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How common is female cat spraying?

How common is female cat spraying?

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Craigieburn Animal Hospital

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Craigieburn, Victoria 3064

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        Craigieburn Animal Hospital

        9 Craigieburn Road
        Craigieburn, VA 3064

        Indoor Urine Spraying Of Cats

        Urine spraying is part of the cat’s normal scent-marking behaviour which includes scratching, rubbing and chinning objects and areas. Cats often use these scent markers to mark their hunting territory, and avoiding direct conflict with other neighbouring cats. In the case of female cats in heat their spraying is used to attract males for breeding.

        Cats usually spray when they are upset, frustrated or feel challenged. Spraying increases the cat’s own sense of security by surrounding itself with scents and signals of its own occupancy in its territory. The more anxious the cat, the more it feels the need for frontier odous and hence the more it will spray.

        Why do Cats Spray Inside?

        Most desexed cats feel relaxed inside their own home and do not need to mark their territory by spraying and scratching. In fact, they identify their territory by rubbing scent from their own body on walls, floor and furniture. When spraying occurs, the most common sites are rear entrances to the house or room, curtains and new items introduced to the house (e.g. furniture). Identifying the cause of spraying may be difficult, but helping to find and understand the motivation for the behaviour helps the owner work towards a cure.

        Some of the common motivating factors are:

        (i) Changes in the home environment such as renovations taking place, new furniture or carpet being installed.
        (ii) Arrival of a new cat, dog or person (e.g. baby), or a death in the family or to a fellow animal.
        (iii) Installation of cat flaps which can make a cat feel insecure indoors.
        (iv) Attention seeking behaviour.
        (v) Cats are left at home alone in the care of neighbours when the family goes away on holidays. In such cases the cat will mark the floor, chairs and bed covers because of anxiety. The cats may get relief when they associate their own smell with that of their owners.

        How to Treat the Problem?

        It is vital to discover which situations cause the problems as treatment normally depends on defining the ‘anxiety induced’ trigger for the behaviour. The questions one should ask are:

        (i) When did the problem first begin?
        (ii) Which people or other animals are normally present in the house? What are they doing before, during and after the problem occurs? What are the attitude of all the family to the cat?
        (iii) Do any of the cats in the house have other behavioural problems? Is the cat concerned on any medication?
        (iv) Where is the cat spraying? Are their any rival cats outside?
        (v) What is the cat’s daily routine?
        (vi) What methods have already been tried to solve the problem? How are the marks cleared?

        It is unlikely that spraying will be effectively resolved with drugs without determining the cause of the problem and employing management changes and behavioural modifications. Drugs may be used in some cases to alter a cat’s mood to enable it to learn new forms of behaviour. The drugs must be withdrawn once this has been achieved.

        The main aim of treatment is to reduce the perceived threat to the cat and make it feel more secure in its home territory. This lowers its levels of arousal and curtails the need to scent mark. Where there are identifiable sources of stress they should be removed (e.g. stray cats, blocking the cat flap). However in many cases there may be no single obvious threat and the cat’s behaviour can be the result of the cumulative of several influences. If the sources of stress cannot be identified or removed the cat should be provided with an area in the house to which it can safely retreat or be placed to relax without fear of disturbance. Carefully introduce friendly routines of handling, feeding and playing will help to provide reassurance as long as such contact does not further alarm the cat.

        Cats should never be punished for spraying as this is likely to raise the cat’s level of anxiety and arousal. Marked areas should be thoroughly cleared as spraying can be triggered by the smell of previous marks. Place food or a bed at the base of spraying sites. This can be helpful as cats are extremely reluctant to mark their own key resources, and they find food and beds reassuring which can also help to reduce anxiety.

        Why Do Female Cats Spray? 7 Possible Reasons

        tabby cat spraying outdoors to mark territory

        As with any pet, there are going to be certain behaviors that are confusing or concerning. Many cat lovers are faced with confusion over why their female cat is spraying. When you think of a cat spraying, it is usually thought to only be male cats that exhibit this behavior, however, it is quite common for female cats to spray as well.

        Spraying is generally an unwanted behavior as the cat can stain certain objects and fill the household with a strong ammonia smell. Some owners may even worry if their cat has a possible urinary infection, but this is generally not the case. Spraying in cats has many possible explanations behind this behavior, and only you as the owner can determine which one applies to your feline friend.

        If you want to learn the reasons behind your female cat spraying, this article will provide you with everything you need to know on the topic.

        What Exactly Is Spraying in Cats?

        Spraying is another term used for inappropriate urination or urine marking. It is a small, concentrated form of urine that has a pungent smell that is deposited on a vertical surface. The cat may do this against vertical surfaces with little to no crouching involved. The tail may quiver while the cat urinates, and it can be done on many different surfaces at a time until the cat’s bladder is empty. In lesser circumstances, cats will use this behavior to mark their territory to ward off other cats.

        Cats will generally spray against walls, car tires, doors, table, and chair legs, or even couches or beds. The smell can easily be identified as spraying rather than typical urination due to its sweet and musty smell.

        7 Possible Reasons for Your Female Cat Spraying

        1. Stress and anxiety

        sick cat

        If your cat has recently gone through a stressful situation, it may become disorientated and anxious over the changes. This can cause them to act out and spray around the house.

        If a cat has been in a household for a long period, and then suddenly moved to a new one, it will start to spray. This is typically caused by moving houses, being attacked by other pets, experiencing a traumatic event, or even after the cat has undergone surgery.

