Cats are known for being pretty clean animals. However, it can be challenging to keep your home in good order with a pet. Their fur gets everywhere, and cats seem to love scratching your furniture. But one of the biggest complaints from cat owners is spraying.
If you have a cat spraying in the house, you’ve probably got one question on your mind: How can I stop a cat from spraying indoors? Unlike the occasional bathroom accident, spraying is purposeful, persistent, and a pretty annoying problem to tackle.
In this article, I delve into why cats spray – they’re not being a nuisance on purpose, they’re trying to mark their territory. I also give you eight easy-to-use solutions on how to stop a cat from spraying permanently. Clean homes and cats can go together!
What is the Difference Between Urinating & Spraying?
Firstly, it is important to properly define spraying and how this is different from urination. If you’re dealing with a urination problem instead of a spraying problem, this guide won’t be all that helpful! You’re better off looking at the post “Why is my cat peeing everywhere all of a sudden?”.
So, what is urination? Urination is going to the toilet for the sheer purpose of eliminating waste. In an ideal world, this happens either in the litter tray or outside the house. However, cats can have toilet accidents in your home. You can easily differentiate this from spraying by looking at your cat’s body position – cats squat and pee on a horizontal surface when urinating.
On the other hand, spraying isn’t your cat’s way of emptying its bladder; it’s its way of marking its territory. They will lift their tails high in the air with their butt towards a vertical surface. Their tails will then start to quiver and a small amount of urine will be sprayed onto the surface behind them. This could be a door, wall, or piece of furniture.
Why is My Cat Spraying Indoors?
As just mentioned, cats spray to mark their territory. Their urine has a strong and distinct scent that lets other cats know this area and everything surrounding it belongs to them. It is similar to when your cat keeps rubbing against everything. Through both spraying and rubbing, the transfer of their scent onto the object helps them claim ownership.
However, cats tend to reserve urine spraying to mark territory that they feel threatened in. Therefore, if your cat is spaying in your house, it usually means they are scared or stressed. The presence of your cat’s scent in your home makes them feel calmer and more at ease, so spraying can help.
There is usually a triggering event that causes cats to start spraying. Common examples are:
- A neighborhood cat coming too close to your home
- A new cat or other pet joining your family
- A new baby or a partner moving into your house
- Redecorating your home or moving house entirely
- A change from your cat’s normal routine
Unfortunately, the pheromones in your cat’s urine will gradually fade over time. When it fades completely, your cat will spray again to re-mark their territory. You might even see your cat shaking its tail but not spraying when stressed, so don’t assume no spraying equals a happy cat. It can be persistent, frustrating, and needs to stop!
What Should I Do If My Cat Sprays?
It can be extremely frustrating when your cat sprays. I know, I’ve been there myself! It is difficult not to be slightly annoyed, and can be tempting to punish your kitty for their ‘bad behavior’.
However, remember that your cat is not trying to be an inconvenience. Nine times out of ten, cats are spraying as there is a problem that is causing them to feel threatened and unsafe. Punishing your cat for acting out when they feel scared is only going to make the situation worse.
Therefore, the best thing to do whenever your cat sprays is to remain calm. Take your cat out of the room in which they have urinated and clean the area thoroughly. You’ll also want to book a veterinary appointment if spraying is a recurrent issue to rule out medical conditions.
I also recommend writing down when and where your cat sprayed. This can help your work out any patterns that arise and is super useful when determining the cause of this behavior. The is extremely useful when figuring out how to stop a cat from spraying – cutting the problem at its root is always the best solution.
How To Stop My Cat From Spraying in the House
There are all sorts of solutions for cats spraying in the house. An easy option is to purchase cat diapers for spraying that catch any urine from cats trying to mark in your home. However, to get rid of this behavior permanently you’ll want to cut the problem at its cause.
There are several ways to do this, but here are my eight favorite methods on how to stop a cat from spraying indoors. Try one or all of these solutions and see if you can eliminate this behavior for good!
1. Get a Health Check
The first thing you should always do whenever you notice a behavioral change in your cat is to go to the vet. More often than not, spraying cats don’t have any underlying medical conditions. However, as urination can easily be mistaken for spraying it’s important to rule out medical conditions that increase the likelihood of bathroom accidents.
Below are some common examples of medical conditions that can lead to peeing in your home:
- Bladder infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney disease
- Feline Cognitive Dysfunction
If your cat is suffering from a medical condition, you’ll likely notice other clinical signs. For bladder and urinary infections, your cat will often yowl or strain when peeing. You might also spot blood in the urine. Kidney disease can cause nausea, appetite loss, vomiting, and fatigue, whereas diabetes is characterized by increased thirst, increased appetite, and weight loss.
Feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) predominantly affects older cats. However, it’s pretty common, affecting 55% of cats over the age of 11 and 80% of cats over the age of 16. Aside from bathroom issues, cats with FCD will be disorientated, have disturbed sleep cycles, and lose an interest in food and play.
2. Neuter Your Cat
After ruling out medical conditions, you might want to consider neutering your cat. When cats are neutered, the removal of their sex organs and changes in hormones causes the odor of their urine to change. This can reduce a cat’s motivation to spray in your home and mark their territory.
A reduction in spraying after being neutered is seen more in males cats vs female cats. Males spray to attract a potential mate as well as for territorial reasons, but castration removes this sexual desire. On the other hand, unfixed females only spray when in heat and stop if cat mating was successful or when their heat period ends.
That being said, a reduction in spraying after neutering isn’t true for all cats. Around 10% of neutered males and 5% of neutered females continue to spray. However, there is a dramatic reduction in the amount of spraying and could be worth a shot. You also won’t have to deal with as much aggression, heat behaviors, or unwanted pregnancies.
If you do decide to go ahead with the procedure, keep your cat confined after spay operations to give its body time to recover. Within a couple of days, your cat should be back to its normal self, but it can take up to ten days for females to fully recover.
3. Change the Litter Box
Litter boxes – or at least, the wrong litter box – can cause cats a lot of stress. Most felines are particular when it comes to their litter box, and getting one or more of the parameters wrong can send them into a frenzy!
Assess all of the following factors and see if you need to change anything about your cat’s toilet:
- Size of the Litter Box: Litter boxes should be 1.5x the length of your cat. This is large enough for them to comfortably fit inside and turn around. For enclosed litter boxes, ensure the entrance is big enough for your cat to fit through.
- The Number of Litter Boxes: You need to have at least one litter box per cat. If you have more than one cat, it’s actually recommended to have one extra. This can reduce cat conflict and thus eliminate spraying behavior.
- Litter Box Design: Most cats prefer an open-top litter tray to an enclosed design. Having their waste on show can also help remind you to keep the tray clean! If you’re worried about the mess, these litter boxes for high spraying cats are a good place to start your search.
- Cleanliness of the Litter Box: Cats love clean litter boxes! If it is dirty, it can make them feel stressed and anxious. In turn, this can increase the chance of your cat spraying and having bathroom accidents! Scoop the waste daily and clean it completely once per week.
- Type of Cat Litter: Cats can also be fussy about the litter in their litter trays. Most cats prefer softer litter that is gentler on their paws over pellet-style litter. You’ll also want to look for cat litters that are low-dust and fragrance-free.
4. Reduce Conflict
Cats that live in multi-cat households are much more likely to spray indoors than cats that live alone. Why? Conflict! Cats are naturally independent creatures and typically don’t like the presence of another animal in their home. They feel like their territory is being invaded and constantly have to prove theirs by spraying and marking.
Therefore, one of the best ways to solve this issue is to keep conflict to a minimum. This is particularly useful if you have a neutered cat spraying, as spaying or castration isn’t going to help.
Here are some tips on helping your cats live happily together:
- Duplicate all of your cat’s essentials, so there are two bowls, cat beds, litter trays, etc.
- Place cat food and water bowls for each cat in different areas of your house
- Add several cat trees or cat shelves to increase the vertical space in your home
- Provide plenty of spaces for cats to hide and rest when they need a break
- Give each cat attention separately, taking time to play with them and pet them each day
- Never force your cats to interact and let them have their own space if needed
It is also vital that you introduce new cats into your family the right way. Cats don’t respond well to change, and suddenly having a new cat can even cause a cat to spray after being neutered! Take things as slowly as possible. You’ll want to keep your cats separate at first and gradually increase contact time until they’re happy sharing their space.
5. Eliminate Stressors
Cat-on-cat conflict is a major stressor in multi-cat households. But as sensitive creatures, there are plenty of other stimuli and situations that cats find stressful. This can lead to cat spaying in the house and your cat shedding so much more than usual.
I already mentioned a few examples of triggers earlier: neighborhood cats, new family members, moving home, and changing your cat’s routine. Therefore, a good solution is to limit these stressors as much as possible.
For new people in your home, let your cat come to you and make sure they have their own space while they get used to this new person. For a change in routine, try and implement this new schedule gradually. And when moving home, limit your cat to one room initially and gradually open up their available space to smooth the transition.
