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Feline urine spraying: tips to stop it!

Feline urine spraying: tips to stop it!

Urine spraying is a normal behaviour performed by cats to mark their territory. Urine spraying is a behaviour most commonly exhibited by entire (un-neutered) male cats, but under some circumstances both male and female cats will continue to spray after they have been neutered, or in response to various environmental stimuli. Urine spraying is a normal behaviour for some cats, but  it is certainly undesirable for it to occur inside your house! Fortunately there are several things you can do to stop it, but first you must identify the cat responsible (if you have an unsecured cat flap then it may not be your own cat that’s the culprit!), make sure that the problem is truly spraying (rather than failure to use a litter tray) and then identify the cause.

How do I tell if my cat is responsible or not?

The only way, sadly, is to catch the offender in the act. If it turns out that the problem is caused by someone else’s cat then you should look at ways of deterring the other cat and securing your property so that only your own cats have access. You can do this with magnetic or microchip-activated cat flaps. You can also try using deterrent products like Get Off My Garden around your garden perimeter and just outside your doors.

Is spraying the same as failure to use a litter tray?

No, failing to use a litter tray means just that; urination outside the tray. The spots of urine that cats that fail to use their trays leave behind tend to be on the horizontal surfaces and will usually be large enough to form a “pool” of urine. These pools of urine tend to be randomly located throughout your house. There are several possible causes, including:

-          A recent change in the brand of litter you use. It is always best to introduce a new brand slowly to avoid upsetting your cat’s routine

-          Not cleaning the litter tray often enough – cats are very clean and do not like a dirty toilet any more than you would!

-          Inappropriate location of the tray – avoid putting it in high traffic areas, some cats are bashful!

-          If your cat lives in a multiple-cat household it may object to sharing a litter tray with other cats.

-          It can also be due to a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection or FLUTD. These illnesses will cause the cat to inappropriately urinate around the house, usually leaving very small amounts of urine in many locations. In some cases the cat may appear to have difficulty passing the urine or the urine may be blood-stained. Take your cat to the vet immediately if you suspect this – FLUTD can be life threatening.

Possible causes of Urine Spraying

Once you are sure the problem is not failure to use a litter tray you need to look at possible causes. Urine spraying most often occurs on vertical surfaces, like walls and the backs of chairs – and you may notice that certain parts of the house are more frequently targeted than others. There are several different causes for increased spraying which may include:

-         Emotional upset. This can take many forms but is most often due to household changes such as moving house, a new baby, or new pet etc.

-         Territorial dispute with another cat.

-         Occasionally it may be indicative of urinary tract disease, such as a bladder infection or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease – your vet may wish to take a urine sample to rule these possibilities out.

 Tips to prevent it:

The best tip to avoid the problem in the first instance is to have your cat neutered at 6 months of age. Even if your cat has started to spray occasionally by the time it reaches this age the problem will usually stop once the cat has been neutered (although bear in mind that it takes 4-5 weeks for the sex hormones to leave the body after neutering occurs). This is because the cat has not yet learnt to spray under certain circumstances, it is literally only acting on instinct. If spraying is allowed to carry on for several months, however, the cat will learn to spray in response to various stimuli, and neutering alone may not solve the problem. This is particularly true of male cats that have been neutered late in life.

Spraying often occurs on vertical surfaces, like walls and the backs of chairs. If your cat is showing a preference for certain areas or objects there are a few things you can try. Firstly, avoid strongly scented bleach or ammonia based disinfectants when cleaning up after your cat. The smell will often be enough to drive your cat to re-mark in the same location. Using a spray-on pheromone like Feliway often helps too. This product mimics natural cat pheromones to help calm and reassure your cat, making it less likely to spray.  If your cat does not show a preference for particular areas you could try using a Feliway Diffuser Plug-in. This is the same pheromone-based product, but it can be plugged into the wall like an air freshener, and releases a fine mist into the room it is located in.

Other preventative measures need to target the potential cause. Perhaps you need to clean your litter tray more regularly, or go back to the brand of litter tray your cat prefers. In situations where your think the spraying is due to emotional stress you may need to reassure your cat in some way, depending on the specific cause. This may be as simple as making a special effort to spend more time with it, particularly if you have a new baby or pet in the house. In such situations a Feliway Diffuser Plug-in will often help to calm and reassure your cat.

In some circumstances spraying can be very difficult to prevent. If you are struggling to get this problem under control speaking with your vet is the next step. Even if the symptoms are not consistent with any urinary problem it is especially important to ensure that urinary tract disease is ruled out if your cat is spraying persistently.