Stop your cat from spraying in the house with these 6 tips

You love your frisky feline companion, and you treat them like a member of the family. But one thing you don’t love? Coming home to the pungent odor of cat urine and unsightly splashes on your furniture, walls, and doors. Have you ever found yourself asking, “Why is my female cat spraying all of a sudden?” We’re here to help you unravel the mystery, so you can put down the scrub brush — and spend more time playing with your cat rather than scolding them. Let’s find out the answers to important questions like “When do male cats start spraying?” And, most importantly, “How can I make it stop?”

A gray and white striped cat sticking their tongue out.

Is your cat really spraying?

Unless you catch them in the act, you may not be able to tell if your cat is urinating or spraying. When cats urinate, they typically squat down on a flat surface. There’s normally quite a lot of urine present when this happens. On the contrary, when cats spray, they tend to stand upright, lift their tails, and spray a vertical surface like the bottom of your sofa or a wall. There’s typically less urine present, too. If your cat is urinating outside their litter box, give it a thorough clean. Cats are extremely finicky, and they may let you know their box is dirty by urinating where you can see it. If your cat continues to urinate outside their box, try changing the litter, relocating the litter box — you should never place litter boxes near food and water bowls — and taking them to the vet if their behavior continues. Once you’ve determined that your cat is really spraying in the house, you can attempt to curb the behavior with the following tips.

1. Evaluate your living situation

Marking their territory may be the most common reason cats spray, but it’s certainly not the only one. Just like humans, cats can suffer from anxiety, and any number of things can make a cat anxious. Have you recently moved house or redecorated? Cats are creatures of habit. Moving house, home renovations, and even moving your furniture around may cause anxiety. If you’ve taken a recent vacation, your cat may be spraying to express their anxiety and displeasure over being left behind.

2. Spay or neuter your cat

Cats often spray to mark their territory, especially male cats. (Yes, female cats can spray. It’s less common than with male cats, but it does happen.) While spaying or neutering your cat won’t remove their ability to spray, it reduces their hormone levels, which may also reduce their urge to spray. According to the professionals at Manhattan Cat Specialists, only 10% of males and 5% of females will continue spraying after they’ve been spayed or neutered. (Spaying also reduces the risk of health problems in female cats.)

3. Use calming products

Whether you prefer to use scented sprays, collars, pheromone diffusers, or edible supplements, these products can help reduce your cat’s stress. Humans can’t smell the majority of these products, but they can have a calming effect on cats, which may help soothe anxiety and make your kitty less likely to spray. If you prefer diffusers and have more than one cat, you can even find formulas that provide enough coverage for multiple kitties, saving you a few bucks in the long run.

A gray cat lying next to a yellow spray bottle and cleaning cloth.

4. Clean affected areas thoroughly

Once your cat sprays a certain spot, they leave behind an odor that keeps them coming back to the same area. Instead of scrubbing away with soap and water, try an enzymatic cleanser that’s specifically designed to target and eliminate pet odors. After the lingering odor has been eliminated, consider using an anti-anxiety spray in the area or plugging in a pheromone diffuser.

5. Try adding another litter box

Even if you keep your cat’s litter box clean, that might not be enough to make your finicky feline happy. Adding another litter box to your home may be the perfect solution to the problem, especially if you have more than one pet in the house. Your cats may be the best of friends most of the time and still become competitive when it comes to litter boxes.

6. Talk to your veterinarian

If all else fails, it’s time to consult your veterinarian. Your vet can run tests to determine whether a physical problem is behind your cat’s sudden tendency to spray. They may also recommend consulting a cat behavioral specialist, as they can offer suggestions on how to curb unwanted behaviors like spraying.

A gray and white striped cat spraying in the bushes.

Dealing with behavioral problems like spraying in the house can be stressful, but there are ways to combat this obnoxious behavior. Just remember that contrary to popular belief, your cat isn’t spraying to spite you. In all likelihood, your fur baby is marking their territory, expressing their anxiety, or trying to draw your attention to a medical problem. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian for advice. Once you’ve eliminated the problem, you’ll be able to enjoy your cat’s company — minus any lingering odors.

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