How to Stop a Cat From Spraying in the House

Updated on January 23, 2018
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Aricelia has 15 years of experience working in a veterinary office.

The Number One Way to Stop a Cat From Spraying

The number one way to stop a cat from spraying in the house is to have your cat neutered! Spraying is most common in intact cats. If your cat has not been fixed and he or she is spraying in the house, there is a reasonable chance that having this surgery will solve the problem.

It is not just male cats that will spray. Female cats will spray too, especially if they are in heat. Unfortunately, 10% of neutered male cats and 5% of neutered female cats will still spray after being fixed. The sooner the cat is neutered, the more likely that the surgery will stop the spraying behavior!

Kitty at window
Kitty at window

Marking Behavior

Spraying is almost always a marking behavior. Marking behaviors are normal in cats and, therefore, can be very difficult to treat because you are trying to eliminate a behavior that comes naturally to the cat. Spraying is a small amount of urine deposited on a vertical surface. You may see the cat back up to the surface with the tail quivering in the air.

Sometimes, cats that are peeing on horizontal surfaces can also be performing a marking behavior. Marking typically occurs near doors, windows, or new objects. It can also occur on the most prominent object in the room, like a bed, or on the owner's dirty clothes.

If your cat is peeing on horizontal surfaces but it appears to follow a marking pattern, I would recommend following the advice in How to Stop a Cat from Peeing in the House along with the advice for cats that spray. There is often more than one reason the cat is peeing outside the box and you will maximize your success by tackling the problem from both ends.

Cleaning the Area and Restricting Access

Thoroughly clean the area the cat has sprayed. An enzymatic cleaner, such as Equalizer, is a good choice. If the cat smells the previous mark he may decide to re-mark it. If there is one specific problem area, try to eliminate the cat's access to the spot. Keep the cat out of the room, rearrange furniture, or place an upside down spiky carpet runner or aluminum foil on the floor next to the area being sprayed. After a week, slowly allow the cat supervised access to the area again. Removing access to the problem area may help, but sometimes it will cause the cat to start spraying in a new area instead. Be vigilant!

Changing the Purpose of the Space

Cats are less likely to mark areas that they use for other purposes. Try moving your kitty's food and water bowls to the area that is being marked and use it as a feeding station instead. Alternatively, give treats in the area that is being marked. Try using that space for playing with the kitty or for giving her extra attention. The more secure and relaxed the kitty feels, the less likely it is that she will have the urge to mark her territory!

Decrease the Cat's Desire to Communicate

Since spraying is a normal form of communication for cats, decreasing the amount of contact with other cats can help decrease spraying. Your cat may be marking due to seeing or sensing outdoor cats. Move furniture away from windows if your cat perches on it to see outdoors. Keep blinds and curtains closed. Remove outside bird feeders if they attract other cats. Use motion activated devices to scare other cats away. Wintergreen or citrus scents can help deter cats from entering the area. If another cat has sprayed outside your doors or windows, clean the area thoroughly. If you have multiple cats indoors, especially if they don't get along well, you can try separating them so that they each have their own territory to relax in.

Decrease the Cat's Stress Levels

Some cats will spray due to stress from changes in the household. Cats can be very sensitive to changes in their environment or schedules. Try to think if any changes have occurred in your house and if there's any way you can minimize the change.

Feliway can be helpful in reducing anxiety in cats. It is a synthetic feline pheromone and can help cats feel like their territory is sufficiently marked. Feliway can be sprayed in the area that the cat was spraying or room diffusers can be used in problem areas.

It is important not to punish cats that are spraying. Punishment can increase the cat's stress level and cause them to spray more!

Consider Drug Therapy for the Kitty

If spraying is a regularly occurring problem, drug therapy may help. For spraying, an immediate trip to the veterinarian isn't always necessary like it is for peeing outside the litterbox. However, you may still end up there. In some cases, medical problems can be increasing your cat's stress levels and causing increased marking behavior. In other cases, a cat that is spraying can benefit from an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication that can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Not all cats will respond to the medication, and some cats that do respond will relapse once the medication is discontinued.

© 2015 aricelia


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