Cat Spraying urine, also called marking, is a form of scent communication, in which a cat leaves scent markers to make a point, so to speak. Leaving a personal “message” through her scent glands or urine is one of the three basic ways that a cat expresses herself. The other ways that a cat can get her ideas across are vocalizing by using different “meow sounds,” or using body language.
There are two kinds of scent markers:
- Pheromones are the “happy” marker. Pheromones come from the scent glands on her paws, head and cheeks, and a cat uses them to mark in a positive way.
- These glandular secretions are chemicals that provide unique information about each cat and are part of a complex communication system among cats.
- In the wild, pheromones serve many purposes, such as identifying members of a colony, marking territory, making sexual overtures, seeking information about unknown cats in the vicinity and testing the tendency toward aggression of other cats.
- Urine is the other scent marker. Cat Spraying urine is a natural behavior for a cat. She does it to mark territory, usually when she feels threatened or stressed.
- No matter how you feel about it, urine marking is not something that we should judge as being “bad.” Cat Spraying is a normal, natural form of communicating for a cat.
- Do not make the mistake of projecting human emotions or motivations onto her; your cat isn’t doing this to be spiteful or get back at you. Spraying is a central part of the social structure cats use to communicate and is a normal feline reaction to specific situations. Unfortunately, it fits in really poorly with sharing a home with humans.
How Scent Marking Is Done
1.Marking with the Friendly Pheromones
A cat uses the glands in her cheeks to mark familiar territory that she considers her world. She rubs against objects in a familiar territory, leaving secretions of the scent glands on her face as a positive “message.” It is a sign that she feels confident and secure.
Depositing pheromones by rubbing her face along cabinets, against doorways, on chair and table legs—even on the people in her life—is a self-reassuring behavior that also has a calming effect on her. Cats have scent glands on their paws, too, which is one of the reasons they scratch.
Reaching up against a tree or other vertical landmark is an effective way to leave a calling card for other cats because it can be done at nose level, along with scratch marks to call attention to it. When you see dogs and cats studying marked areas with their noses, think of it as reading the Post-it Notes left by previous passers-by.
2.Marking with Urine
Cats mark with urine for the opposite reason they mark with facial pheromones. Urine is used because the cat is threatened or stressed, usually in a multi-cat environment. Both males and females spray, generally around issues of territory.
A high-ranking cat will spray in more than one location in the house to show how large her territory is and how important she is; a cat may spray when entering a new territory to announce her arrival and as a warning to others not to mess with her; an outdoor cat will often spray around the entire perimeter of her perceived domain.
3.How the Cat Sprays
- Urine cat spraying is a highly ritualized behavior. The first thing a cat will do is back up to the targeted object. Her tail quivers and twitches. She will knead the ground with her front paws or tread with her back paws.
- She may close her eyes and get an expression on her face that is almost like grinning. And then she will send a spray of urine out behind her and up against the chosen object.
- She will purposely spray at about nose height for another cat—the point of putting it precisely at that level is so that any passing cat cannot miss her mark.
4.How Do Other Cats Get the Message?
Cats have a highly developed organ in the roof of their mouths called the vomeronasal organ, which allows them to detect social odors and sort them out.
Sometimes when you watch a cat sniffing an object you can tell that it has been marked by another cat because you will see a sort of smiling or grimacing expression as the cat sniffs.
This is referred to as the Flehmen reaction—the lips curl back as the cat sucks in air with the scent in it, running it past that special vomeronasal organ.
Cat Spraying Reasons
Cats always have a reason for cat spraying behavior, and once you know how to decipher the clues you may be able to alleviate the cause. Begin by collecting clues. Where is the cat spraying? When is it occurring?
1- If the spray is underneath a window or on the wall across from it, it’s possible that there is a strange cat appearing outside that window and causing your cat to make a territorial statement. Or if your cat is allowed outdoors and encounters a strange cat out there, upon her return your cat may feel compelled to spray her own territory for good measure.
2- If you’ve added a new cat to the household, that always shakes up the status quo; a resident cat is going to react, and it may be through spraying doorways or pathways.
3- Has a new baby or an older relative joined the household? Cats don’t like change of any kind, and a shift in the family makeup can inspire spraying.
4- Have you bought new furniture, or even rearranged the furniture you have? A cat may feel inspired to mark anything new in her kingdom—and if the furniture has an unfamiliar smell, that is a good reason to spray it, too.
5- Have you been away from home, perhaps traveling? When you return, watch out where you put your suitcase, your briefcase or even your overcoat: Anything that brings new and strange odors into the house is fair game because a cat may feel compelled to spray it as an intrusive, alien arrival.
