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Many kitten lovers know that a quick tail slap against a wall unfortunately means more than hello. Cat spraying is a disruptive behavior that communicates how your cat is feeling and why something in their surroundings may need to be changed.
Typically, you will find a male or female cat spraying when he leans back against a wall, near a door or window, or near other exit points and sheds a small amount of urine. And yes, sometimes they twitch their tails and bodies.
While it is easy to think Kitty is doing something naughty at first, it is actually a cue for you (the pet becomes a teacher!) To take a closer look at general health and daily life for him.
Why do cats spray?
Spraying is different from inappropriately using the toilet, says Tarina L. Anthony, DVM, a longtime practitioner of exclusive cat medicine and the owner and medical director of Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotels in Aurora, Colorado. “Spraying can be done on vertical or horizontal surfaces. Is usually a smaller amount than a ‘regular’ piss and is used for marking,” she says. While inappropriately using the toilet is on a horizontal surface, there is a greater amount of urine and is usually done when the cat determines that something is wrong.
“This could mean that they feel bad, don’t like the litter, the litter box, or the litter box location, or that they prefer the area or substrate they want to urinate on,” says Anthony. “I always tell people, ‘urination is communication’.”
If cat spraying has begun after an adverse change, the introduction of another pet, or a conflict because a powder (group) of kittens does not coexist peacefully, you should consult a cat behaviorist. You can assess the situation more clearly and work with your veterinarian to find more targeted solutions as to why your cat is feeling stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable – and spray to make his point.
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Do both male and female cats spray to mark their territory?
Anthony says that every cat has the potential to spray, but men are much more likely to do so than women, and non-neutered men even more so. It’s a pheromone business card. “Tagging is basically sending messages to other cats – the most common is, ‘This is my area, get out!'” She says. Spaying and neutering doesn’t automatically take care of the problem, she adds, especially if it’s been going on for a while or if there are other cats in the household. She therefore recommends investigating the cause of cat spraying under the guidance of a professional.
When do female cats spray? VCA hospitals advise that some cats in heat also use this behavior to convey certain signals. But since your urine is filled with higher levels of hormones and pheromones during the oestrus (reproductive cycle), it is more of a beacon. That could sort of bring more male cats to the yard, and they’ll definitely start territorial marking all over again!
Anthony says if indoor spraying from female or male cats is due to outdoor cats in the area, motion-activated sprinklers can help keep them from walking too close to the domestic cat’s territory.
How to clean and get rid of cat spray odor
Cat spray looks and smells like urine to some point. A well-hydrated kitten will produce pale yellow urine with its typical acidic odor. However, due to the pheromones in the cat spray, it is often darker yellow and smells particularly pungent. If you haven’t seen your cat spray and are just following your nose, there are likely some areas that are very focused. This makes cleaning more difficult.
“It is imperative to clean immediately and thoroughly to destroy odor nuisance,” says Anthony. Using an enzymatic cleaner (not ammonia as it has a similar odor to urine and defeats the purpose), she recommends that you apply a volume of detergent equal to the amount of urine according to the instructions on the pack.
If the stains are severe, you may need to seek professional services or, in extreme situations, completely replace stained items.
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How to stop a cat from spraying
Although some cats meow to let you know exactly how they are feeling, changes in behavior – just like other non-verbal acts – are additional forms of communication.
While staying indoors may be healthier for your kitten overall, it could be a signal that he really wants you to pick him up when he sprays. “Cats have many evolutionary needs – like hunting, tagging, roaming, climbing, and hiding – that aren’t often met when kept indoors,” says Anthony. “This can lead to scratches, urination, aggression and other undesirable behaviors.”
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However, she adds that the spraying is not abnormal or cannot be repaired. With the right enrichment tools, you can let your furry friend know that you understand what they’re trying to say and create an engaging environment they’re sure to love! “It may seem strange to give a puzzle feeder to a cat scratching your couch, but often mental stimulation in one area will help alleviate behavior that we as humans dislike in an entirely different area.” says Anthony.
Here are a few things to try:
Your playful cat can also be trained to do cool things (agility and obstacle course? Whaaa?) To not only adapt behavior but also to tickle their natural curiosity in rewarding ways. Use a clicker to teach him how to claim territory using more recognized methods, entertain him with new tricks, and even encourage him to play fetch!