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Do All Cats Spray? Is It Typical?

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Cat Pee Spray

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Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re a new cat owner and have seen your cat back up to something and spray it with urine, you may be in shock. You may also be grossed out because cat urine makes a mess, and it stinks! Spraying urine or marking, as it’s also called, is not uncommon in cats, although not all cats spray. This is a behavior that both male and female cats can do, while unneutered male cats are the most likely to spray.1

If you’re asking yourself if all male cats spray, the answer is no. While a male cat is more likely to spray than a female, mostly unneutered male cats spray.1

When an unneutered male cat sprays, the urine it leaves behind smells strong and pungent, making it easily detectable by other cats. But even though neutering a male can reduce the cat’s motivation for spraying, about a very small percentage may continue to spray.

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Why Cats Spray Urine

  • Territorial Marking and Mating: In the animal world, communicating through smell is normal. You’ve probably seen dogs out walking that spend most of their time sniffing around, looking for the perfect place to pee. Many animals, including dogs and cats, spray urine to mark their territories and communicate other information.
  • Conflict: Conflict is another cause of cat spraying. For example, if a cat is living with other cats, he may spray urine to establish boundaries and settle disputes.
  • Other causes: Other causes such as changes in routines, and stress have also been implicated as possible causes of spraying in cats.

Know the Difference Between Urinating and Spraying

a white cat spraying the wooden gate
Image By: Igor Shoshin, Shutterstock

If you’re unsure if your cat is just peeing regularly or spraying urine, you should know how to tell the difference between the two. When a cat urinates, it is on a flat or horizontal surface. On the other hand, urine spraying is done on vertical surfaces, while the feline is standing up. A cat that is spraying will often make a treading motion with his back feet and quiver his tail while leaving the visual trail and smell of urine on a vertical surface.

Mock Spraying

Cats can also look like they are spraying, when in reality, they are mock spraying. With this behavior, they position themselves against a vertical surface, wiggling their tail, and act as if they will spray, but do not. This is far more commonly seen than actual spraying.

What to Do About Cat Spraying

You should never punish your cat for spraying by yelling or spraying him with water. This certainly won’t stop the spraying, and it will likely stress your cat and make him afraid of you. If your cat is spraying, try these methods for putting an end to this undesirable behavior.

  • Make Sure He’s Not Sick: It’s a good idea to take your cat to the vet for a routine checkup to ensure there isn’t an underlying medical condition that’s causing him to spray. Your vet may run some tests to look for issues like a urinary tract infection or other conditions that can cause problems with the urinary system.
  • Have Your Cat Fixed: If your cat is not spayed or neutered, make an appointment to get it done. Not only is spaying and neutering smart for controlling the cat population, but it’s also a good way to reduce the chances of your cat spraying urine to attract a mate.
  • Reduce Your Cat’s Stress Levels: If you suspect your cat is spraying urine indoors because he’s stressed, identify the stress and try to eliminate it.

How to Get Rid of the Smell of Cat Urine

person cleaning floor
Image Credit: Syda Productions, Shutterstock

If your cat has been peeing outside his litter box and you can’t get rid of the smell of cat urine by using soap and water, you need help! Pick up a can of cat urine deodorizer and get to work. This type of product is specially formulated to work on the worst ammonia odors and urine-based stains.

Your cat may keep returning to that same spot to spray urine again if you don’t get rid of the smell, so take your time and do a thorough job. And whatever you do, don’t use an ammonia-based cleaning product because it may attract your cat to the spot again.

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Dealing with your cat spraying urine around your home is frustrating, to say the least. Get to the bottom of why your cat is spraying so you can eliminate the behavior. And while you’re at it, schedule an appointment to have your cat spayed or neutered if you haven’t done so already since it can help and possibly eliminate this behavior altogether.

Featured Image Credit: Helen Liam, Shutterstock

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