the Sofa Saver™ can be used to keep outdoor cats away from doors and windows.

–If your cat is spraying in one or a few locations, you can make these areas less appealing, using some type of booby trap, such as Ssscat™. Ssscat™ is a motion-activated device that sprays the cat with a harmless but unpleasant aerosol. Alternatively, you can put out an “unwelcome mat” for the cat by placing foil, plastic wrap, or upside-down vinyl carpet runner where your cat sprays. Be aware that cats often just choose a new spot to spray.

–You can try placing a litter box in each location. If the cat is spraying on the wall beside the litter box, try attaching a liner on the wall and drape it down into the box. Should the cat spray there, the urine at least will drip down into the box.

–Spray Feliway™ in the areas where your cat is spraying. Feliway™ is a synthetic pheromone designed to elicit calm, friendly behavior in cats. Research supports the claim that Feliway™ reduces indoor urine spraying.

–If the spraying is due to conflict among resident cats, you should seek counsel on resolving the conflict. You may need to separate the cats or at least isolate the spraying cat until you are able to restore harmony. If this is not possible, re-homing to reduce your numbers may be the only viable solution. A spraying cat might not spray at all in a new home with fewer cats.

–Drug therapy can help resolve a spraying problem. There are numerous medications that have been demonstrated to be effective in individual cases—e.g., the Benzodiazepines (i.e. Valium), other anti-anxiety drugs (i.e. Clomipramine or BuSpar), or progestins.

–Make sure you clean sprayed areas with an enzymatic cleanser designed to eliminate odors.

–If you can do so safely, allowing the cat to spend time outside sometimes results in the cat spraying outside the home rather than inside. Building a large wire enclosure for the cat outside may be sufficient to stimulate him to spray outdoors.

What Not To Do:

–Do not punish the cat by hitting, spanking, or slapping for spraying. Similarly, do not take the cat to the area and admonish him. This might well teach the cat to be afraid of you. The cat may actually spray more if he is stressed by the punishment.
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