6- Spraying can be triggered both by objects that the cat “needs” to cover with her odor or as a generalized stress reaction to household change. One thing seems to be true, unfortunately: Almost anything and everything can be an inspiration for a cat to spray.
Causes of cat spraying
- Sighting of a strange cat outside
- Hierarchy issues with another cat or a dog
- Too many cats sharing a house
- Loss of a cat in a multi-cat household
- Loss of a human in the house—death, divorce, kid going to college
- Separation anxiety if bonded too closely to you
- New family member or pet arrives
- Reaching sexual maturity in un neutered males
- The cat’s natural inclination—personality • Scent of unknown cat on you or your clothing
- Move to new house or renovation
- Unknown human visitors • Change in significant human’s schedule
- Arrival of new furniture or other large objects
Cat Spraying as a personal message to you
1- The Cat Marks on Your Bed
It is really upsetting to come home and find that your cat has urinated (or worse) on your bed. People often misunderstand the reason that a cat would choose their bed, so they assign evil motives to the cat’s choice when what is actually motivating a cat is pure instinct.
Your bed is a prime target because you lie on it for hours, building up a fragrant scent. Your cat does not anoint your bed to get back at you or to display anger.
There are cat behaviorists who have come up with a surprising new theory about why cats urinate on their people’s bed when the people are unavailable (either out of the house or fast asleep). Relieving herself on your bed actually feeds an emotional need for your cat.
Apparently, the chemicals in urine seem to comfort a cat while she waits for her person. A cat who does this may also be looking for attention or food, but whichever the case, the odor of the urine appears to have a soothing quality.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this particular problem: Shut your bedroom door when you are out or asleep. I just hope you figure out the logistics of this problem before the cat urinates all the way through to your mattress—because then you have a serious cleanup challenge on your hands.
2- Separation Anxiety in Lonely Cats
A solitary cat who gets too closely bonded to you can become anxious when you leave her alone. However, cats do not exhibit what we might think of as classic signs of separation anxiety:
- They won’t destroy objects in the house or take out their frustration on doors or other parts of the house itself.
- Instead, a lonely cat will stop eating, groom herself excessively or mark with urine.
- A cat suffering from separation anxiety not only will miss the box but will especially mark the personal property (such as the bed) of the person she is so closely bonded to.
Ways to stop cat spraying
There are several things you can do right off the bat to lower the likelihood of spraying in your house. Your overall goal is to create a calmer, more secure environment for your cat so she doesn’t have stress and anxiety.
After you read this article, you will get to the real cure for the nightmare of spraying: a product called Comfort Zone Feliway. The philosophy behind using this product is based on the fact that cats do not urine-mark where they facially rub.
1. Neuter and Spay
The first step to stop cat spraying is neutering the cat. All Cats I hope this would already be the case, but if for some reason you have unneutered males or unspayed females, please make an appointment at the vet to correct that right away.
2. Have Same-Sex Cats Only
The 2nd step to stop cat spraying is having same sex cats only. There are studies that show that an all-male cat population will spray much less if there are no females around to inspire their territorial marking. Female cats will spray equally whichever the sex of their housemate cat.
3. Introduce Environmental Change Very Slowly
The 3rd step to stop cat spraying is Introducing Environmental Change Very Slowly. Any physical changes to a cat’s world can trigger anxiety-related marking. If you are going to get new furniture, consider getting one piece at a time.
You can even cover the furniture with a cloth that you have first rubbed all over your cat (to pick up her scent) or sprayed with Comfort Zone Feliway.
4. Introduce New Household Members
The 4th step to stop cat spraying is Introducing new household members. Slowly Before bringing home a new baby, first “break the news” to your cat’s olfactory system by bringing home items of clothing that the baby has already worn.
Put a piece of the infant’s unwashed clothing wherever your cat hangs out—on her climbing tree, on her bed—to get her accustomed to the baby’s smell ahead of time so his actual arrival isn’t such a shock.
5. Reduce Conflict in a Multi-Cat Household
The 5th step to stop cat spraying is reducing conflict in a multi-cat household. In a group that lives together, a lot of marking and spraying is directed at other cats. By reducing any potential issues over territory, food resources and litter boxes, you will lessen the need to spray and stake a claim.
Have one litter box for each of your cats, plus one “for the house”; multiple food and water bowls help as well, all as far apart as possible.
