8 Tips For Preventing Cats From Sprayingor Marking

Bradley Phifer

Spraying is a normal, although not necessarily desirable, way for our cats to communicate. The pheromones in the deposited urine tell other cats a variety of information about the sprayer, and can be used as a way to define territory, report reproductive availability, or calm an anxious cat. When a cat begins to urine mark, it is typically a sign of stress or conflict in the cat’s life.

It is important to note that any cat regardless of age, sex or reproductive ability can spray. Feline urine marking is a completely separate behavior from inappropriate elimination, where a cat eliminates outside of his litter box. Both typically involve urine; however, the motivation behind the behavior is different. Cats that urine mark typically back up to a vertical surface, raise their tail and deposit a small amount of urine on the surface. When a cat eliminates, he will squat to fully release his bladder or bowels on a horizontal surface. There is also a unique, strong odor to the urine they deposit on the surface of furniture or walls.

Unneutered male cats and cats living in a mutli-cat household are most likely to urine mark. There is an increased chance for urine marking to begin during a time of transition in the cat’s life: divorce, new baby, moving, new pet, or when there is conflict between two cats. The conflict can be between cats in the same house, or between your cat and a stray cat hanging out in your yard.

So, how do I stop my cat from urine marking?

  1. Have your cat examined by your veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying medical problems contributing to the urine marking.
  2. Spay or Neuter your cat.
  3. In the case of a stray cat visiting your yard, close windows, blinds and doors to prevent your cat from being able to view the stray. Contact the owner and request the cat be kept indoors, or call your local animal control to have the cat picked up. There are motion-detecting devices such as Garden Ghosts, which use citronella, air or a noise to deter neighborhood cats from entering your yard.
  4. In the case of a multi-cat household, work with your veterinarian to accurately determine which cat is urine marking. Your veterinarian can administer a harmless dye to one of your cats that will allow you to view the urine under ultraviolet light.
  5. Provide more enrichment to your cat’s environment. This can include additional perching areas to allow your cat his own space, increased interactive toys, scratching posts, and one-on-one time with you.
  6. Use Feliway®, a synthetic cat pheromone, you can plug into your wall outlet.
  7. Talk with your veterinarian about the use of anti-anxiety medications.
  8. Ensure that your litter box set up is adequate for your cat’s needs.
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