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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!