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Seven ways to stop your cat from spraying

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Spraying – when your cat sprays in places other than the litter box – is a common problem for cat owners. Learn why cats spray and how to curb the behaviour with our prevention tips.
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A sad cat lying on a blanket

It can be one of the most testing moments in your relationship with your cat: you come home to find a spray of cat urine on your sofa, carpets, walls or curtains, despite the fresh litter box sitting mere metres away. As the owner, your first thoughts are probably “Why is my cat doing this?” followed by “How can I stop it?”

Why cats spray 

Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t just spray to mark their territory. A cat can spray because they feel anxious, threatened or frightened. Spraying can also indicate insecurity, sometimes triggered by a change in routine or environment, or an outside stressor like a feral cat. Still other cats are picky about the state of their litter boxes and will refuse to use them if they need to be cleaned.

Whatever the cause, spraying is an unpleasant behaviour that can cause a pervasive odour in your home and damage your furniture, carpeting and walls. Here are some effective solutions for preventing cat spraying.

1. Neuter your cat 

While desexed cats can still spray, getting them neutered will help curb this behaviour. If your cat is currently not desexed, get them neutered as soon as possible. This will reduce their hormone levels and is likely to diminish their urge to spray. Female cats can spray but it is not as common as with male cats.

2. Find the source of the stress 

If your pet is spraying because they feel anxious, you need to find the root cause of the problem. Look for signs of feral or stray cats lurking outside, such as cat droppings or dead rodents or birds left on porches. A feral cat’s presence could be threatening your cat’s authority. If you have other pets, determine whether they could be bullying or harassing your cat.

3. Check their living area 

Most cats don’t like sudden changes and they may be feeling anxious. Before you jump to conclusions, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you moved recently?
  • Did you go away for a while?
  • Have you rearranged your cat’s living area?
  • Have you moved their food and water bowls?
  • Is their litter box clean and tidy?

Often, these changes can cause unneeded stress on your cat. If you have enough room, consider putting out several litter boxes so your cat always has a nearby option when nature calls.

4. Keep your cat active

A regular schedule gives your cat a sense of stability and structure. Leave your pet some educational and interactive toys to keep them busy while you’re not there, and enjoy some regular play sessions when you come home so they feel loved and cared for. Learn more in our guide to cat exercise.

5. Stay positive 

As annoying as it is to clean up cat urine or remove spraying odour, you should never yell or punish your cat. This will only increase their stress levels – and the spraying. If your cat is returning to the same spot each time to spray, clean the area with a biological washing solution and encourage them to play, sleep or even feed there instead – this will help your cat associate that area with play or relaxation instead of anxiety.

6. Use a calming collar, spray, diffuser or supplement 

There are a number of products on the market designed to calm cats and reduce their stress levels. These include collars, sprays, diffusers or supplements. While odourless to humans, these products can have a soothing effect on cats, making them less stressed and less likely to spray.

7. Consult your veterinarian 

If all else fails you should discuss spraying problems with your vet, who can check for medical or physical issues that may be contributing to your cat’s behaviour. Your vet can also put you in touch with a cat behavioural specialist, who can assess your cat’s habits, breed traits and lifestyle, and offer additional advice and tips.

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