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Feline Spraying

July 19, 2015

Cats spray to “talk” to other animals, primarily cats. When a cat sprays, it will normally tread with its hind feet and its tail will quiver. Urine marking or spraying is a normal communication behavior for cats – male or female – spayed, neutered or intact. This how they attract a mate, mark their territory, or respond to stresses.

Ways to Avoid or Stop Spraying

It’s time for a vet checkup to confirm that there is nothing medically wrong with your friend. If you haven’t already done so, spay or neuter your cat. Intact males or females are 90-95% more likely to spray. Keep litter boxes clean and have plenty of them – one for each cat in the house plus one. With clumping litter it is recommended to scoop the box daily and empty and scrub it weekly. Areas previously marked marked should be cleaned thoroughly. Various cleaning routines are suggested, so talk to your vet for the solution that is best for you and your cats. Using soap and water, ammonia or chlorine can actually make the situation worse by causing the cat to want to re-mark the area. 

The Target is a Clue

The item or area being marked can help you and your vet determine the cause of the marking. If the item being marked is new to the home, it is your culprit.  Clean the item thoroughly and move the offending object to an area where the cat cannot access it. It may have a scent that was upsetting to your cat so it is trying to cover up that scent with its own. If the item cannot be moved, you may need to use feline pheromones. See insert below. 

Is the spraying occurring near windows or doorways? If they are doors or windows that lead to the outside of your home, there is probably a cat hanging around outside your home. Your cat is telling it “Stay away. This is my space.” by marking areas where the cat could (in kitty’s mind) enter the home. Out of sight, out of mind works here. Find ways to block your kitty’s view of the outside. You may need to be creative. Foil or upside down contact paper on your window sill can discourage your cat from sitting there. Placing opaque window covers on the glass to prevent visibility is also helpful. You also want to make sure your cat cannot smell the outside cat. Talk to your vet about a good outdoor cleaning agent. Also, it will probably be necessary to keep your windows closed until the situation is resolved.

If the doorways are indoors, the cat is trying to tell someone else in the house “I have been here.” The intended recipient, if it is a cat, will be able to determine who came through the area and approximately when. This will help the recipient avoid the marking feline. Cats like space. In multiple cat households, this may be in short supply. One option to help alleviate the problem is cat trees or other high places, as well as tucked away areas behind furniture. This adds many solitary places your cat can go to avoid the other cats and relax. You can also place the marking kitty in a room by itself for a while every day so it can have a time out from its housemates.

Is the object of your sweetie’s attention something personal? To whom does it belong? What has changed in the relationship between your cat and that person or animal? Once you determine the cause, the solution is usually easy to see. If you aren’t spending enough time with your kitty, take 15 minutes each day to give undivided attention to it. If the item belongs to someone new in the household, chances are kitty doesn’t like him (or her). You and he will need to take certain steps to change this, but that is a whole new research project. Watch for a future article about that.

Research shows that synthetic pheromone sprays, which mimic the scent from the cheek glands of cats, can be effective. It is believed that the message sent by these pheromones is a peaceful friendly one that is calming to the feline receiving it. Place a little of these pheromones in the area previously sprayed on a daily basis. The scent is believed to reduce anxiety within the cat, thus stopping the marking behavior. The spray has also been used to calm cats in new environments. You can achieve the same effect by rubbing your cat’s cheek with a cotton ball and then rubbing the cotton ball on the sprayed area after it has been cleaned.

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