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Feline Friday: Ask Amy–Why Does My Cat Spray?

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"Mine don't stink--it smells GOO-OOOOD!"

Why does my cat spray? For the same reason that dogs leg-cock and “baptize” objects. Cats use urine to mark territory. But it goes beyond that.

To the cat, his own urine smells like him/her. Think of it as kitty cologne and spritzing that familiar scent all around makes the cat feel happy and comforted the same way you entering Grandma’s house and smelling cookies baking “reminds” you of familiar safe things. So that means when your cat feels stressed, a way to calm upset kitty feelings is to turn on the (ahem) water works.

I’ve also known cats that spray over top of smells that either frighten them or that they associate with with something or someone they love. The cat who sprays the new boyfriend’s shoes, for instance, might be trying to make him smell “safe” while spraying your pillow could simply mean “I own this space because it smells like my beloved so other cats STAY AWAY!”

Whatever the meaning or the cause, spraying can lose cats their homes or lives. People rarely consider spraying to be the back-handed compliment it is. Hit or miss potty behaviors are the top behavior complaint I receive and the number one cause of cats ending up in shelters. When I was a contributing writer for my colleague Franny Syufy’s outstanding cats.About.com site I wrote a whole series of articles on the subject so you can learn more here. Often the spraying arises due to conflicts between multiple cats sorting out their social standing, and my book PETiQuette offers specific help for multiple cat homes.

The Ask Amy video offers several suggestions for helping with this issue. My colleague Marilyn Krieger specializes in Bengal kitties and can be contacted for specific advice regarding this glorious breed. What are some other suggestions that have worked for you with your cats?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

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About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant, award winning author, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

7 responses »

  1. I had a cat for a number of years. He was my baby – slept on my head every night. When I met and started seriously dating my first husband, my cat actually peed in his overnight bag more than once and also…more than once…bit him in the head in the middle of the night.

    Dang – should have listened to the cat – turns out he’d been onto something!

    Note: he loved my second hubby from day one! 🙂

    But in all seriousness, cat spraying is a difficult issue and thanks for laying it out with some resources and suggestions!

    Reply
  2. Amy,
    Keep in mind that some cats are vertical pee’rs (Pulitzer, ahem, I’m talkin’ ’bout you…), so when they’re having outta LB experiences, it may look like spraying. With Pully, he stands in the box (usually) and elevates his butt as he pees. Needless to say, I’ve accommodated him accordingly.

    Reply
  3. Comfort Zone diffusers are great if they keep spraying after you try the targeted version. Of course, can’t forget to use an enzyme cleaner FIRST because if the urine smell is still there underneath they might still mark there.

    It’s sad to me that it’s the most common reason for getting rid of pets, when it’s one of the easiest to solve.

    Reply

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