You may not always be able to see it, but if your cat sprays in your home you can always smell it. The pungent odor indicates all is not peaceful in your cat’s universe. When a cat sprays, it can put everyone on edge and it can put the cat at risk of being given away to a shelter. Many people don’t understand why cats spray so they don’t understand how to effectively deal with it.
Many people misunderstand the motivation behind the spray-marking behavior. All-too-often, cat parents simply label... the behavior as territorial marking but that isn’t the only reason cats spray. Unless you can uncover the true cause of the behavior, you won’t have much success in stopping it.
Why Cats Spray
When a cat sprays, it’s a form of communication. Surprising to many cat owners, both male and female cats can spray. I’ve seen so many cases where cat parents completely overlooked the female cat and were convinced (incorrectly) it was the male doing the spraying. The pheromones in urine spray reveal lots of information about the sprayer. Spraying should be viewed as an outward sign that a cat is communicating something. It shouldn’t be viewed as a bad or spiteful behavior. Even though we certainly don’t like the idea of a cat spraying inside our home, it’s important to remember that it’s a normal reaction to a particular situation in your cat's world.
Here are some common reasons cats spray:
- To mark his or her perimeter for other cats
- To create a familiar scent in his territory
- A cat may spray a family member’s personal belongings as a way of creating a bond
- A cat may spray a family member’s belongings if that family member’s schedule has changed or something else about the person’s behavior is different
- A cat might spray a family member’s belongings if he isn’t sure whether the person presents a threat
- Some cats spray new objects brought into the environment
- A cat may spray if he is denied access to another cat who may appear to be a threat (typically this is caused by the appearance of an unfamiliar cat in the yard)
- A cat might spray if anxious, even if there doesn’t seem to be an obvious trigger from a human’s perspective
- Cats may spray as a challenge to another cat
- A cat may spray as a victory display after a hostile altercation with another cat
- A fearful cat may spray only when there are no other cats or humans around
- Intact cats spray when looking for mates
Pheromone-Based Training Products
Pheromone-based training products work by mimicking the natural pheromones found in cats. When sprayed in the environment where cats have typically exhibited marking behavior, they will curb the impulse to spray as a territorial marking behavior. Ideally, surfaces should be cleaned of all traces of scent before using these products.
Note: whenever you’re dealing with any behavior that involves a cat not using the litter box, it’s crucial you have him examined by the veterinarian. Even if you’re sure the problem is behavioral, it’s important to rule out underlying medical causes.
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Feliway works by the use of a "friendly" pheromone, which mimics cats' natural facial pheromones, thus producing a calming effect to discourage further marking. Feliway is also useful in calming cats under stress conditions, such as moving or introduction of new cats, and has also been said to be helpful in discouraging inappropriate scratching. Feliway comes in the original spray and a new Comfort Zone Plug-In, for whole room treatment (see review).
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A proprietary blend includes feline pheromones, garlic and clove extracts, and sodium laurel sulfates. The non-aerosol spray spray is said to be odorless to humans, but effective in discouraging territorial spraying by cats. This product should be tested in an inconspicuous place before using on fabrics.