Cat Spraying in the House

Jane from Estepona writes: "My 8-year-old cat has started spraying in the house. He was neutered at the proper age, and is an indoor cat. He started spraying about two years ago, at first infrequently, but now it's pretty bad. He is also in good health."

Answer Inappropriate elimination is the number one behaviour problem reported to vets by cat owners, with both males and females found to be equally at fault. While it can be caused by a urinary tract infection or illnesses such as colitis, often there's no medical cause, which seems to be the case with your cat.

Often you'll blame yourself or something you must have done for putting kitty off-track.Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Urine marking, or what's typically called "spraying," is an expression of territorial dominance found in both cats and dogs. It's associated with the rubbing of body oils from the chin and tail on favourite objects (and favourite people).

Spraying, however, typically occurs when a cat feels like placing an advertisement that sex is available. It increases during mating season and particularly during "courtship." It's the feline way to send the message "Hey, this is my boudoir - keep out!" Of course, getting your cat neutered will almost always solve this cause of spraying. But it can also happen when a cat feels threatened by an intruder. An indoor cat may see a new neighbourhood cat spraying on or near the house. Indoor kitty will initiate defensive activity involving spraying and possibly other behaviour such as running to the door, hissing or growling at the window, and obsessively watching the rival. It can also occur when a new cat is introduced into the house. Basically, anything that disturbs the cat's routine and arouses the cat or is perceived as a threat can elicit spraying.

It's important to evaluate what could possibly be causing your cat's stress which is, in turn, causing the spraying. Attempt to determine if any outdoor cats are tormenting your cat. If so, either try and drive the outdoor cat away or block the view of your indoor cat (both of which can be, admittedly, difficult). Think back - is there any household behaviour which may have changed in the past year or two, since the spraying activity began? Any new addition ( even a human) to the house hold can cause stress to your cat.

Finally, if spraying seems to be occurring in the same locations, try breaking kitty of going in these areas. Commercial cat repellents, mothballs in cloth bags, orange peels, and rubbing alcohol will all tend to keep kitty away. You can also try setting the cat's food dish near the spot, as cats don't like to soil near their feeding area. You can also try upside-down mousetraps or aluminum foil spread on the floor. Unfortunately, the spraying may just relocate to another part of the house in this instance.

Unfortunately, there's no single cause for spraying and, consequently, no magic cure-all. Careful observation and trial-and- error are the only sure fire solutions. Still, you may at least now have a place to start. Good luck!

David the Dogman

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