Why Do Cats Spray?

Written by Austin S.
Updated: October 13, 2022
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Cats are one of the favorites of humans when it comes to animal domestication. The relationship between cats and humans is a perfect one. Hence, many families that love pets like to have them around. 

However, there is typical behavior in cats that owners usually find challenging. This behavior has to do with spraying. Male cats are the chiefs when it comes to cat spraying. You will only find a female cat spraying on special occasions. 

Cats are known to be very territorial. And they show their territoriality in so many ways, especially when another cat invades their space. They sometimes hiss or even puff their fur to send signals, which isn’t much of a problem. 

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But the problem comes in when a cat decides to take things a notch higher by spraying all around. What does cat spraying even mean? Let’s find out. 

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What Does Cat Spraying Mean?

This behavior refers to the practice of a cat urinating in another spot different from its usual designated location. Cats spray to prevent other feline housemates or unfamiliar humans from coming to close, to attract a mate, or because they feel stressed, or may be suffering from nerves or illness.

If you observe that your cat has started leaving its litter box to urinate on a vertical surface like a door, wall, or even furniture, you need to pay more attention to what it is trying to pass across. 

When cats want to communicate with themselves, they use scents to do the talking, which is why a cat just needs to smell another cat’s urine to know what it is trying to pass across. Their urine usually has a pungent smell like ammonia. 

If you observe your cat turning its back to an object and raising its tail, it is most likely planning to push out urine forcefully. Cats spray most times in areas where they know humans and cats pass through frequently. 

Cats usually urinate by squatting, with their back end closer to the ground and front end maintaining an upright position. Cats in the wild don’t have reasons to spray because they have their territory. But domesticated cats do it when they notice an invasion.

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Significant Reasons Why Cats Spray

There are many reasons why your Cats might be spraying the whole house with urine. Some of those reasons include: 

Poor Health Status 

Perhaps you just noticed that your cat suddenly changed its normal behavior and started messing the whole house with urine; you should pay attention to its health status. It should get an urgent medical examination. 

Sometimes, cats spray around due to health conditions. Spraying is just a means to let you know their pain and give them the attention they need. The cat might even be suffering from a condition that makes it difficult to go in and out of its litter box, and it ends up urinating outside the box. 

Poor Assessment of the Litter Box

Your cats might be Spraying due to negligence on your part. Your cats might be facing a problem while staying in their litter box. Cats naturally find it difficult to stay in dirty places. So you should pay good attention to keeping the litter box neat at all times. 

Another thing to look out for is the accessibility of the litter box. If your litter box is in a place that your cats find very difficult to access, that could be why they spray around. Since getting into it isn’t easy, they prefer urinating in a more comfortable place. 

Also, you should make sure your cats like their litter box because cats might just be uncomfortable with certain litter boxes for no reason. Your cats might start using the litter box if you change. 

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Stress

Cats, like humans, can relate well to stress. Just the way you get affected by stress, cats also experience it. When a cat isn’t happy or even anxious, spraying can be a form of communicating how it feels. 

Cats like to take charge and sometimes spray to boost their confidence. If your cat passes a message of stress and unhappiness across to you, do well to identify the cause and tackle it to prevent your cat from spraying. 

Attempt to Attract the Opposite Sex

Spraying is common in both male and female cats. Therefore, cats sometimes leave their urine marks strategically to pass a message to the opposite sex that they are ready to mate. Spraying can be a sign of sexual availability. 

Limited Number of Litter Boxes 

There could be a limited number of boxes if you have a lot of cats as pets. If you notice that your cats don’t always stay in their litter boxes, it might be due to insufficient litter boxes. Cats like to keep their space, so crowding cats in litter boxes might cause them to start spraying around since they aren’t comfortable in the box. 

The solution for some cats might be putting their litter boxes in places not so close to other cats. They will feel more relaxed and undisturbed. 

Sudden Change of Location or Routine

Cats are susceptible to changes. They don’t like change. Your cat’s frequent spraying might be a reaction to a sudden change in its routine or location. Sensitive cats even react when they observe new faces in your house. And also, if they stop seeing a face, they are used to seeing. This sudden change might upset them. You should pay attention to details like this if your cat starts spraying suddenly. 

Ways to Prevent your Cats from Spraying 

The following are ways through which you can prevent your cats from spraying. 

Clean the Sprayed Area Thoroughly

Cats possess very sharp smell receptors, making them very sensitive to smells. Their smell receptor is the reason you should make sure you clean areas where your cat has initially sprayed on to prevent it from going back to spray on the same spot next time. 

It would be best to use good enzymatic and bio-based cleaners when cleaning to neutralize the urine odor. It is advised not to use ammonia-based cleaners since they are similar to the urine smell. 

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Make Sure Your Cat Is Neutered

If you notice that your cat is spraying all around the house, you might want to consider neutering it. Cats that are neutered are less likely to spray. Aside from the fact that neutering reduces stress, it also reduces their willingness to be defensive and territorial. 

A neutered cat might not stop spraying around immediately. It might still take a little time and gradually until it finally stops. 

Reduce Your Cat’s Contact With Other Cats

If you take care of many cats in a single house, you have to pay attention to their contact with each other. Cats communicate a lot with themselves through spraying. So cats might begin to spray when they see or perceive another cat is close. So to prevent this, you might have to separate the cats and make sure they are not always close. Reducing their contact will reduce their communication and the need to spray. 

Make Use of Calming Pheromones

Calming products like Pheromone diffusers and edible supplements can help your cat handle and cope with stress. If your cat sprays without control, you should use these calming products to reduce anxiety and nervousness. 

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Consult a Veterinarian 

If, after taking all possible steps, your cat keeps spraying urine everywhere, then it is about time you consulted a veterinarian. A veterinarian will critically examine the cat and carry out the necessary tests to determine the reason for this behavior 

Concluding Thoughts 

Cat owners always see spraying as a big issue. You should constantly monitor your cat to know why it is spraying. It could be for a very critical reason that requires urgent attention.

Norwegian forest cat marking territory by spraying.
Spraying is one way that cats mark territory.
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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do cats spray their owners? 

Yes, a cat can spray its owner with urine. It could just be putting a mark of ownership on their owner. And sometimes, cats spray a specific person in the house who they seem to like more than others.

Why is my neutered cat still spraying?

If, after neutering or spaying your cat, you still observe that it still sprays your home, you might need to seek the assistance of a trusted veterinarian to know what’s wrong. Sometimes, it could be due to an underlying ailment like bladder infections or even kidney issues.

How long does it take cats to stop spraying after neutering? 

Usually, cats are not meant to spray immediately after neutering, but some still take time before they finally stop. This delay could be due to a high testosterone level, especially in male cats.

Is Spraying Based on Gender?

Male and female cats can spray. But the unneutered cats are more prone to spraying, and their urine usually smells stronger. Male cats also have higher tendencies to spray than their female counterparts.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.