Cat Spraying: Why Does it Happen and What You Can Do

Updated: July 05, 2022

"Spraying is rooted deeply in cats' history in the wild - claiming something as theirs by leaving their own scent."

Cat Spraying: Why does it happen and what you can do?

Yes, we know. Cat spraying is a disaster! Cat spraying is considered as one of the most common behavioral problems in cats that most pet parents encounter. But why do cats spray and how can you redirect it? In this article, we’ll talk about the causes of spraying in cats, how spraying it is different from peeing, and ways to curb this unpleasant behavior.

From Their Wild Roots

Why do cats spray? Spraying is rooted deeply in cats' history in the wild - claiming something as theirs by leaving their own scent. And since scent is the fundamental method of cats to communicate, spraying urine seemed to be a way of leaving their calling cards!

But kidding aside, did you know that urine spraying is not the only way cats mark their territories? According to The Humane Society of the United States, cats also mark by:

  • Rubbing: Cats have scent glands on their cheeks, paws, and flanks. When they rub against something, they are leaving their own personal scent on that object.
  • Scratching: Cats have scent glands on the pads of their feet as well and scratching, more than sharpening their claws, is another way to mark their territory.
male cat spraying, how to stop cat spraying

Furthermore, territory marking is not the only reason why your cat is spraying.

Cat Spraying or Urinating?

Before we go deep into the hows and whys, it’s important that you determine if your cat is truly spraying, or if he or she is just peeing outside the litter box. If your cat is simply peeing outside their litter box rather than spraying, your solution will look a bit different. Your first step might be to add an additional litter box and ensure that you are cleaning all boxes at least weekly to encourage your cat to continue using them. 

Cat spraying happens when your cat stands back up to a vertical surface, erects his tails and sprays urine. Regular peeing, on the other hand, is when your cat squats to pee on any horizontal surface, on the floor, on things on the floor, on furniture, etc.

What Causes Cat Spraying?

It is best to know why cat spraying is happening in order to prevent your cat from continuing. Knowing the reason why your cat sprays will help you find the best way to address it and eventually eliminate or redirect this behavior.

'Move over. This is mine.'

As mentioned above, the most common reason on why cat spraying happens is your cat marking something as his and establishing territory.

Female cat spraying happens when your female marks objects with urine to let male cats know that she is looking for a mate.

Male cat spraying is also common when there are female cats in heat nearby. Our cats can get quite a little too possessive, can't they?

male cat spraying, can neutered cats spray spraying cat, how often do male cats spray

Alpha kitty, gamma kitty, little ball of fur. Your cat's spraying also depends on your cat's personality. Is he an Alpha? These cats are dominant and may bully other cats. Is he a Beta? These cats are friendly towards anyone and always love companionship. Is he a Gamma cat? These cats are quiet, shy and prefer to be alone.

Moreover, confident cats always want to display that they are in victory against his confrontation with other cats. The apprehensive cat, on the other hand, will sometimes spray his concealed aggression.

Conflict. In a household with more than one cat, according to Preventive Vet, spraying can also be a way for cats to draw boundaries, establish pecking order, and settle disputes.

Stressful environment. Cats can easily feel insecure & stressed out and they spray because they want to feel secure. Stressors can be a new pet at home, stray animals, loud noises from the neighborhood, your house guests, a new litter box or even changes in your furniture arrangements at home.

Changes in Daily Routine. Female and male cat spraying can also be caused by a distraction of your cat’s daily routine. For example, if you go on vacation and a caretaker looks after your cat, your cat will be anxious because you are not there and he will spray on all the things he’s not supposed to.

Health issues. Spraying is one of the many ways cats communicate. If your cat begins to spray large amounts of urine, it’s best to have your cat examined by a veterinarian to determine the exact cause of the spraying. Particularly with male cats, a urinary tract infection (or much worse, a urethral blockage) may be the reason your cat suddenly does not use their litter box anymore or spends most of their time trying to pee and lick their genitals.

How to Stop Cats from Spraying

Cat spraying can be pretty difficult to break and can also be a total disaster for your home if not managed properly! But as responsible pet parents, we always have ways to make it a lot easier for the cats we love.

Spay or neuter. Do neutered cats spray? Well, they can. However, cats who are not spayed or neutered are the on the top list of cats who are most likely to spray. If you do not plan to breed your cat, spaying or neutering your cat is a way on how to stop a cat from spraying.

Tender Loving Care. Cats are needy and affectionate creatures so spend time with your cat as much as possible. Provide your cat with an environment that's far from whatever triggers stress in him. You help your cat feel secure around stressors by building a safe spot where he or she likes to lay. Use a Pawtect® Blanket to make a cozy spot and keep other animals away to allow your cat space to decompress.

Cat diapers. Yes! This is one of the most convenient ways to prevent your cat from spraying on furniture/carpet/mats/places he or she shouldn’t. Washable cat diapers are more comfortable for cats as they are typically made from stretchable, breathable fabric. Use trusted cat diapers like Pet Parents® Cat Diapers as these are able to instantly absorb pee, locking them in to prevent leaks. These diapers are machine washable and reusable in packs of three. So, you can manage cat spraying in an easy, eco-friendly way while keeping your cat comfortable.

"Spraying is one of the many ways cats communicate. If your cat begins to spray large amounts of urine, it’s best to have your cat examined by a veterinarian to determine the exact cause of the spraying."

Female or male cat spraying can be caused by many reasons and can also be managed in a lot of ways to give your cat a happy and healthy life with you. While both male cat spraying and female cat spraying can occur, there are steps you can take to help curb this behavior and manage your furbaby's spraying. Remember that, just like any behavioral adjustment, it will take time to curb spraying in your cat. Don't forget to check with your vet for medical causes of spraying.