Why is my cat spraying?

Elmo PicInappropriate urination

Help! My cat is spraying in my house and won’t stop! Why is he doing this?

This is often one of the smelliest and most frustrating problems that cats may develop. Getting to the root of the problem is key:

  • Is kitty “acting out” due to some change in the household
  • Showing marking behavior of an unneutered male
  • Is it due to medical causes such as a urinary tract infection or bladder stones?

Deciphering kitty’s reasoning for his actions is the first key step in changing the behavior pattern and restoring some sense of order to your household.

The Basics: Is it behavioral or a medical problem?

First, a few questions:

  • Is your cat visiting the litter box more frequently?
  • Urinating small amounts each time or with more urgency?
  • Is it backing up against a vertical surface and spraying urine?

If the first or second question is more consistent with what you’re seeing, it is more likely a problem with the bladder than with kitty’s attitude at home.

Regardless, it is a good idea to rule out medical causes before tackling behavioral problems, for the sake of kitty’s health and to rule out treatable problems.

This may involve checking blood work and analyzing the urine for signs of infection, crystals or inflammation. An x-ray of the bladder helps checks for urinary stones causing irritation and therefore increased urgency to pee.

Okay, So The Spraying Is Behavioral

Once medical causes have been ruled out, it is time to examine the cat’s environment.

  • Are there any changes in the household recently?
  • Small children or other pets that the cat doesn’t get along with?
  • Perhaps a recent move to a new home or a vacation?

Cats are creatures of habit, and have a lot of ways to make their displeasure at changes to their routine known, including marking behaviors. Change causes kitty anxiety, which he/she may show you by marking, scratching or generally “acting out”.

Another important consideration is whether your kitty is neutered or spayed- and if other cats in the neighborhood are spraying nearby. Cats are territorial, and urine marking is a natural behavior to tell other cats to STAY AWAY from your home. It is an effective, if smelly, signpost.

What to Do About Spraying?

To tackle a urine marking behavior, there are several “angles of attack”, including:

  1. Offering environmental enrichment to your kitty:
    • A perch by a window
    • A warm spot to sleep in
    • Ensuring the food and/or litter box is not located next to a loud appliance such as the washing machine.
  2. Clean any areas that have been sprayed with an enzymatic cleaner to remove the urine smell as soon as possible, to discourage repeated incidents.
  3. If a new pet in the household is the trigger, offer the original pet extra attention in the presence of the new pet. This will reassure him/her of her place in the household.
  4. Try a feline pheromone diffuser, collar or spray, such as Comfort Zone or Feliway.
    • These products mimic a cat’s scent marking when it rubs its face on things he/she likes, claiming them as part of “home”.
    • If the house is already “marked”, kitty should feel less need to spray to defend their territory against all interlopers (people, cats, dogs).
    • Not all cats respond to these products, but it is certain worth a try in most cases.

My Cat is Still Spraying, Now What?

If environmental changes and/or pheromone sprays do not resolve the issue, it may be time to consider medication to alleviate the underlying anxiety kitty is experiencing.

  • Some cats need only a short course of medication; others are life-long.
  • Overall, cats do very well and a frequently the behavior stops as kitty’s anxiety is resolved.

Consult your veterinarian for further suggestions specific to your situation if you are experiencing behavioral problems with your pet- we can help!

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posted in:  Behavior  |  Feline  |  VMA Modesto News