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Why Do Cats Spray? Everything You Need to Know!

Having a pet brings extra love and laughter into a household. Cats make excellent additions to almost any home, but sometimes, there are behavioral problems that owners can struggle with, like cat spraying.

Cats are territorial creatures by nature, and they require their home to feel secure. They work to ensure this security by leaving their mark on any place that they want to claim as their own. The mark tells other animals and sometimes even humans to stay away.

Most of the time, cats establish their mark on their territory by rubbing their bodies against something, like a piece of furniture. They might even do this on you.

We can barely smell this form of marking, and instead of being unhealthy, it usually means that your cat is happy and safe at home with you. You can take it as a positive sign.

However, what does it mean when your cats begin to spray to mark their territory? Why are they making such a mess? Is there any way to stop this behavior? We discuss the answers to these questions.

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What It Means When Your Cats Spray

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Image Credit: sab_k, Pixabay

Although you might not have ever noticed your cat doing so, spraying is a different type of marking that typically happens outdoors. In the outside world, cats have more competition with other animals to establish their territory and keep it safe. Besides a fight, spraying is a way of aggressive communication with other cats.

When your cats spray outdoors, it is akin to what a dog might do out on a walk, sniffing and then peeing over the area that they just sniffed. It doesn’t inconvenience you and is a perfectly natural behavior.

However, when cats begin to spray indoors, it means that something in their world has gone wrong. They do not like to create messes, and it is not in their nature to spray where they feel comfortable.

Predominantly, cats will begin to spray inside when they feel the need to make their claim on their territory even more apparent. Until your cat believes the problem is gone, their anxiety in the home will not decrease.

Signs That Your Cat Is Spraying Indoors

If you suspect that your cat might be guilty of spraying indoors but need confirmation, there are signs that you can look for around your home.

The first is the most obvious: catching your cat in the act. If cats are still housetraining or very old, they might not be spraying, but instead choosing inappropriate places for elimination. This accidental behavior will generally occur on horizontal surfaces.

Cats that purposefully spray will often lift their back and arch with their tail high in the air, aiming for a vertical surface.

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Reasons That Your Cat Sprays

There are quite a few reasons that your cat might begin spraying inside, typically boiling down to increased vulnerability.

Sickness

The first possibility is that they are not feeling well. Cats spraying indoors is not a natural behavior. They are clean animals that appreciate having a tidy home.

There are certain illnesses that cats can contract that might change their typical behavioral patterns. Much like in humans, hormone levels can change and alter a cat’s ordinary state of relaxation or security during illness.

Spraying might be their way of disguising sickness from other animals.

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Image Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

As soon as you confirm that your cat is spraying, take them to a vet for a check-up. Their illness might not be as evident to you, but spraying could be a call for help.

Changes to Their Home Life

The larger issue with spraying is almost always the level of security that your cat feels in their home. When significant changes happen, it might seem like a cat rebels by spraying instead of using their litter box.

However, it typically isn’t a form of rebellion. Instead, cats want to communicate that you have made them feel unsafe. It could be because you moved things around and they don’t understand why.

Dislike the Litter Tray

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Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

One of the most significant causes for indoor spraying among cats is that they think something is wrong with their litter tray.

Cats do not like to use a litter box that is already heavily soiled. If they have used it fine until now and have only recently started spraying, check out how clean their tray is. You might need to start cleaning it with more frequency to keep their bathroom habits in check.

Some people like to use scented litter. However, this can put a cat off, especially if they are sensitive to scents. Instead of scented litter, clean the box thoroughly once a month by emptying all the old junk. Then, use a disinfectant that is feline-friendly to keep it clean, toxin-free, and scentless to both you and your cat.

After using the same kind for a long time, your cat can be thrown for a loop if their litter is changed. Their box needs to be a place of control, serenity, and safety. Besides cleanings, changes will not be appreciated and might cause them to find safety elsewhere.

Finally, the position or type of litter tray that you use can influence their behavior.

A Stranger in Their Home

Strange people or animals in the home is another factor that can make a cat feel vulnerable and afraid. This could occur if you frequently have strangers visiting or go on vacation, leaving them in the care of someone they don’t know. Maybe you adopted another animal, so your cat needs to make it clear to them whose house this is.

Mating Rituals

One of the primary reasons for cats spraying is flirting. When an unneutered male sprays, it lets females know that they are available and the amount of territory that they are “in charge of” within the home or outside.

If your cat was neutered later in their life, spraying could be a holdover from their days of being on the prowl, so to speak. They will typically do this if they sense a new female around or can tell that a female is in heat.

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Ways That You Can Stop Your Cat Spraying Indoors

Visiting the vet is always the first thing that you should do if you notice a significant change in your cat’s behavioral patterns. Beyond that, you might need to take personal action to solve the problem.

Make Them Feel Safe

cat getting scratches
Image Credit: Iryna Imago, Shutterstock

One cause for this behavior is an underlying feeling of vulnerability. Figure out what could cause this feeling by taking note of where your cat typically sprays.

Let’s say that they spray within a hallway or a seemingly innocuous space in the home. In that case, it might be because that is where they typically come across another animal that they haven’t yet grown to feel comfortable around. You might need to separate their litter trays, food bowls, and toys until they grow accustomed to each other.

If you notice that your cat is spraying on a window or doorway, it could be because they perceive a threat outdoors, such as another cat. Try to limit what they can see by covering windows with a semi-transparent wrap or closing the cat flap and not allowing any other cat inside but yours.

Place the Litter Box Properly

Placement of a litter tray is an art, and to make your cat happy, you must get it right. It needs to be where few people or other animals spend their time so your cat feels secure.

It should be where your cat only has to watch one entryway or path instead of being placed in the middle of an open floor plan. It also helps to get a tray with a covering or a lid to make your cat feel like they are safely hidden while they do their business.

Clean the Area and Keep Them Away

If they are spraying in a specific place, even passing by can trigger a similar behavioral response. Clean the area with a detergent and a scent remover. There are products made specifically to destroy the scent of your cat.

The next step is to keep them away from the area until you can fix whatever the perceived issue is. For example, if they are afraid of strangers and spray somewhere in your room because it has your scent in it and makes them feel safe, close the bedroom door when you have visitors.

Introduce Strangers Slowly

If you are going on vacation, introduce your cat’s carer to them before leaving. Let them spend time together a couple of times before you leave. Doing this will help make your cat more comfortable around the person instead of scared when you are gone.

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Featured Image: Nadezhda Zaitceva, Shutterstock