Pet Info

Urine Spraying in Cats

Spraying is a normal act of chemical communication and territorial marking carried out by many species. The smell of the spray carries information regarding sex, sexual condition, rank and possibly emotional state and is often deposited at specific marking sites. Cats invariably top up their own marks and attempt to cover those of others. Cats of either sex will spray to attract mates.

Although the majority of cats spray at some time of their lives, fortunately only a small minority do so in the home. A healthy solitary cat living in a stable environment usually has no need to spray in the house where it is secure from threat, preferring to concentrate such social and territorial activities outside. The cat that sprays indoors is not a "dirty" cat but one requiring careful analysis for cause and treatment.

Diagnosis

Spraying should be distinguished from normal elimination (toileting) for purposes of treatment. When spraying, a cat holds its rump high with tail erect and quivering at the tip. Alternating stepping movements of the hind feet may also be observed as the spray is set backwards usually onto a vertical surface. The volume of spray is typically about 1ml directed in short jets. This contrasts with urination where up to 20ml of urine is deposited from a squatting position into a hole or prepared toilet, and then covered up afterwards.

Cause

Most problems of spraying indoors are due to the presence of rivals or social upheaval. Owners may unwittingly disturb the status quo by decorating or acquiring new furniture, or more usually, by taking in a new cat. Alternatively outdoor rivals may enter the home via a cat flap and challenge the resident cat. Loss of human or feline companions and other changes in the family can also turn a normal pet into a sprayer, and feeding may stimulate spraying to ward off rivals from stealing any surplus "kill".

Physical blockage of the urological tract by uroliths (stones) are a symptom of F.U.S. (Feline Urological Syndrome) and may cause a cat to adopt a spraying posture when straining to urinate. This is a painful and dangerous condition; if suspected contact the Balgownie Veterinary Hospital immediately.

Treatment

Surgery/Medication

a) Males

Castration of entire males reliably causes spraying to diminish or cease entirely. Also, after castration, male urine smells much less pungent.

b) Females

Unless spraying only occurs when a queen is in season, neutering will not usually prevent the behaviour. For neutered cats of either sex, short term therapy with a progestogen (one of the female hormones) may be useful for its calming effect on the nervous system, but long term treatment may induce undesirable side effects.

Sedative or other psycho-active drugs may also help in the short term while environmental and behavioural changes are introduced. Contact the BHVG regarding these options.

Access

Entry, or the possibility of entry by outsiders through a cat flap is a major influence on the sprayer. If a cat flap is desired, use a model which allows only your cat to enter by carrying a selective magnetic or electronic "key" on its collar. Better still, encourage improved recognition of indoor security compared with outdoor "jungle" by allowing access via the door. Most cats learn to "ask" to go out or come in.

Cleanliness

All sprayed areas should be thoroughly cleaned using a warm (50-60C) solution of a biological washing powder followed by a wipe with alcohol (e.g. surgical spirit) and then left to dry completely.

Do not use cleaning agents containing ammonia as this is also found in spray and the cat may simply view your efforts as those of another owner marking his scent. Propriety repellents usually only mask the smell to the human nose, not to the cat's.

Avoid leaving access to favourite targets such as black plastic bags, or to objects brought in from outdoors (e.g. shoes and bicycles ). Where many rooms are affected, restrict access while each room is thoroughly cleaned in turn, allowing gradual reintroduction only under close supervision.

Punishment

Avoid any direct physical punishment for which the cat may "blame" the owner: This will promote feelings of insecurity and increase the need to spray. Punishment after the event, e.g. "rubbing his nose in it" is pointless, but the cat "caught in the act" should receive an unpleasant stimulus: e.g. a jet of water, soft cushion or loud noise (e.g. from a personal hand held alarm).

Security

Increasing a spraying cat's confidence and security may help reduce its need to spray. Feed sensitive individuals away from other cats and provide a safe bed and security holes to escape from other pets, children etc.

Re-homing

It can be particularly difficult for owners to harmonise an antagonistic relationship between cats and thereby solve the spraying problem. This is particularly relevant with the more assertive pedigree cats which can be less tolerant of flatmates than "moggies". Cats may appear to be friendly in open spaces or even curl up asleep together, but the stress of sharing a lair is often manifested by spraying. Re-homing the key offender(s) to become an only house cat may be the best and kindest solution.

Feliway

A relatively new product called Feliway is proving to be popular in the treatment of urine spraying. Apply it to problem areas in the house. The spray contains a chemical very similar to the natural body scent of cats (pheromones). These pheromones pacify cats who are spraying urine around the house.

Clomicalm

A relatively new drug, Clomicalm is having great success in treating anxiety problems in cats. It is available only from Veterinarians. It is our number one drug for these types of problems.

See also...
Cat Litter Trays