6. Close Curtains on Windows Where Strange Cats Walk Past
The 6th step to stop cat spraying is closing curtains on windows. This is a pretty logical fix: If your cat cannot see another cat strolling past, she won’t have the need to mark in response to it.
7. Change the Cat’s Association with the Area
The 7th step to stop cat spraying is Change the Cat’s Association with the Area. Cats will not eliminate or spray where they eat or where they have marked with their “happy pheromones” from their facial glands, and you can make this work in your favor.
This simple fix can be the most important thing you can do. Take your cat’s food bowl and put it right over an area where she has been spraying (after you do the whole cleanup routine on it, obviously).
8. Spray with Feliway
The 8th step to stop cat spraying is spraying with feliway. Read the section below to understand how spraying with this remarkable substance can help make your cat a happy camper and take her off the “naughty list” at the same time.
9. USING COMFORT ZONE FELIWAY
Comfort Zone Feliway is a spray that contains synthetic feline facial pheromones, meaning that some enterprising scientist has found a way to bottle the calming, happy-making chemical that cats produce when they contentedly rub their facial glands on surfaces in their environment.
That smell relaxes a cat and puts her in a Zen-like state of mind; best of all, she would not dream of spraying where she smells facial pheromones.
Each Cat Thinks Feliway Is Her Very Own Pheromones
The beauty of this product is that it can fool even that supersensitive kitty nose into thinking that she herself rubbed on those surfaces where she encounters Feliway.
If a cat believes that she already facially rubbed on a location, she gets an immediate positive association and assumes it’s a safe, relaxing place. By using this product, you can tap into your cat’s instinctual system and turn a location with negative association into a positive, nurturing space.
Use Feliway along with behavioral modification techniques such as moving your cat’s dinner dish to the area she soiled. You can also engage in play sessions with your cat in an area she soiled, which helps to transform its association for her.
How To Use Feliway
First Clean the Area with Plain Water. The chemicals in Feliway can be neutralized by detergent or a specialized cleaning product, so just wash down the area with water and dry it.
Spray One Squirt of Feliway Twice a Day Over the Area the Cat Previously Sprayed. Since natural cat pheromones fade after 24 hours, by spraying Feliway twice a day you keep a consistently high level of pheromones in the air.
Don’t Limit the Feliway to Sprayed Areas. Spray prominent objects in the areas where your cat spends the most time—and especially in those areas where you may have noticed she is not really relaxed.
Use Only a Quick Little Spray on Each Spot. Do not overspray.
Spray Twice a Day for 30 Days. The product is designed to flood the objects and environment with a positive association. After 30 days, evaluate your cat’s response and decide whether to continue spraying twice a day for another 30 days or cut down to once a day.
Your eventual goal should be to reduce to spraying the areas every other day and then finally 2 or 3 times a week. Don’t rush it; slow and steady wins the race, and reordering your cat’s perception and changing habits takes time.
Spray at a Cat’s Nose Height. Direct the spray 8 inches up from the ground and about 4 inches away from the object.
Spray Table Legs, Chair Legs, the Corners of Furniture, and Doorways. Any nose-height vertical object should be given the Feliway treatment.
Create a Network of Calming Pheromones. Your goal is to spin a web of positive association over the cat so that if she feels anxious or agitated when she first enters a room and has the desire to spray, she will have changed her mind by the time she walks by all the vertical areas that smell of Feliway.
Comfort Zone Feliway also comes as a plug-in diffuser. The plug-in is especially useful if the spray-marked area is all in one room, but it can work wonders in any area where a cat has been feeling skittish or insecure.
10. Medications For Cat Spraying
If you have tried every suggestion in this section and your cat is still spraying and marking, there is something else you can try: antidepressant medication. Urine marking is one of the conditions in cats where doctors often feel that the best thing to do is try pharmacological treatment.
Studies show a 90 to 100 percent improvement in anxiety-driven urine marking in cats who took such medication. But of course the real solution is to address that underlying loneliness and boredom by giving the cat daily interactive play sessions. Relieve the cat’s situation by finding a friend or a pet sitter who will come in during the day when you are at work.
Since one of the underlying causes for spraying is thought to be stress, veterinarians have also tried antianxiety drugs with varying degrees of success. When first taken, drugs such as diazepam and buspirone significantly reduce spraying in up to 75 percent of cats. However, when the cats are taken off the drugs, they go right back to cat spraying behavior.
More recent studies have shown that fluoxetine and clomipramine are really effective, and cats are less likely to return to spraying when they are taken off these medications. Fluoxetine is a human antidepressant in the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) family; clomipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant.
