Cats spraying can cause you a lot of trouble, that's for sure.
If you've ever owned cats, you’ve probably experienced your cat spraying and marking your home. Spraying is unfortunately a common cat owner problem. Cats spray for specific reasons. They may spray because they are under duress. Moving homes, living in a multi-cat home, and living in an area with a large feral colony may trigger a male cat to spray (mark) their territory. While some cats may live together happily, cats are by nature solitary animals and when another cat is present, either inside the home or outside of the home, it can cause stress in a male cat. It is important to understand your cat is not spraying to punish you. Understanding why your cat feels compelled to spray is the first step to curbing and ending the behavior.
WHY DO CATS SPRAY? Natural Instincts
Cats are loving, playful, affectionate pets. Even though they have been domesticated for hundreds of years, they still retain many of their wild ancestral instincts. This is what gives cats their mystic but it can also cause behaviors that don’t fit well with domestication, like spraying.
Spraying is the way male cats mark their territory for other cats. Cats are solitary hunters. They mark their territory to protect the prey resources within their territory. Cats were valued for their hunting skills. Cats help us by protecting our food stores and keeping rodent populations down. This natural drive did not diminish when cats became domesticated and began to live inside our homes.
WHY DO CATS SPRAY? Environment
Now that we understand our cats’ natural instinct to mark their territory by spraying, it is important to find out what is triggering your cat to spray. Multi-cat homes can cause insecurity in male cats. Two male cats may seemingly coexist but they may feel compelled to assert their membership in the household by marking their territory in the home.
Cats may spray when moved to a new home. They may feel overwhelmed and insecure in their new home. Or they may smell the previous tenants' cats. A male cat without a history of marking may suddenly start spray marking even in the same home he’s always lived in. Though it seems sudden, your male cat could be triggered to mark his territory because the neighborhood’s cat population has changed. New feral cats may have moved into your cat’s neighborhood or new neighbors may have moved in with their outdoor cat or cats.
Cats do knot spray because they are “mad” at their owners or ungrateful. Cats have a strong instinctual drive to to mark their territory by spraying. Unaltered female cats will spray to let male cats know she is ready to mate. Unneutered male cats mark their territory to protect the prey resources and females within their territory. Neutered males mark their territory to protect the prey or food resources (yes, cat food is a resource) in their territories. Both neutered and unneutered males in multi-cat homes may mark their territory to protect you. Yes, you. You may be your cat’s most prized resource. You give them food, love, and playtime. Male cats may also feel they need to mark you if a new family member is introduced to the house, like a partner, baby, or relative. Fortunately, there are strategies and products to help curb or eliminate your cat’s spray marking.
Things you can do to prevent your cat from cat spraying:
1. One way you may stop your cat from spraying is to have your male cat neutered. This reduces the urge to spray by lowering your cat’s hormones. It may take up to 2 months before you see your cat’s spraying stop so be patient.
2. Make sure to thoroughly clean urine spots using special cleaners made to neutralize urine smell. Products not specifically made to clean cat urine may only cover the urine odor. If your cat can smell their urine markings, they will feel compelled to “refresh” their marking by spraying. Pet stores sell specialized cleaners or you could make a homemade cleaner with vinegar and water. However, do not use a cleaner with ammonia. Cat urine contains ammonia and could stimulate your cat to spray even more – don't forget that urine carries ammonia. Also, spraying feline facial pheromones in your cat’s marking spots could help calm and reassure your cat, reducing the urge to spray.
3. If a new person moves into your home, have them feed or play with your cat to establish a bond. This will help your cat feel less threatened and reduce the need to spray.
4. For multi-cat homes, you should provide each cat their own litter box, plus one additional litter box. Always ensure the litter boxes are kept accessible, this means placing the boxes of your cats that don’t coexist well far apart.
5. If possible, restrict your cat’s access to the specific areas where your cat sprays. If you cannot restrict their access or there are too many areas, change your cat’s experience in those areas by playing with them there, feeding them there, or setting their water bowl there.
6. Never punish your cat for spraying urine. It will cause them to feel more insecure and may increase their spraying. If the behavior persists even after applying the above tips, consult your vet for advice on what else you can do. A vet may prescribe an anxiety medication for your cat.
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