Understanding Feline Spraying Behavior

How you ever observed a cat spraying? Spraying is different than urinating; a urinating cat will typically squat in the litter box to relieve him- or herself. Spraying is done to mark an area, and you will notice the cat raises the tail high, backs into an area and, tail quivering, sprays a small amount of urine onto a vertical surface. This marking behavior is a form of communication for cats; the spray contains pheromones and is used to mark territory or to communicate availability for mating. While any cat may spray, this behavior is most common in un-neutered males. Worse, when an intact male or “tom” cat sprays, the smell is quite pungent and distinctive. It is also more common for cats in multi-cat households to spray.

How to stop your cat from spraying? If the spraying is a new behavior, a trip to the veterinarian is in order to rule out any underlying medical problem. If your cat is unaltered, neutering or spaying your cat will greatly reduce your cat’s urge to spray. It can take from a few days up to a few weeks after neutering for a male cat to stop spraying, as his testosterone levels drop. Spraying is a learned behavior, so neutering your cat before the age of 6 months will reduce the chance that your cat will develop this behavior in the first place.

Even altered cats may spray due to stress, or when their territory is threatened such as when a new cat is introduced to the home, or when a strange cat is in the area. To prevent repeated spraying, it is important to eliminate the scent from the area your cat has sprayed. You can use special enzymatic cleansers such as Get Serious which is formulated to remove the pheromones which attract your cat back to the spot.

You should also work to reduce your cat’s urge to spray. If your cat is spraying because of unwanted feline visitors in your yard, try to keep the intruders out of your yard, or close the blinds so your cat cannot see the unwelcome visitors. If you have a multi-cat household, make sure your cats have lots of vertical surfaces to get away from other cats. Spend time every day playing with your cat to release excess energy and anxiety. Many people find that synthetic pheromone sprays and diffusers help reduce spraying. The plug-in diffusers help reduce anxiety, and use the spray on areas the cat has previously marked. The pheromone spray leaves a “friendly” scent on the area, giving your cat the  message that there is no need to mark the area.

Remember that cats typically spray when they are insecure and feel the need to reinforce their territory. Don’t yell at or punish your cat for this instinctive behavior, as you will only add to your cat’s feeling of stress or insecurity.

About author

Abby Rosenberg

Abby Rosenberg is a PetMeds employee and long-time cat lover. She was a volunteer for several years at a local no-kill cats only rescue shelter. This has prepared her for her most challenging role to date: secretary, photographer, social coordinator and treat dispenser for Daisy, and Daisy’s sidekick Harley. Daisy is a dilute calico Devon Rex cat, and Harley is a “cow-cat” who was adopted from the shelter where Abby volunteered. You can also find Abby on Google+

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