If your cat is spraying because of neighborhood cats, they will usually spray near outside areas. For example, they might spray on a door or next to a window.
You can try some of these tips to remove the stressor and stop the spraying:
- Use curtains and blinds to block your cat’s view of outside
- Put physical deterrents in place to stop your cat from climbing to window ledges
- Use motion-detector alarms to ward off other cats and strays
- Take any bird feeders out of your garden which could attract cats
- Change the cat flap to one with a collar sensor so other cats can’t come inside
- Don’t give any neighborhood cats any food or attention
6. Clean Urine Effectively
Cats have an extremely strong sense of smell that is 14x stronger than ours. Unless you clean up all their pee properly, they will continue to smell the remnants for a long time. This can encourage cats to keep spraying in the same spot.
Therefore, to stop a cat from spraying indoors, you need to clean up its previous markings effectively.
To do this, follow these simple steps:
- Clean the area with warm water and an enzymatic soap
- Spray the area with surgical spirit or alcohol using a plant mister
- Scrub the area with a brush or cloth and then leave to air dry
I like to spray anti-scratch spray for cats on the area once I have finished to further deter my cat from spraying. Make sure you try cleaning a small area first so that you don’t damage an entire piece of furniture. Also, don’t ever use bleach! This can have the reverse effect and encourage your cat to spray here again.
7. Spread Their Scent
When cats spray or rub their face on things, they are spreading their pheromones around your home. This marks their territory and helps them to feel calmer. It is the scent of these pheromones that makes them feel comfortable in your house.
This is why spraying is such a big problem after redecorating or moving home. The pheromones have been removed only to be replaced with the smells of new carpets, fresh paint, or strangers who lived in the house before. There is none of your cat’s scent in the environment, so they feel the urge to get the space smelling like them quickly.
Therefore, a good way to help cats feel at ease is to spread their scent for them. You can do this by following these two simple steps:
- Using a soft cloth, rub your cat’s cheeks to collect their scent. This is the part of their faces that contains pheromone glands and produces high amounts of your cat’s unique scent. Rubbing transfers these pheromones onto the cloth.
- Wipe the cloth on the new piece of furniture or in the room that your cat keeps spraying. This transfers the scent from the cloth into the new room so it smells like your cat.
8. Use Pheromone Products
Finally, you can stop your cat from spraying indoors by using pheromone products. This works in the same way as spreading their scent with a cloth. However, the products contain artificial replicas of natural feline pheromones instead.
There are a few different types of pheromone products available:
- Pheromone Sprays: Sprays are great if you need to target one specific area. For example, if your cat keeps spraying on your patio door, you can spritz the door with the spray a couple of times each day. This should deter your cat from spraying here.
- Pheromone Diffusers: Another option is pheromone diffusers. These plug into the wall and gradually release pheromones into the air. They’re a better option for busy owners that don’t have time to walk around with a spray each day. Or if you’re forgetful like me as they do the work for you!
- Pheromone Collars: Calming collars work for cats by releasing pheromones gradually into the air over time. However, as your cat wears the collar, this calming scent is with them wherever they go. This is a great option if your cat is spraying all over the house.
What To Do When a Cat Won’t Stop Spraying
You’ve tried all the above tips on how to stop a cat from spraying indoors. But, no matter what you seem to do, your cat won’t stop. Nothing seems to be working and you can’t put a stop to your cat’s unwanted behavior. So, now what?
If this sounds like a problem you’re facing, I would take your cat back to the vet. They will likely put you in touch with a behavioral specialist. This person will come to your home and conduct an in-depth analysis of what could be bothering your cat. Likely, you have just overlooked a trigger, but a specialist is an expert and will get to the bottom of it.
Based on their findings, they’ll be able to advise you on what to do next. Most happy, healthy, stress-free cats won’t spray, so there is hope for you and your cat yet!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Knowing how to stop a cat from spraying indoors might seem like a big task. Start by ruling out medical conditions and consider getting your cat neutered. However, remember that neutered cat spraying can still happen and it isn’t a 100% guaranteed fix!
You’ll then need to assess what could be causing this behavior. If you can work out why your cat is spraying in the house, you can figure out how to stop it. Have you just moved home? Got a new pet? Welcomed a new family member? Changed your cat’s routine? Think about all the changes that have happened lately and use the tips in the article to make them easier to manage.
Remember, cats can also spray due to situations outside the home. Neighborhood cats using your cat flap or coming too close to the window can make your cat feel extremely threatened. And if after all this your cat is still spraying, go back to the vet. A behavior specialist will help you get to the bottom of it and stop this unwelcome behavior for good!