Spraying is usually something that is associated with male cats as a way for them to mark their territory. Although it is less common, a female cat will also spray. Fortunately, their urine does not have the strong smell that a male cat's urine does, but this behavior is still destructive and undesirable. Evaluate your cat's behavior to determine the probable cause of spraying and take steps to stop the behavior.
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Never hit your cat or throw things at her if you catch her spraying. It's a natural behavior that she should not be punished for, and she won't understand the punishment. Don't rub her nose in the urine either. These methods are not effective and will likely increase her anxiety.
Understanding why cats spray
When a cat sprays, she is depositing a small amount of urine on the surface to mark the area as hers. If you have multiple cats in the household, she may be spraying to claim ownership of the house.
It is also a way for her to attract mates. Spraying is more likely in cats that haven't been spayed, although the behavior may continue in a small percentage of spayed cats.
Stress is another trigger that may make your cat start spraying. Stress may be caused by a new pet or child in the household, moving to a new home, or unusual activity in the house such as when you have guests or go out of town.
Get a veterinary examination
If your cat has long been well behaved and suddenly starts spraying, the first thing to do is take her in to see a veterinarian. This can rule out a physical or medical cause for the behavior such as an infection.
If your cat has not already been spayed, make an appointment to have this done right away. Cats who have not been fixed may be spraying to attract male cats that may be roaming in the area. In many cases, spaying may resolve the behavior and it has additional health benefits including eliminating the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer and decreasing the risk of breast cancer. Once your cat is spayed and given a clean bill of health, you can address spraying as a behavioral issue.
Check the litter box
Making sure the litter boxes are clean and that there are enough of them can often help the problem, especially if you have multiple cats in your home. Make sure that for however many cats you have, you have the same number of litter boxes plus one. So a two-cat household could have at least three litter boxes. This can help reduce the risk of conflict and fighting between cats that can lead to spraying.
Change out the litter at least once a week and scoop the box daily to keep it clean. Make sure to place the litter boxes in locations where your cat feels comfortable so that she doesn't deliberately avoid using them.
Change the environment
If the spraying is caused by a conflict with other cats, make additional modifications to your home. Make sure there are plenty of perches so that each cat has a safe place to rest. You can also have multiple areas where the cats can eat and drink water. If the problem is cats outdoors, consider closing the blinds so that your cat won't notice them.
Clean up all of the areas where your cat has sprayed so that the scent of her urine doesn't draw her back. Use an enzymatic cleaner specifically designed for use on pet odors and urine to fully eliminate the scent.
Other products and medications
If these basic steps aren't working to stop your cat from marking, consider a product such as Feliway cat spray. This is a product that has the scent of the glands in a cat's cheek, which is different from the pheromone found in cat urine. Many cats may avoid urine spraying in areas that have the scent of the cheek pheromone.
Cats that spray due to anxiety or depression may benefit from medications. Putting your cat on an anti-anxiety medication such as benzodiazepines or an antidepressant such as fluoxetine may an effective way to stop the negative behavior.