Male cat spraying is actually a way that your cat is communicating. Imagine for a minute you’re not a human, but an African Wild Cat living along the Fertile Crescent, the cradle of civilization, around 9,000 years ago. You want to leave ‘messages’ for other cats, letting them know this is your hunting ground, but you don’t have hands to write with.
What you do have is a very unique sense of smell, strong enough to detect chemical ‘messages’ in the urine of other animals.
Why Do Male Cats Spray?
Though our domesticated cats haven’t needed to rely completely on these hunting instincts and abilities for a very long time, they are still a big part of daily life. Even though many of the cats we have today were selectively bred for one purpose or another, we haven’t managed to breed out such strong drives.
Cats prefer to bury droppings to hide their scent from stronger predators (i.e. you). They are constantly leaving their scent against every object imaginable when rubbing against it. They also might spray their urine to leave a scent.
Leaving a Scent
Male cats spray for a few reasons, but most have to do with another animal.
Territory: You already know cats can leave their scent to mark a territory as theirs. Leaving chemical messages in their urine for other cats (or other animals) to pick up in is one way they do this.
Conflict: Your cat might spray if you have other cats in the house. Maybe the male cat is trying to mark something as theirs, set up his position in the hierarchy, or settle some other kind of dispute.
Stress due to Change: Sometimes male cats spray when they feel stressed or uncomfortable. Did you recently move to a new location, or adopt another animal into the home? Has anything significant changed in your cat’s life recently?
Mating: Both males and females will do this, the females letting the males know they are ready to mate. They are much less likely to do this if spayed/neutered, but the learned behavior might still exist.
What to do If Your Cat is Spraying
The first thing you probably want to know is how to clean up these incredibly strong odors! At home ‘DIY’ treatments will recommend a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to neutralize the ph in your male cat’s urine, but these aren’t perfect methods that do little more than mask the smells.
Purchasing one of the many enzymatic cleaners formulated to break down biological odors at a chemical level would be by far your best option! Be sure to look for something that is marked ‘safe’.
How do I stop my male cat from spraying?
You really want to make sure your cat doesn’t urinate in your home anymore! We’ll list a few simple steps, in order, for you to try out.
Step One: Make sure the scent is completely gone! In other words, make sure you’ve cleaned the targeted area completely so another cat (or dog) doesn’t feel the need to mark over it. This is another reason to invest in one of those enzymatic cleaners.
Step Two: You’ll need to figure out why your male cat is spraying! What changed to cause him to become stressed or feel the need to mark anyway? Did you recently adopt any new animals, move to a new location, or invite any other humans to visit? Or is it a medical cause that has your kitty feeling unwell?
If it is a new person or animal, you can try a few things.
Show your cat that a new visitor means good things, and isn’t a threat to them. Let the new visitor play with your kitty, or offer treats. Cats can be a little more difficult to socialize than dogs, so your best bet would be to let your kitty adjust on his own time, and never try to force anything.
Keep Them Apart.
For example, set aside a clean ‘quiet room’ only your cat has access too. If you have a dog, consider purchasing a gate with a ‘kitty door’ too small for your dog to reach.
Scratching Posts in Every Room
This is especially important if you have several cats in the same house! You should, at the very least, have one post per cat. If not in every room, set these posts up where your kitties like to spend time, or take naps. Cats love to sharpen those claws after a good nap!
Cats also leave scent markers when they scratch. This might offer an alternative to spraying.
Spay or Neuter
Both females and males will spray when ready to mate. The males are letting other males know they need to keep away, while the females are letting the males know they are ready. By spaying or neutering, you are simply eliminating the desire to reproduce altogether.
Spaying or neutering both male and female cats might actually eliminate some of that territorial aggression. If you invite a strange new cat or animal into the mix, however, it’s not a guarantee.
Limit Outside View
Does your little one like to perch next to a window, watching other cats or animals in general pass by? Do you often leave a front door open, with only a screen to prevent access?
Your male cat spraying problem could be because he is watching something outside that is bothering him. If this is the case, simply restrict the view.
Finally, if nothing else seems to convince your male cat to stop spraying, you might want to talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication. Anxiety is a natural development as a cat ages. You’ll also want to get a veterinary check up anyway, to be sure your male cat’s spraying behavior isn’t due to some medical problem.
Conclusion: Liquid Messages
Though they don’t enjoy the same powers of smell a dog does, your cat can still smell things you’ll never be able to. Answering the ‘why’ is simple: your cat is spraying to send a message. Now you just have to ask yourself why your cat wants to send that message, and who it is meant for.