Neither drug is licensed for use on cats in the United States, although clomipramine is in Australia. This means that if your vet would like to try antidepressants on your cat, the prescription will be “off-label”—he’ll tell you that the drug has been shown to be effective but hasn’t been licensed for this particular use, and you will sign a consent form.
By the way, this is quite common in veterinary medicine because it is so costly to get a drug license for different uses that most drug companies do not apply for the animal use license.
11. Finding the cat spraying urine and cleaning it up
Buy a Black Light
- A black light, which emits ultraviolet light, is a good tool for any cat owner to have because it allows you to look all over your house for signs that a cat has been marking or eliminating in the wrong places.
- And you now know how to tell the difference between litter box avoidance, which is urinating on the floor, and spraying, which is done vertically against an upright surface.
- Nature’s Miracle, the company that makes a urine stain remover, also makes a good black light (available at most pet stores) which will light up any urine stains in your house if you turn the other lights off and go on a hunt.
Look Absolutely Everywhere for Sprayed Areas
- To use the black light you have to remove all other light sources and then turn on the black light. Some areas where a cat has urinated are visible and smellable; others are well hidden and may be old and dried.
- But you have to clean and neutralize every single place any cat has ever urinated in your house to have any chance of putting an end to it.
Don’t Freak Out if the Black Light Shows Spots Everywhere
- Black lights illuminate urine, but they also show the presence of any bodily fluids—so anywhere a cat had a bowel movement or threw up or even coughed up a hairball will shine under the black light.
- You’re better off cleaning all of it, regardless of what it was, but don’t just assume that everything you see is urine. The chart below gives you some ideas of locations that need to be investigated.
- I know, this probably isn’t what you signed on for when you fell in love with that white kitty with the green eyes . . . but nonetheless, here we are.
Places to Check for Urine Stains
• Closets • Under beds • Furniture (front, back and sides) and the wall behind it • Shoes and clothes (at bottom of closets) • Doormats • Baseboards and walls • Doorways • Behind doors • Litter box areas (around the box, walls, entry to room)
12. Cleanup the urine cat spraying
1. Clean as You Find It or Mark It for Later
- As you go around your house with the black light, if you don’t find too many stains, you may want to treat them right then and there.
- However, if there are many stains, or if you’d rather check them all and then go back and attack them later, you can use the cleaning regimen below.
- Start by marking any stain that the black light illuminates by using masking tape on the outline of the stain. Use the tape like one of those television crime-scene body outlines, marking the exact boundaries of the stain as the black light shows it to you.
- Masking tape will stick anywhere and doesn’t leave a mark when you take it off.
2. Don’t Use Normal Household Cleaners
Regular household cleaners or carpet cleaners will cover up the smell of the urine, but they won’t mask the aroma enough for the sensitive nose of a cat.
Also, some cleaners have ammonia in them, which is similar to the odor of urine and so should always be avoided.
3. Urine-Neutralizing Products and How to Use Them
Buy a gallon container of Nature’s Miracle, Simple Solution, X-O or any cleaning product that is enzymatic and will neutralize the odor, not just clean or mask it.
You’re going to need a large amount of this stuff to give all the stains a good going-over, so it’s more economical to get the jumbo size and then transfer it into a manageable spray bottle.
If urine has soaked through to the carpet padding or the floor below, keep in mind that it all needs to be treated. You have to remove all traces of urine and its odor or the cat will want to go back to that location for a repeat performance.
Follow instructions on the bottle, but generally these products require that you blot up as much of the urine as possible with paper towels and then spray liberally with the enzymatic cleaner. Leave the product on for about 5 minutes, then blot up the excess cleaner with paper towels or rags.
Do not rub or you’ll be working the urine deeper into the carpet fibers. Leave layers of paper toweling over the stain with a weight on top to soak up the remaining fluid, or set up a small fan to blow it dry.
4. Figure Out Which Cat Is Spraying
To solve cat spraying in a multi-cat home, you need to figure out which cat is initiating the spraying. Unless you actually see the cat back up and spray something, there is a way you can “light up” an individual cat’s urine to identify it as hers.
First investigate the house with the black light so you can see what normal urine looks like. Then ask your veterinarian for some fluorescein capsules. These are filled with a nontoxic dye used for eye exams. Give this capsule to the cat you most suspect of being the sprayer and the dye will show up later in her urine.
Turn on the black light and the fluorescein-stained urine will jump out at you. If you don’t find any traces of lit-up urine, that means your suspect was not the sprayer. Now give a capsule to the next most likely culprit and so on, until you identify the perpetrator.
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