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5 Ways to Stop a Cat From Spraying Indoors

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Aricelia has 15 years of experience working in a veterinary office.

Spraying is typically on a vertical surface and is a normal, although undesirable, behavior in cats.

Spraying is typically on a vertical surface and is a normal, although undesirable, behavior in cats.

Why Do Cats Spray?

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!

5 Ways to Stop a Cat From Spraying in the House

If your cat is already spayed or neutered, there may be some other underlying reason for their behavior. Read on for five ways to stop your cat from spraying!

  1. Clean the Area and Restrict Access
  2. Change the Purpose of the Space
  3. Decrease the Desire to Communicate
  4. Decrease the Cat's Stress Level
  5. Consider Drug Therapy
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.

1. Clean the Area and Restrict Access

Thoroughly clean the area the cat has sprayed. Use a product designed for pet odors, such as Anti-Icky-Poo or Equalizer. 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!

2. Change 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!

3. Decrease the 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.

4. 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!

5. Consider Drug Therapy

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 litter box. 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.

Find the Method That Is Right for You

There are many options available to stop your cat from spraying in the house. Each cat is different, so not every method will yield the same result. Pay attention to your cat and look for signs of discomfort and other stressors. From there, choose a course of action most appropriate for your furry friend. Spraying may be a frustrating habit to deal with, but there is always a solution!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: I’ve tried all these things with no luck. What else can I do?

Answer: If your kitty is still spraying after trying these suggestions, I strongly recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian. Your kitty may have an underlying medical problem and your veterinarian can do testing to diagnose it or rule out that possibility. The office can also get an extensive history and provide a personalized plan for your kitty.

© 2015 aricelia


aricelia (author) from Midwest on October 26, 2019:

Hi Jayce,

Since Puffy is still spraying, I would suggest that you make an appointment with your veterinarian. He may have an underlying health problem contributing to his desire to spray. The technician or veterinarian can also get an extensive behavioral history that can be used to provide a personalized behavioral modification plan. Puffy may be a candidate for drug therapy.

Jayce R. on May 27, 2019:

Our cat Puffy has been driving the entire family crazy with his spraying everywhere. We bought de-scenting sprays and special cleaners, which he ignored and re-marked all over the house... Some advice? (I refuse neuter my cat.) Thank you.

aricelia (author) from Midwest on October 30, 2018:

Hi GremlinMom,

I can hear the frustration you must be feeling coming through in your post. As stated in the article, 5% of neutered female cats will still spray. I am sorry to hear that your kitty falls into this category. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed method to stop spraying. Spraying for marking purposes is a normal behavior for cats even though we, as humans, find it undesirable. As such, it can be a challenging behavior to eliminate and requires patience.

I do recommend following the other advice if the cat is already neutered and still spraying.

I do not recommend using a squirt bottle of water. This may increase the cat’s anxiety and cause the spraying to worsen.

When cats and humans can not agree on the house rules, even after intervention, sometimes your solution of letting kitty go outside becomes the only remaining option for some owners. Outside cats are exposed to many more risks, so this is not a choice all owners are willing to make.

Paul on September 05, 2018:

One example does not make the author or article WRONG. Cat behavior is by percentage, as the article states.

GremlinMom on May 11, 2018:

The number one way to stop a cat from spraying in the house is to have your cat neutered! No! I'm sorry but this IS WRONG!!! I got my female cat spayed for this reason and so she couldn't haven kittens and now the spraying is even worse!! I have sprayed and washed EVERYTHING she has ever sprayed in my house and she STILL does it!! I even squirt her with water in a squirt bottle when she starts backing her butt up to something getting ready to spray, so i let her outside so she can do it out there and NOT in my house. So you may want to go back and correct that, lol!