Ask a Vet: How Do I Keep My Cat From Spraying?

Ask a Vet: How Do I Keep My Cat From Spraying?


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service.

I moved to a new house and now my cat sprays urine on my front door, walls and windows. I love my cat, but she is ruining my new home. What can I do?

If your cat backs into the wall with her tail up and squirts small amounts of urine on vertical surfaces such as the wall, front door or windows, she is marking, most often triggered by territoriality or stress. The triggers can seem benign to us, such as a new home, new furniture, or the smell or view of a strange cat strolling through the yard or passing by your front door. 

This is a normal feline behavior; some cats use urine as a form of communication. In order to get the marking behavior under control, you need to do a number of things all at once.

1. Because the odor of urine draws cats back to previously marked areas, you will have to clean all soiled areas with an enzymatic cleanser. You should take a black light to help you locate all the spots in your house - you may have one left over from college dorm days; urine will glow yellow-green in the dark. As the amounts are often small, you might be missing areas where your cat sprays. Additionally, be really conscientious about littler box hygiene. See our last Ask A Vetpost for the checklist.

2. Try to identify any new stresses in your cat’s life. Then, figure out how to limit them. It can also help to initially confine your cat to a separate part of the house where she is more comfortable.

3. Enrich your cat’s environment by providing more resting and hiding places, multiple feeding locations, scratching boxes and posts and interactive toys.  Meal times can be made more interesting by hiding small quantities of food around the house or using feed dispensing toys to keep an indoor cat busy and less worried about things going on outside the home.

4. A feline facial pheromone, Feliway®, is another option that may help decrease the urine marking. 

Troubleshooting Litter Box Problems

  1. Always begin by consulting your veterinarian to rule out medical causes.
  2. Refer to the checklist
  3. VERY IMPORTANT: Do not punish your cat for marking, this can make your cat even more anxious.
  4. In some cases the triggers can not be found or avoided and medication is needed to control the cats anxiety. Talk to your veterinarian or consult with a board certified veterinary behaviorist. 
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