        2. Multicat household aggression

        sphynx cats

        Sometimes female cats will spray because there are too many cats in the household. This is because they may use spraying to claim ownership within the household or show sexual receptivity and availability. Cats may also feel stressed because the household is too crowded, and the overstimulation of different smells from other cats becomes too much for them to handle. Cats like their own space and may not appreciate a large group of cats invading their household, even if it is your pet cats. If you have an older cat who’s been living alone and suddenly a new cat enters the household, this may cause the older cat to spray.

        3. Neighboring cats

        two neighbouring cats hissing at each other

        Cats do not like unwelcome visitors. They see this as a threat or an invasion of territory. A strange cat that decides to step foot on your property can cause your cat to feel uncomfortable and stressed. They will start to spray to leave their scent around the yard and indoors, or in areas where the strange cats seem to spend most of their time.

        If the strange cat is not neutered or sprayed, they will release pheromones that can cause your cat to spray in response, typically if they have a sexual interest in your cat. Female cats are sensitive to this and behavioral changes may occur.

        4. Routine disruption

        cat playing with toys

        Cats love the comfort and normality of routines. This includes a similar feeding time, bedtime, and playtime. If their routine gets drastically disrupted, they can start to spray to show their anxiety and distress over the situation.

        Routine disruptions can negatively affect your cat’s mental state, which may result in spraying and other unwanted behaviors occurring around the household.

        5. Litter box trouble

        cat litter box furniture

        It’s no surprise that many cats are fussy over their litterboxes. Cats prefer to defecate in a clean environment. If the litterbox constantly smells of waste, the cat will show their annoyance over this problem by spraying around the house. In some cases, they may even spray against vertical surfaces around the litterbox.

        Sometimes cats do not like the size of the litterbox, or even the choice of litter media. Cats cover their waste and sometimes the texture of the litter media is not right for them to do so.

        If you have multiple cats that use the same litterbox, this can become an issue for some of the cats. They may refuse to use it because of all the different smells left behind in the litterbox and they will not hide their frustration over the matter.

        6. Unneutered male

        cats fighting

        An unneutered male cat may cause distress in female cats, even if they have been spayed. Since cats rely heavily on smell, an unneutered male cat in their presence can cause them to feel restless. Female cats may spray in response to the male to show that she is sexually interested in him.

        7. Medical issues


        This is more serious than any other reasoning behind spraying in cats. If your cat is in physical pain from arthritis, a urinary infection, or kidney problems, they will have trouble controlling their bladder impulses. Only a veterinarian can treat these issues and if you notice that your cat is spraying frequently, meowing in pain while urinating, or only passing small droplets of urine at a time, they might be suffering from an underlying health issue and prompt professional medical treatment is essential to help your cat feel comfortable.

        How to Keep This Behaviour Under Control

        Ensure that the cat has a clean and desirable litterbox. Just like you do not like using a dirty toilet or bathroom, your cat does not fancy it either. You will go through trial and error trying to find a litterbox shape or size that your cat likes or even different litter media. Once you have found a litterbox your cat will willingly use, it is important to clean the litterbox regularly to keep it from smelling.

        Protect Your Property

        In cases where strange cats are wandering onto your property, you should make sure precautions are in place to prevent this from happening. Not only do stray cats pose a risk to your cat, but they can make your cat feel unsafe in their own home. Try and block the strange cat from making its way into your home by placing safety spikes or electric fencing on the surrounding walls. This can stop the strange cat from climbing over or onto the wall. If you do not want to use wall spikes or electric fencing, you can place plant pots and other large decorations along the area the strange cat enters from. Talk to your neighbors if this is a reoccurring issue, as they will need to keep their cats under control.

        electirc fence

        Eliminate Stressful Situations

        Do not overwhelm your cat or put them at risk of stressful situations. You should try to keep their routine as simple and similar as possible. This means making a scheduled feeding or playtime. Animals have a biological clock that tells them approximately what comes next in their daily routine. Moving houses with your cat should be done as stress-free as possible. This means that the cat’s routine should be disrupted as little as possible during the moving process and their comfort items should not be washed to retain their familiar scent.

        Too Many Cats

        Lastly, avoid keeping too many cats on the same property. Although we know how hard it is to resist bringing home another cute feline into your home, you need to first determine if the available space can comfortably house all your cats. Cats are not as social amongst their kind as dogs are, and space is important.

        cats eating


        Now that we have discovered possible reasons your female cat may be spraying, it is time to determine which scenario most likely applies to your feline friend. Finding the source of the problem is the first step to successfully stopping it from happening again. It is recommended to seek the advice of a feline veterinarian to rule out health issues as a possible cause. If your cat does not stop spraying and you find it difficult to rectify the reason behind the behavior, your vet and feline behaviorist can give you tips and advice on solving this issue.

        We hope that this article has helped you understand how spraying in cats works, and how you can identify and prevent your cat from spraying around the house.

        Featured Image Credit: Helen Liam, Shutterstock

        • What Exactly Is Spraying in Cats?
        • 7 Possible Reasons for Your Female Cat Spraying
          • 1. Stress and anxiety
          • 2. Multicat household aggression
          • 3. Neighboring cats
          • 4. Routine disruption
          • 5. Litter box trouble
          • 6. Unneutered male
          • 7. Medical issues
          • Protect Your Property
          • Eliminate Stressful Situations
          • Too Many Cats
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