In cats, “spraying” is the word to describe when a cat sprays a small amount of urine to deposit their scent.
In the wild, cats spray to communicate with other cats. They might be marking their territory, trying to find a mate, or simply acting out from stress or anxiety.
A domestic cat that sprays might be trying to tell you that something is wrong either medically or mentally. That’s why every new cat owner should watch out for spraying behavior and address it, ideally before it starts.
When do male cats start to spray?
Male cats, which are more likely to spray than females, start spraying when they reach sexual maturity. For most cats, that happens at around six months of age.
The best way to predict when a cat will begin spraying is to watch for changes in their behavior. If they seem restless, start yowling, or suddenly show more interest in going outside, they could be trying to attract a mate.
Once a cat show’s this type of behavior, spraying could be just around the corner.
What’s the best way to stop a male cat from spraying?
Neutering your male cat is the best way to eliminate spraying in most cases. Most veterinarians recommend for cats to be neutered at about four or five months, or before the cat reaches full sexual maturity. Although rare, a small number of cats may continue spraying after getting neutered.
What if neutering doesn’t stop my cat from spraying?
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to correct spraying in cats if neutering doesn’t stop the unwanted behavior. The first step is to determine why your cat is spraying.
1. Visit the veterinarian to determine if your cat is healthy
According to Purina, any changes in your pet’s behavior could have an underlying medical cause. Cats that spray could be trying to mark their territory, or they could have a urinary issue, such as an infection or kidney problems. If neutering fails to solve the problem, the next step is to make sure your cat isn’t sick.
2. Make the litter box more appealing
Sometimes, cats may choose to urinate in inappropriate places because they prefer those places over the litter box. Cleaning the litter box regularly can make it more appealing for your cat.
If you have more than one cat, make sure you have enough litter boxes in the home. PetMD recommends one for each cat plus one extra.
While you make the litter box more appealing, you should also make their favorite spots in the house less appealing. Use an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle Odor Eliminator or Rocco and Roxie Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator to neutralize scents.
This will prevent your cat from revisiting and re-marking their favorite spots. After these areas are cleaned, you can also place toys or catnip at their favorite spraying spots to help them associate the areas with playtime instead of spray-time.
3. Keep outside cats away from your cat’s territory
Because spraying is primarily a territorial behavior, your neutered cat could still be spraying because he feels threatened by the presence of outside cats.
Keep all food and water bowls indoors in case they may attract unwanted visitors to your cat’s territory. Close the curtains to prevent your cat from seeing any neighborhood pets that might be walking by or visiting your yard.
4. If you have multiple cats, encourage them to get along
The tension between household cats can cause spraying. According to the ASPCA, cats living in the same house should have separate resources and plenty of space from each other.
Also, utilizing your vertical space with cat trees and perches will provide your cat with more opportunities to seek their own space.
If you’re introducing a new cat to the household, do so gradually. Petfinder recommends keeping them in separate rooms at first. This lets the cats hear and smell each other before they meet face-to-face.
5. Give your cat more attention
For cats that spray for attention, devoting a little more time for playing and interacting may be all that’s needed to solve the problem.
Grooming your cat, playing with toys, and rewarding good behavior with treats are great ways to interact positively with your cat. You can also try Nutro.com’s list of simple, 10-minute games to play with your cat.
What if my cat is stressed or anxious?
Cats can be stressed by a multitude of triggers, and spraying can become the way they cope with stress.
Some examples of stress-inducing events include:
- A new cat in the home
- Rearranged furniture
Watch this video, which identifies 11 common stress-triggers for cats, to see if you’ve made any changes to your cat’s routine that may have induced stress. Then, address the issue by using some of these calming techniques to keep your cat happy and stress-free.
1. Prevent boredom with lots of different toys
Cats are intelligent and curious animals, so they need a lot of varied mental stimulation. Rotate old toys out for new ones to maintain their interest in playtime.
Also use different types of toys that encourage stalking, catching, and chasing, which are all behaviors that a cat would engage happily in out in the wild.
2. Give them a scratching post
Scratching posts are beneficial to a cat’s nail health, and they deter your cat from scratching up unwanted things like furniture or walls.
However, scratching posts also release pheromones in your cat’s paws, which can help them feel calm. All cats have an urge to scratch, so every home with a cat should have a scratching post anyway.
3. Consider homeopathic remedies like valerian, chamomile, or catnip
These natural herbs can help calm an anxious cat. Just be sure to consult a veterinarian before starting any herbal regimen. Cats are much smaller than humans, and a dosage that seems tiny for us can easily overwhelm a cat.
4. Try a synthetic cat pheromone
Using a product like Feliway can help calm your cat. Apply it to your hand before petting your cat, and apply it to their bedding as well.
You can also apply it to your cat’s favorite spraying spots after cleaning with an enzymatic cleaner, which can further help deter them from re-marking those spots.
5. Give them lots of hiding places
Introverted humans often need to “get away” to recharge. Similarly, cats are solitary creatures and need to get away every once in a while, too.
Making sure your cat has a nice, quiet place to hide when they’re stressed is an important factor in keeping your cat happy.
6. Consider an anti-anxiety medication
Like humans, cats can also experience chronic anxiety. If natural home remedies aren’t working for your cat, they might need more than just some attention and catnip. Pay a visit to the veterinarian to determine if your cat’s anxiety is severe enough for medication.
A healthy cat is a happy cat
Dealing with cat pee is just another part of cat ownership. It’s normal for a cat to have accidents every once in a while.
However, spraying (or any other changes in toileting habits) is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. Therefore, a trip to the vet is always the recommended first step in addressing this problem.
In general, a cat with a good sense of well-being will not spray. Physically, they should be in good health and at a stable weight. Mentally, they should be stimulated and exhibit a high level of curiosity.
Male cats may start spraying at around six months of age when they reach full sexual maturity. Neutering your cat is the most important thing you can do to curb this behavior.
Ideally, your cat should be neutered before any hormonal changes take effect. Not only will this help prevent spraying, but it will also improve your cat’s quality of life.