Spraying – a form of communication, territorial marking, to signal mating status, indicator of health, and to show dominance. Spraying is a natural, normal behaviour. It becomes a problem when it becomes excessive, and often in inappropriate places.
Cats will back up to a vertical surface (wall, table/chair leg, couch, door, bed, television…) twitch tail, and spray urine against the vertical surface.
(a) Territorial Behaviour:
– another cat brought into a single-cat household
– a multi-cat household
– moving house/ getting an extension
– new cat(s) in the neighbourhood/territory
– lack of owner attention (for attention)
– jealousy of other pet(s)/children/etc.
– change in routine
– social stressors
– environmental stressors
– new/unusual, (fairly) consistent smells (even as simple as new air freshener)
– negative encounters
– not enough litter trays for amount of cats
(c) Underlying Medical Problem
– consult vet ASAP
– urine crystals
– urolithiasis; struvites (urinary tract stones)
Firstly, determine whether or not this is being caused by a medical issue, and your vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment. If there is no medical issue, then it is likely to be a behavioural issue. Successful treatment of this requires identification of the cause, and fixing of the cause or acceptance (from the animal) of the cause.
If you have a multi-cat household, to reduce the likelihood of unwanted spraying behaviour (and unwanted defecation), ensure that every cat has its own litter tray, and that there is a spare litter tray (or multiple spares for a larger group of cats). Ensure litter trays are in quiet places, not busy or open places; cats like privacy when going to the toilet.
Neutering is a big help, but will not eliminate the problem. Spraying is less common in neutered cats, but it will not prevent spraying. Males also spray more than females, but females do spray.
Feliway pheromone diffuser plug ins and sprays are also available. The release of pheromones helps to calm and reassure, especially in multi-cat households; it can relieve tension between cats. The pheromone release relieves stress and can help stop your cat spraying; stop the behavioural issue.
Acceptance of the cause; teaching your cat(s) to accept a new addition – whether this is another cat, a dog, a rabbit (i.e. another pet), or a new baby or even just a new couch. You can help this by not comforting your cat when it initially freaks out. Do not berate your cat for this either. Just act normal, like the new addition is completely normal. If you comfort your cat, (s)he will believe (s)he’s being comforted because there is a reason to be freaked out and anxious about this new addition. Normal behaviour on your part will help your cat realise (s)he can behave normally despite this new addition too.
Cats that get along are less competitive, and far less likely to spray. You can encourage cats to get along by playing with your cats together; giving each one equal attention. Feed them together, and try to encourage them to sleep near to each other – not necessarily sharing the same bed, but within the same room. Provide differently levels for your cats within the home; the more dominant cat will sit higher up than the subordinate(s) – being able to show dominance/ hierarchy in this way is likely to reduce other dominant displays.
Try to keep routine, at least for your cat even if not for yourself – because, let’s face it, we quite often need to mix up our routine; but cats, no, cats like routine. They will patrol the same bit of their territory at (roughly) the same time, daily. They will sleep, hunt, etc. at (roughly) the same times each day. Feeding, grooming/brushing, and other activities your cat requires you for should be kept in some kind of routine for your cat too.
Although spraying is a very obvious behaviour; know your cat(s) and learn to tell when (s)he is acting out of the ordinary so as to pick up on behavioural issues early.