If you’ve had a cat back up against a wall, hold up its tail, and then redecorate your wallpaper with some nice little bursts of urine, you’re not alone. Cat spraying is remarkably common, and, despite its devastating effects on your décor, it’s rarely anything to be worried about. While most people think of spraying along the same lines as other litter box problems, this isn’t the case. Cats can use the litter box perfectly normally, happily, and regularly, but still feel the need to indulge in the odd bout of spraying from time to time. Why? As it turns out, it could be down to one of a variety of things.
The What’s and Why’s of Spraying
First of all, let’s address the biggy- what exactly is spraying? As VCA Hospitals succinctly puts it, “Spraying is the deposition of small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces.” And that’s just about it- although the reasons they engage in the behavior are a lot more detailed than the explanation.
Cats are territorial, as any stranger who’s wandered unwittingly into their territory will know. Just like big cats in the wild, they employ an almost endless list of tricks to mark out what’s theirs and theirs alone. The ways they mark out their territory, and some of the ways they let other cats know about it, are, if we’re being honest, pretty unpalatable – if your cat restricts themselves to rubbing their scent along the hedge or making deep scratch marks in the earth, count yourself lucky. With exposed feces being just one of the other ways a cat likes to spell out their king of the jungle status, you could be facing a lot worse.
If it’s a toss-up between urine and feces, most of us would probably take the former- which is fortunate, as it’s one of the main ways male cats mark out their territory (a behavior that usually kicks in around the time they reach sexual maturity) and female cats in heat announce their presence, not to mention their fertility, to the world. Spraying is also used by both sexes when they come across something they think might pose a threat. New dog/ cat/ child in the neighborhood? Noticed an odd smelling liquid dripping down your walls? Then there’s your connection, and your explanation, right there.
Can You Stop A Cat From Spraying?
Although spraying is perfectly normal, it’s not necessarily desirable. Nothing takes the gloss of a brand-new coat of paint than a few strategically squirts of cat urine. Similarly, watching your cat back up against a wall and deliver a loud jet of pee during the middle of dinner doesn’t exactly encourage the appetite. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to, if not stamp out the problem for good, then at least reduce its occurrence.
As the Cat Site advises, the first step in the process is to have your cat checked out by a vet. Although spraying is a perfectly normal response to a range of situations, if it suddenly develops out of nowhere, it’s best to get the vet to confirm there’s no underlying medical condition that could be behind your cat’s sudden change in urinary habits.
Tips to Reduce Spraying
Once your cat has the clean bill of health, you might want to try some of the following techniques.
Get Them Fixed – If your cat’s not yet been spayed or neutered, consider doing it as soon as possible. Although this won’t necessarily stop an adult male cat spraying after they’ve already reached sexual maturity (the behaviors can quickly become entrenched), it can help reduce the occurrence drastically. For females who spray to make the males in the neighborhood aware they’re ready for some action, neutering will generally be enough to stamp it out completely.
Reduce Stress – Spraying can sometimes be a sign of stress. Cat’s, like kids, prefer routine: if anything changes suddenly, they could become anxious and blue. Fortunately, there’s a myriad of things that can help restore your cat’s spirits and put them back on an even keel. Some top tips to try include creating a safe haven where they can retreat to in comfort; plenty of interactive play to stimulate their minds; and natural and over the counter stress relievers like Feliway. In some extreme cases, your vet may even prescribe anti-anxiety medication.
Get Cleaning – If your cat sprays once, they’re likely to keep hitting that same spot again and again if the smell of their first endeavor lingers. As soon as you come across an area that’s been on the receiving end of your cat’s backend, clean it immediately with cleaning products that will remove the smell completely, rather than just mask it. Whatever you do, don’t use a product that contains ammonia- the smell is so similar to cat urine, it may encourage them even more.
Never Use Punishment – Cat’s don’t learn by punishment. Fact. Regardless of how many times you smack their bottom or shout, you’ll never stop a cat doing what they want with negative enforcement. No matter how frustrated you are, don’t think taking your frustrations out on your cat will result in anything other than a stressed cat and a guilt-ridden owner.
Know When To Ask For Help – Most cases of spraying can be stopped using one, or a combination of all, the above. If all your efforts fail, don’t give up – but do learn when to ask for help. Animal behaviorists can help get to the bottom of what’s making your cat spray, and devise a strategy to stamp it out once and for all, whether that’s be training techniques or stress reduce medication. Generally speaking, it’s better to bring them in sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until the problem has become too entrenched to solve. If the spraying persists for longer than a few weeks, talk to your vet about getting a referral to an animal behavior expert as soon as possible.