If stray cats have made your neighborhood or yard their home, it can be pretty adorable. However, you may have a problem with these cats spraying your home, which is much less adorable. Stray cats may mark their territory on your house or lawn, especially if you have a pet dog or cat. While spraying is unpleasant, it can be solved.
Why do cats mark?
Cats mark their territory to communicate by scent. Cats can also communicate through scratching and rubbing, but marking by urination may come up as a behavior. According to the ASPCA, urine marks smell extra pungent to people. They elaborate that the reason cats learn so much information from the urine mark of another cat is that a urine mark isn't simply urine. It also contains extra communication chemicals, which we find as an especially unpleasant odor. The stray cat may be communicating with your pet or other stray cats.
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How to detect spraying
Spraying is different than a bathroom accident or a cat peeing outside of a litter box. When a cat is spraying they will back up to a vertical surface with their tail erect and they squirt urine, according to The Humane Society. They add that a cat's tail often quivers when they are spraying. This is often done on furniture, curtains, or the outside of a house.
This is not an issue with a litter box, rather a cat's way of communicating by scent. But fear not, there are many ways to deter cats from spraying.
Urinating on horizontal surfaces
In addition to spraying, cats may urinate horizontally as a way to mark territory. This could be peeing on furniture, carpets, the floor, grass, or objects on the floor. This is a way for cats to communicate with each other, according to The Humane Society. A cat may want other cats to know that they were there or to tell them to stay away.
Deter stray cats with scents
Cats have a very sensitive sense of smell. Alley Cat Allies suggests scattering fresh lemon or orange peels outside your home since this fragrance deters stray and feral cats. They also suggest wet coffee grounds as a natural deterrent. Lastly, cats do not like the scent of vinegar, so fill metal pans with vinegar to discourage cats from marking. These gentle and natural scents will help to make your lawn and home unwelcoming for cats to spray.
Neutralize the cat spraying smell
The ASPCA recommends cleaning up urine markings with an enzymatic cleanser designed specifically to neutralize pet odors. Enzymatic cleansers can be purchased at most pet stores or online. Cats have very sensitive noses, and if they smell urine in a previously marked spot, they tend to mark that spot again.
Use a motion detection device
Cats do not enjoy getting wet. Therefore, the ASPCA suggests attaching a motion detection device to your lawn sprinkler. Setting the sprinkler by windows is best. This will keep neighborhood cats away from your windows and home, especially if you have pets.
Secure cat flaps
If you have cats as pets and use a cat flap to allow them to go in and outdoors, this may need to be addressed. Stray cats and your pet cats may mark this area to try and keep each other away. Blue Cross For Pets suggests replacing your cat flap to one which is opened by either a magnet or an electronic key on your cat's collar. This will make a pet cat feel more secure and have less of a need to mark the door and vice versa.
Neutering male cats
Neutered male cats can still spray after being fixed. However, unneutered male cats are more prone to spraying than neutered males. Female cats, both spayed and not spayed, can also mark their territory with urine. Unneuteread males are more apt to spray because they want to communicate they are available to reproduce as stated by the ASPCA. They are marking to communicate their desire to mate to female cats. If you have one or more female cats as a pet, this may be the cause of marking near or on your home.
The Trap-Neuter-Return Program
Programs exist to help communities have healthy relationships with feral cats, also referred to as community cats. These cats have been bred and raised outdoors in the wild. Since they were never socialized, they may be unfriendly and therefore not adoptable by humans. They live happy and fulfilling lives with fellow cats from their community outdoors in colonies as noted by Alley Cat Allies.
Programs like the Trap-Neuter-Return program help keep feral cats from mating and keep the population under control. The Trap-Neuter- Return program can be contacted if you or your neighborhood are experiencing any issues or concerns with a feral cat colony. The program will come and humanely trap community cats. The cats are then brought to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered. Next they are vaccinated and eartipped. Finally, they are then returned to their outdoor homes as stated by Alley Cats Allies.
What about shelters?
There is much confusion about this topic and it may, in fact, seem counterintuitive. When people who don't know about feral cats and cat communities find a feral cat, they may want to help this animal. Feral cats can be seen as homeless or abandoned pets or possibly pets who are lost, which are actually stray. However, true feral cats were born and raised in the wild and never lived with people.
Feral cats typically cannot be adopted because they were never socialized to be pets and to live indoors with people or other cats and dogs, as mentioned in Alley Cat Allies. Shelters cannot place them in homes and often these animals are ultimately killed at shelters. Instead of taking feral cats to shelters, look for a program like Trap-Neuture-Return or similar spay and neuter programs. Such programs allow the cats to continue to live outdoors while keeping their population in check, and at the same time help with issues like spraying and urine marking.
Take kittens to shelters
If feral kittens are less than 8 weeks old, Alley Cat Allies recommends taking them to shelters. At this age they can be socialized properly so that they can be adopted as pets.
Having feral cats in your neighborhood is common. Consequently, you may need to try a few different techniqes to deter them from spraying your yard and house.