The smell of ordinary cat urine is strong enough, but when a cat spray marks, the odor will be even more overpowering and unpleasant. Unlike urination, which does leave a message for other cats to an extent, spray marking is more like a billboard with lights. The whole reason for marking is to inform other cats of a particular cat’s presence. And, while urine is simply the waste that has been filtered out by the kidneys, marking includes other bodily chemicals with information about sex, health, and undoubtedly other important cat messages.
Unlike normal urination, which is made by the cat squatting down, spray marking is done when the cat is standing and the deposit will be made on a vertical surface such as a door frame or the front of a sofa or chair. The cat will back up to the chosen area, and wiggle its tail as it delivers the spray behind it. The volume of the spray is much less than is produced when the cat urinates.
Stopping Spray Marking
While some female cats will spray mark, the main culprits are intact males. Spray marking is used not only to deliver some information about the sprayer, but also to mark territory, which is especially important in the wild where hunting grounds must be protected. This behavior is also much more common in homes where there are several cats, and an order of dominance constantly needs to be established. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of spray marking.
- If you have a multi-cat household, provide several litter boxes, rather than just one, there should be a box for each cat, and a spare.
- All litter boxes should be kept completely clean. Feces and clumps of urine-soaked litter should be removed daily and the litter changed completely once a week.
- Block off the area being spray marked. The cat will usually return to the same spot periodically to ‘renew’ the fragrance, so denying access can help to eliminate the problem.
- Use an enzyme cleaner to remove the spray. You may have to apply it several times to remove all the smell.
- Neutering both toms and tabbies can help to stop spraying behavior.
Stress can also trigger spray marking, so address any issues that may be making your cat, or cats, nervous.