Spraying and Marking Territory

When cats mark their territory they spray urine on vertical surfaces such as walls and furniture – it is known as ‘spraying’. Spraying is method of sexual communication between both female and male cats who have not been neutered or as a form of social communication. Cats that go outside will sometimes spray to mark their territorial boundary, when cats spray indoors it is usually an indication of stress and you should consult your vet about the underlying causes.

Are some cats more likely to spray than others?

Neutering will significantly reduce the likelihood of a cat spraying for sexual reasons – if a non- neutered male cat sprays it will have a strong, distinct smell. Although neutering can change the odour and will reduce the motivation for sprays, 10% of neutered males and 5% of spayed females will continue to spray for social reasons. Spraying is more common in households with multiple pets.

How do I treat a spraying or marking problem?

When seeking treatment for this behavioural problem it’s important to rule out any underlying medical problems first.

In many cases, the issues behind spraying are complex and therefore require behavioural consultation, the consultant will need details such as location of marking, frequency, the number of locations and duration of the problem. In addition, they will need to have information on the number of cats near to your home and the relationship your cat has with them. In households where there are multiple cats the consultant will need to know the number of cats and their feeding, sleeping and playing habits.

Treatment focuses on decreasing the motivation to spray, this can be achieved by working to decrease the stress and anxiety levels in the environment in which the cat sprays.

If spraying is a result of feline social interaction in the home it will be important to identify which cats are members of the same social groups – cats in the same social group will display rubbing and grooming behaviour to others in that group. Cats that are not in the same social group need their own ‘safe zones’ where they can eat, sleep, play and toilet. Cats that are not part of the same social group should never be expected or forced to share essential resources.

Changes in the home such as re-decoration and bringing home a new cat can be very stressful and lead to spraying. During these periods it is recommended to use a Feliway diffuser to calm the cats stress levels and reduce anxiety.