Is your cat urinating in small amounts around your house? Have you been noticing urine marks on walls or other upright surfaces? Chances are your cat might be spraying.
To help you understand spraying in cats, this article explains When Do Cats Start Spraying? and what to do about it.
When Do Cats Start Spraying?
A cat usually starts spraying when it reaches the age of sexual maturity. This age can differ among male and female cats. Generally, spraying is observed around 6 months, but male cats are known to mature early at around the age of 4 to 5 months. Hence, you should start looking out for signs of spraying when your cat reaches the age of puberty.
What Is Spraying?
Spraying, also known as urine-marking, refers to the habit of cats marking territory by depositing minute amounts of urine across surfaces. This is a commonly observed feline behavior and one way to mark scent. Other ways involve using scent glands located on paw pads, flanks, tail, and forehead. Cheek rubbing (bunting) and rarely stooling are other forms of scent-marking behavior.
Although male and female cats both exhibit spraying behavior, it is more commonly seen in male cats. Often, the spray is mistaken for inappropriate urination, so it is essential to know the difference.
Cats usually spray outside to mark their location or territory. However, when done inside the home on furniture or belongings, it can be bothersome for cat owners.
Difference Between Spraying And Inappropriate Urination
The spraying behavior of cats is often confused with inappropriate urination. To make sure your cat is actually spraying and not urinating inappropriately in different locations, get your cat checked by a veterinarian beforehand.
Inappropriate urination is when a cat disregards the use of its litter box for urination. This discontinuity may be complete or partial. Rather than using the litter box, the cat will pee outside it over different horizontal surfaces.
Inappropriate urination is usually the result of an underlying medical condition or behavioral changes. Some medical conditions include kidney diseases, urinary tract infections, arthritis, etc. Litter box problems can also cause inappropriate urination.
Therefore, it is advised to get a proper diagnosis to ensure your cat’s health is in check.
So, how can you distinguish between spraying and inappropriate urination? To differentiate between the two often misunderstood terms, here are a few characteristics you should look out for:
When a cat is about to spray, it displays various physical behaviors such as backing into an area and standing erect. It will also elevate its rear end, straighten and twitch its tail, move its feet, and make a strange face.
On the other hand, inappropriate urination does not involve such behavioral changes. Instead, the cat will stay away from its litter box, squat, and lower its rear end, as observed during normal urination.
A cat, while spraying, can meow or yowl while inappropriate urination is not associated with feline noises.
Quantity Of Eliminated Urine
Although urine is involved, spraying is not simply just urination. Instead, it is a way for cats to mark their territory. Therefore, the amount of urine eliminated during spraying is very small. Usually, it is around a couple of milliliters or about the size of half a teaspoon.
On the contrary, inappropriate urination involves completely emptying the bladder. This is why a cat will eliminate normal-sized amounts of liquid on surfaces during inappropriate urination.
Location Of Urine Marks
During spraying, a cat stands erect to eliminate a small jet of urine. Hence, you will observe urine marks mostly on vertical surfaces at a height above a few inches from the ground.
On the other hand, urine marks of inappropriate urination are generally found as a puddle on horizontal surfaces.
Smell Of Urine
A feline’s urine is smelly. However, the odor of sprayed urine is stronger and more pungent than normal urine excreted during inappropriate urination. The cause for this is the different chemical markers produced within the body that helps a cat mark its scent.
Why Do Cats Spray?
There are various reasons why cats spray. As mentioned above, the primary reason for spraying behavior is marking territory. Cats exhibit spraying or urine-marking to delineate their territory and let other cats know that they have a claim over a particular object or area.
Another reason is that your cat may be unneutered. As discussed, cats start spraying when they reach sexual maturity. Hence, if your cat is unneutered, it could show more signs of spraying than a neutered one. Moreover, by spraying, cats can express sexual receptivity and availability to the opposite gender.
One behavioral cause of spraying could be stress. Cats commonly experience stress when there is a disruption in their environment, such as redecoration or relocation. They can also become stressed and spray to show conflict when a new cat is brought in.
Certain medical conditions can also cause cats to spray. Research has shown that an estimated 30% of cats spray due to medical reasons rather than behavioral ones. These conditions can include stress-induced cystitis as seen in Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), pain in the spine or hip due to osteoarthritis or injury, and more.
What Can You Do About It?
Once your cat starts spraying, get it checked by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical cause. Moreover, speak to your vet about neutering your cat, as it can aid in reducing or stopping spraying. Remove stress factors and create a positive environment for your furkid to feel safe.
Prescribed anti-depressants (fluoxetine and clomipramine) and anti-anxiety medications (buspirone and benzodiazepine) have also shown varying degrees of success in reducing spraying behavior.
To remove urine marks and prevent further marking, clean the area with a mild fragrance soap or enzyme-based odor remover.
- How do I know if my cat is spraying?
To identify if your cat is spraying, observe the behavior it displays. A spraying cat will back into an area, stand upright, erect and twitch its tail, and raise the rear end towards a target. Your cat might even move its feet, make peculiar facial expressions, and meow or yowl when spraying.
- How do you stop a male cat from spraying?
If your male cat is unneutered, neutering them would help reduce or stop spraying. Furthermore, create a secure environment for cats to de-stress by making individualized spaces, playing with them, etc. You can also talk to your vet for medications, use enzymatic odor removers and synthetic cat pheromones to prevent further spraying.
- What does cat spray smell like?
Unlike normal urine, cat spray has a pungent, strong smell. This is due to the different chemical markers produced in the body. When mixed with excreted urine, these chemicals cause the odor to become stronger and more intense.
Spraying, although a typical territorial marking behavior that starts around 6 months of age can be irritating when done repeatedly inside the house. Always rule out whether the cause is medical or behavioral to initiate the correct treatment accordingly.
Hi, Dr. Louise Cosgrove from Queensland, Australia. A veterinarian for 10+ years. I and my husband Jason Gray running a veterinary business at eevs.com.au. decided to create a blog about cats. I wanted to create a – what you can call a cat-o-pedia for people who don’t have a veterinary partner and often need to rely on the internet for quick and useful information about cats.