Cats are adorable companions but they can drive you out of your wits when they start spraying on furniture and other objects and your home starts to reek with the pungent and foul smell of cat urine. Spraying is a natural cat behavior but it has to be curbed as it can wreak havoc to your carpets, furniture and walls.
When do male cats start spraying?
Male cats start spraying as early as four to five months old. They start spraying because they have reached the age of sexual maturity. However, there is no definite way to tell how soon male kittens will start spraying until they are doing it so it is advisable to be on guard for any smell not originating from the litter box.
Spraying is characterized by a cat backing up to a vertical surface, tail erect and then squirting urine with the tail often quivering. It is quite different from regular urinating where a cat squats to pee on the floor, furniture or any other horizontal surface.
Why do male cats spray?
Here are the reasons why male cats spray:
1. To advertise their reproductive availability.
Male cats spray or urine mark to let potential mates know they are available.
2. To mark their territory.
Aside from head rubbing, cats use spraying to lay their scent on a particular area and mark their territory. This is usually observed if there are multiple cats in the household. Also, the more cats you have at home, the more likely that at least one of them will urine mark.
3. If there is a conflict between the cats.
Another reason why cats tend to spray is due to conflict between cats in the household or with other cats that are outside the house. This is usually anxiety-based rather than intolerance-based. Usually, your cat will get angry with another cat since he does not have the skills to deal with the intrusion. The more he is prevented from avoiding other cats, the more likely your cat will mark or spray.
4. Your cat is stressed due to changes in the household.
Cats are sticklers for routine, thus, when there are changes they may become scared, stressed or anxious. Spraying or urine marking may be triggered when there is a house remodeling, the arrival of a new pet or family member or if there is a change in your working hours. Cats spray to deal with stress and comfort themselves.
5. It may be due to an illness or underlying health condition.
Another reason your cat may be spraying is a health or medical issue. It may be arthritis, kidney disease, diabetes or cystitis which is an inflammation of the bladder. If you suspect that your cat has an illness, bring him to the vet at once for a thorough checkup and treatment.
6. Your kitty may dislike his litter box or if you have multiple cats, there may be too few litter boxes.
Your cat may also be spraying because she dislikes or has trouble with her litter box. It may not be clean enough, located in an inaccessible room, it may be too high or your cat may not like the litter you are using. If you have two or more cats, there may be too few litter boxes which results in one of them is spraying or urine marking. Make sure that your cats have easy access to their litter box which should be placed in a quiet and secluded nook at the home.
How to prevent cat spraying?
While spraying is a natural cat behavior, you have to correct it as it is unacceptable for a cat to spray or mark on just about anywhere that she wants to.
Here are ways to prevent spraying among intact cats:
1. Neuter or spay your cat
You should neuter or spay your cat as early as when they are just four or five months old to curb the spraying behavior. Unneutered male cats are the ones most likely to spray although at least five percent of female cats may tend to spray.
2. Spend time with your cat and give him attention
3. Help your cat to prevent from being stressed or anxious
There are options that you can try for your cat to ease his anxiety such as homeopathic treatment and calming herbs like catnip, valerian and chamomile. you van also try calming artificial pheromones such as Feliway. You can even use anti-anxiety medication like diazepam imipramine, buspirone or progestins to control spraying among cats. These medications need to be prescribed by a veterinarian.
4. Keep strays and outdoor cats away
Keep outdoor and stray cats away from your yard or premises and your cat’s territory. Avoid placing food or water outside as it may attract the neighborhood cats. You may also place a lawn sprinkler with a motion detection device in your lawn sprinklers should a stray cat set foot in your yard.
5. Restrict your cat’s view of the outdoors
Install blinds and close windows in areas of your house where your cat may catch a glimpse of outdoor or stray cats. If your cat won’t be able to see other animals, it is likely that he will not spray.
6. If you plan to add another cat, make sure it will get along with your current cat.
Be sure to foster a positive relationship between your cat and new pets should you consider adding another cat. Introduce them properly and make sure that their personalities match to avoid spraying and conflict.
7. Consider using synthetic cat pheromones
Aside from homeopathic treatment and medication, you may also opt to use synthetic pheromones like Feliway to calm and relax your cat to prevent stress and anxiety. This product comes in diffusers and sprays. You may also check our earlier article, Does Feliway work for stressed cats? for a detailed discussion.
8. Consult your vet
If you suspect that your cat may be spraying because of a health issue, consult your vet right away. Medical conditions that may trigger spraying include urinary tract infection, diabetes, kidney infection or bladder and liver disease. Your vet will thoroughly check your cat and run laboratory tests and may also include X-rays and ultrasounds.
9. Identify the areas your cat wants to spray and clean up the said spots regularly
Cats that spray may likely do it near entryways, near the litter box and vertical objects like chairs, your bed or bookshelves. Clean these areas thoroughly and regularly and use biological washing powder and an enzyme cleaner which will deter your cat from spraying on those areas again. Do not use bleach or ammonia as it will not curb the behavior since these are components of urine.
10. Get enough litter boxes
To prevent spraying in a multi-cat household, make sure that you provide enough litter boxes for your cats and you should be able to identify which cat is spraying. Try to position their litter boxes in a low-traffic area with exit routes and scoop or clean the litter boxes at least once a day. Be sure to distribute the resources of your cats like their food and water bowl as well as their bed. Also, place multiple perching areas so your cats will have their own space and privacy.
Male cats start spraying as early as four or five months old when they start to reach sexual maturity. Cats do this to mark their territory, to attract potential mates and advertise reproductive availability or as a manifestation of stress. Fostering positive reinforcement, keeping strays and other outdoor pets away from your cat and spending time with your cat is essential to avoid spraying. Cats should be neutered or spayed and remember to take your cat to the vet for a thorough checkup to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Image: istockphoto.com / Nynke van Holten