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Is It True That All Cats Spray?

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

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Even though all cats have the ability to spray, not all of them do it. This is good news for cat owners. You may have a cat that never sprays at all. Spraying means the cat is backing up against a surface, like a wall or a tree, and spraying urine on the surface instead of squatting and peeing on the ground or in the litter box. While this is a messy process, the pheromones that are in the urine make it more pungent than usual.

In this article, we look at the reasons that cats spray and what you can do to help stop yours from doing this in the house.

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Do All Males Cats Spray?

a white cat spraying the wooden gate
Image Credit: Igor Shoshin, Shutterstock

Male cats are more likely to spray than female cats, but all cats are capable of spraying urine. Whether they do or not depends on a few factors. If you get a male kitten, having them neutered before they reach 6 months of age will all but guarantee that the cat will not spray. Around 95% of cats will show a decrease in spraying after being spayed or neutered.

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Why Do Cats Spray?

Male and female cats spray for many of the same reasons. Cats communicate with each other through scent, like many other animals. Cats spray outdoors to leave messages for one another.

Cats spray urine to mark their territory. If another cat comes across this scent, they’ll know that the area has already been claimed. Even if you have an indoor cat, they can see another cat through the window or door and spray in the house as a response.

Cats may spray in multi-cat households to establish dominance and set boundaries. Spraying may also indicate stress. Moving to a new house, changes in routine, or the arrival of a new pet in the house can trigger this behavior.

Spraying is also done as a way to attract mates. Male and female cats will spray to let other cats know that they are available. If your cat was spayed or neutered after one year old, this behavior could remain with them long term.

Spraying vs. Peeing Outside the Litter Box

black male cat spraying at the garden
Image Credit: anlomaja, Shutterstock

Anytime that your cat pees outside of the box, it can be frustrating. It’s important to know exactly what’s happening so you can keep your cat healthy.

Cats that spray will do so vertically, so the urine sprays straight from them instead of being aimed toward the ground. This means you’ll find sprayed urine on walls, furniture, and other vertical surfaces.

Coming across a puddle of pee on the floor doesn’t necessarily mean your cat is spraying, but it’s concerning when this happens. When cats urinate outside of the litter box, there may be an underlying problem.

If you notice that your cat is peeing outside of the litter box, the first thing that you should do is bring them to the vet for an exam. Peeing outside the litter box can be a sign of, among other possibilities, a urinary tract infection. You’ll want to eliminate any health problems that could be causing this behavior, especially if it’s not typical.

How to Stop a Cat From Spraying

Once a health problem is ruled out, getting your cat spayed or neutered should stop the spraying behavior. If your cat is already neutered or spayed and perfectly healthy, try to identify what might be causing this behavior. Did your cat’s routine change recently? Are they stressed? Once you can pinpoint the stressors, you can work to eliminate them.

If you have another cat in the home, make sure each cat has their own litter box, food bowl, water dish, and bed. Cats may not feel like spraying for territory if they don’t feel that theirs is threatened. Clean any sprayed urine thoroughly, leaving no trace of the scent behind. If the scent remains, cats will continue to spray in that area.

Talk to your vet or a cat behaviorist to see if anything else can be done to help your cat feel more comfortable in your home.

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Conclusion

Your cat spraying in the house can be upsetting, but there are things that you can do to try to stop it from happening. Rule out any health issues that might be causing this behavior, and make sure your cat is spayed or neutered. If you still can’t figure out the reason that your cat is doing this, your vet or a cat behaviorist may be able to help.

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Featured Image Credit: Helen Liam, Shutterstock

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