(One of the Most Important Reasons to Spay and Neuter)
Spraying is perhaps the most misunderstood behavior in cats, and is often confused with urinating.
Spraying cats will emit a foul smelling stream for territorial reasons. They usually choose vertical items to spray upon, their backside will be raised, and they usually end with a telltale quiver of the tail. Urinating cats pick horizontal surfaces and keep their backsides down.
Both males and females can spray, and both can still spray after sterilization.
Female cats in estrus sometimes spray to let males know they are available. Males are ALWAYS available, and both sexes use spraying to stake off their own territory.
Sterilizing a cat before he or she reaches maturity is a good way to prevent spraying. For example, 90% of male sprayers stop within two months after neutering. Unfortunately, you could still have one of those 10% cats, who continues to do it after he’s neutered because it is a learned habit. The safest course of action is to sterilize the cat before he or she sprays the first time.
A male cat will usually mature physically between 4 to 5 months of age. Most veterinarians will encourage the cats to be neutered as soon as they reach physical maturity and before the urine odor changes, between 4 and 6 months of age. Most cats begin spraying around 6 to 7 months of age. If the cat is neutered before it ever sprays, it very likely will never begin spraying at all.
Many people are afraid that neutering or spaying their cat will change its personality. WRONG! It will keep your cat from changing. Cats that are not fixed will change, in the wrong way. Spaying or neutering them will keep them from changing.
Once a cat has begun spraying, the most effective technique is to eliminate the stimuli that elicit the behavior. Cats usually spray in response to a perceived territorial threat, whether that is from a new pet,
a guest, or a cat out in the yard.
Fortunately, we have great control over the cat’s environment. Keeping a cat indoors, and away from contact with outdoor cats will help. Reducing his territory to an area he can physically patrol will remove the need to leave chemical signals. Finally, reduce the cat’s stress by putting his life on a schedule, providing all the attention and play that he needs to redirect his energies in a more appropriate manner.
For temporary quests, it may be easier on your cat to keep the cat in his favorite room until the visit is over. Make sure you visit the cat often, and give the cat plenty of reassurance.
If you catch the cat in the act of spraying, clap your hands together and shout. Then, calmly put the cat next to his litter box. Always clean spray sites with a pet odor remover, and cover with an inverted plastic carpet runner, to keep the declining smell of the spray from causing the cat to “reapply.” If the cat continues spraying, try placing his food in the spray site to further deter his habits. Your veterinarian may also be able to help with certain medications.