Spraying

Discover why your cat sprays in the house - and why they're not being naughty

Spraying urine is a normal territory-marking behaviour. Never punish a cat for spraying as this never helps but may lead to more spraying. Try to understand the causes of your cat's behaviour instead.

Spraying

Cats sometimes spray urine on vertical surfaces outside to mark their territory and leave information for themselves and other cats to 'read'.

If your cat sprays inside, it's usually a sign that something is wrong.

While urine spraying is normal behaviour that can be performed by any cat, male or female, neutered or not, spraying indoors may be a sign that your cat does not feel secure in their home.

What is urine spraying?

Urine spraying is completely different from normal toileting. Cats usually urinate from a squatting position and produce a large puddle of urine in a secluded spot. In contrast, cats spray urine to leave a scent message for themselves and other cats. Cats spray by backing up to a vertical surface in an open location and squirt a spray of urine from a standing position, sometimes while paddling with their back legs and quivering their tail.

Why does my cat spray urine?

Urine spraying is a normal part of scent marking behaviour. Cats use different scents to create a scent map of their environment.

Cats tend to rub their cheeks in the core part of their territory where they feel safe and relaxed. They use urine spray to mark the areas of their territory where they feel threatened. Cats may do this as a reminder to themselves to be wary in that part of their territory. When the smell fades, the cat will spray again to top-up the scent.

Why is my cat spraying urine indoors?

Cats may spray indoors when they are:

  • threatened by other cats in the neighbourhood - or other cats coming into their home
  • ill
  • stressed by a perceived threat
  • stressed by changes at home, such as a new baby or building work

Often cats spray because of a combination of factors.

And sometimes cats start spraying for one reason, but continue for another. For example, a cat that is punished for spraying may feel more anxious and may be more likely to spray.

How to discourage your cat from spraying indoors

Has your cat started spraying indoors? Your first step should be to visit your vet to make sure there are no medical causes for your cat's behaviour.

The next step is to work out what makes your cat feel threatened and then take action to eliminate the threat. This process can be complicated because there may be many factors involved. It is best to ask your vet to refer you to a qualified animal behaviourist.

Spraying is often connected to a change in the cat's environment, such as a new cat.

The location of your cat's spraying may provide clues about their perceived threat. If your cat sprays on internal doorways and in hallways it may be because this is where they come into contact with other cats. To overcome this, you can help reduce conflict and create a sense of security by providing extra litter trays, bowls and places for your cats to sleep, play and scratch - reducing the need for competition.

What to do if your cat sprays on doors and windows

If your cat is spraying on the cat flap or external doors or windows, then they may be threatened by something outside, such as another cat.

You can help your cat feel safe by making your home feel more secure. Covering windows with a semi-transparent material may help to restrict their view of other cats. If other cats are entering your home through the cat flap, you can fit a microchip-activated cat flap that will only admit your cats.

You can also try to discourage neighbouring cats from entering your garden. See Keeping cats out of your garden for suggestions.

Pheromone therapy may also help to reduce your cat's anxiety levels.

Photo credits

Banner image - Evan Qu - unsplash.com

Inset image - Erica Leong - unsplash.com