Unfortunately all cats can spray, whether they're male or female, fixed or intact. That said, intact males spray the most, and fixed females spray the least. Spraying differs from normal urination. Cats that spray usually mark on vertical surfaces, and the amount of urine is smaller but much more intense smelling (that's because the spray has other chemicals in it that a cat uses to communicate with other cats). Read on to learn about the causes of spraying, how to clean up, and what you can do to get your cat to quit.
Female cats primarily spray to attract a mate, but they can also spray to mark their territory if there is a new cat or person in the home (sometimes even new furniture can cause this behavior). Spraying can also be caused by stress between cats if you have a multi-cat household or if you have a neighboring cat that comes into your yard. Your cat could also be unhappy about their litterbox situation (Is the box cleaned often enough? Is the box in a noisy area of your home?). It's recommended you have one box for each cat in your home plus one extra. Place the boxes in low-traffic areas if possible, and if you have dogs, be sure the litterboxes are far from Fido's food and water. And be sure to keep the box clean – scoop it once a day, and completely dump the litter and clean the box with a mild soap and water once a week or so.
If your cat is spraying, make sure they're not experiencing a health problem, like a urinary tract infection. Some cats will urinate outside of litterboxes or right in front of you to let you know there is something wrong and that they are in pain. They will also make multiple (unsuccessful) trips to the litterbox, and they will spend time licking their genitals. UTIs can lead to blockages, which can be fatal, so if your cat seems to be uncomfortable or in pain, be sure to get them checked at the vet asap.
Stopping the Spraying
The main way to keep a cat from spraying or marking territory is to get them spayed or neutered – intact cats are twice as likely to mark as animals that are fixed. Getting your cat fixed by the time they are five or six months old is best to prevent marking. Once a cat reaches puberty it may be hard to stop them from spraying even if you've had them fixed. Also be sure you have enough litterboxes for all your animals along with plenty of perches and spots for each animal to claim as their own. You might keep the blinds closed for a little while if any cats outside are causing trouble. Make time every day to play with your cats to keep them relaxed and healthy. If the problem continues, you can try using cat pheromones to keep your cat calm or talk to your vet about using behavioral medication.
It's also important to thoroughly clean an area your cat has marked, as soon as you discover it. Be sure to use a non-ammonia-based cleaner (cat urine contains ammonia), and avoid strong-smelling cleaners. Vinegar and water work well, and there are also special pet cleaners available at your local pet store. You might try to make areas that your cat has marked inaccessible and keep any objects that may be triggering the marking out of reach. Placing your cat's food and water near the area where they have been marking may deter them, and placing aluminum foil or plastic down can keep them out of certain areas (most cats don't like to walk on these surfaces).
By Jay Matthews
About the Author
Jay Matthews has been writing professionally for over a decade. He's been an animal lover for even longer. When he's not creating articles or copywriting, he's slowly chipping away at a science fiction novel. He lives with his family and their cat Koko in Los Angeles.