Feelgood Pets

Is your cat spraying to mark their territory OR is there an underlying medical issue?

territorial marking spraying feline cat medical condition

Understanding the difference between your cat marking its territory, and having underlying medical issues!

Has your cat recently started spraying around the house? Or perhaps they've been doing it for a while? Either way, there's nothing worse than your kitty inappropriately spraying urine on your walls, furniture, trees, bed, shoes, laundry or anything it can get its paws on! Let's not even get into the smell that it leaves for up to weeks after the incident, sometimes!

While having your house and belongings sprayed with pungent cat urine can be highly frustrating, there are actually valid reasons as to why your cat may feel compelled to spray. It's also important to determine whether they are in fact spraying, or whether it's indiscriminate urination (urinating outside of litter box or usual place of urination - usually there's an underlying issue that demands medical attention).

Most people think that spraying is a behaviour that's exclusive to unneutered male cats who are making efforts to mark their territory. The truth is that neutered male cats, unneutered male cats, spayed female cats and unspayed female cats ALL exhibit this unsavoury behaviour. In many cases, it's not even about marking territory!

Let's get to understand why your kitty sprays, how to know when they have a medical condition, and how to solve the problem! 

CAT SPRAYING: 101

Cat spraying is essentially a form of communication. When a cat sprays, they're broadcasting their emotions to surrounding cats with urine that contains a high content of pheromones (which explains the pungent smell). Spraying is not the same as indiscriminate urination. There's a definite intention behind spraying (which is conveyed through the pheromones) and it's important to establish whether your cat is in fact spraying or if it has certain medical issues that cause them to urinate inappropriately.

REASONS FOR INDISCRIMINATE URINATION

1) Incontinence

Just like with humans, cats can also lose control over their bladder functioning. Older cats are more prone to being incontinent than younger cats, although there are some cases where younger cats have lost control over their bladder due to injury, obesity, having an underdeveloped bladder or even brain damage.

Symptoms of incontinence:

  • damp fur around their lower abdomen
  • involuntary urine leakage
  • wet spots or puddles on their sleeping area
  • inflamed area around their genitals

If you notice that your cat exhibits symptoms of incontinence, it's fair to say that you're not dealing with a 'traditional' spraying issue, they're simply unable to control their bladder. Better Bladder Control is an effective homeopathic remedy for incontinent pets. It strengthens the bladder, improves bladder control, supports the sphincter muscles of the urethra, thus minimizing 'dribbling' and 'accidents'.

2) Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism in cats is an endocrine disease caused by an underactive thyroid gland. The body fails to produce sufficient thyroid hormones, which are crucial in maintaining the body's regulation and functioning. 

Symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • weight gain
  • hair loss and shedding
  • dryness and thickening of the skin
  • lethargy
  • sensitivity to cold
  • decreased heart rate
  • overall weakness

Hypothyroidism can cause your cat to drink excessive amounts of water, which could explain them urinating in unfavourable locations by accident. It is then, once again, not a spraying issue, rather an unmanaged medical issue. Hypothyroidism in cats is quite rare, however if you suspect your cat may be suffering from hypothyroidism, you should take him/her to the vet to get tests done, as hypothyroidism can sometimes cause other complications like heart or kidney failure!  

3) Bladder infection

A cat who suffers from a bladder infection may tend to avoid their litter box, or their usual place of urination. They associate the urinary pain with the location in which they urinate and they'll find another place to urinate. 

Symptoms of a feline bladder infection:

  • your cat has a constant urge to urinate
  • blood in urine
  • inflammation around genitals
  • crying out in pain when trying to pass urine

Janet Tobiassen Crosby, a vet and member of veterinary medical associations, says, "Do not confuse a cat spraying (usually a behavioral issue) with a cat that has a urinary tract infection. When a cat sprays, urine is usually, but not always, released on vertical surfaces. The spraying posture differs from normal urination. When spraying, the cat backs up to the wall or ​another vertical surface with the tail extended and often twitching rapidly." 

Bladder infections can be very painful and should never be left untreated. UTI-Free is a natural, homeopathic treatment for pet bladder infections. It soothes the discomfort of cystitis (bladder infection), alleviates the symptoms, strengthens the urinary tract and prevents recurring bladder infections.

4) Dirty litter box 

Cats are extremely particular in what's acceptable or not. They hold a high standard and can be a bit 'fussy' at times! Something as simple as the state of your cat’s litter box might be the source of the inappropriate urination. It may not be clean enough, tidy enough, big enough or placed exactly where they'd like it to be. Sometimes, cheeky neighbourhood cats might come and sneak in a little toilet time! This can cause your cat to prefer areas other than the litter box.

Remember to always place their litter box far away from their food and water. Cats don't like to do their business too close to where they eat! Make sure that you keep their litter box in a pristine condition at all times, and that it's placed somewhere they like (trial and error). 

REASONS FOR CAT SPRAYING

1) Stress, anxiety

There are various things that make a cat feel stressed, nervous or anxious. Many cats express this stress through spraying. In fact, you can think of spraying as a self-soothing method for cats! Their spray contains pheromones, and seeing as they utilize their senses a lot more than we do, it brings them some sort of comfort by smelling their own scent.

What could be stressing your cat:

  • a new cat, dog or other pet introduced into the household
  • if the cat's fur parents have a new baby
  • feeling threatened by neighbourhood cats
  • moving into a new home
  • introducing new furniture into your home
  • owners going away
  • overstimulation (loud music, shouting, flashing lights etc.)
  • fireworks or thunderstorms
  • your cat has a history of abuse

It's not necessary for your cat to see a vet if they suffer from stress or anxiety, however it is your responsibility, as their fur parent, to do your best at eliminating factors that stress them out. PetCalm is a natural homeopathic remedy that quickly calms anxious, stressed and highly strung pets! It can be used either in their daily routine or acutely, during times of stress.

2) Unspayed females advertising where they are in their cycle

Unspayed neutered cats, who are fertile and able to reproduce, may have a habit of spraying. It's the equivalent of a human woman sitting at a bar and batting her eyelashes at men, or signing herself on to dating sites to let other men know who she is and what she can offer them! In the cat's case, the pheromones in her urine will attract male cats and also let them know where she is in her cycle. Pretty cool, right? However, if her spraying bothers you, getting her spayed could solve the issue altogether. If she continues spraying, she may be doing it due to any of the other reasons mentioned in this article.

3) Unneutered male cats looking to find a mate

Unneutered male cats tend to be the biggest culprit of spraying! Spraying serves to advertise reproductive availability and attract female cats, and just like human males, their sex drive can be quite high. To solve the issue of your unneutered male cat spraying, get him neutered and the incidences may drastically decrease.

4) Marking territory

Cats are not the most socially accepting creatures. A run-in with one of their feline neighbours is nowhere near to us running into one of our human neighbours. Cats are highly territorial and possessive of their space, and will fight other felines to prove it.

Experts believe that cats spray to minimize contact with other cats. Due to the pheromones contained in the markings, it's a way of communicating with other cats and letting the others know that they're there. It also conveys information such as how long they've lived there, how old they are and where their territorial boundaries are! If a cat feels threatened by another cat, they may spray near doors and windows, the equivalent to humans bolting their doors for safety.

Ways to minimize territorial spraying:

  • Keep your cat occupied with a variety of stimulating, fun and interactive toys
  • Keep curtains closed so that other cats are out of their view and feel safer
  • Shut the doors and windows as often as you can to keep out the scent of neighbouring cats
  • use an enzymatic spray on the marked areas that will mask their scent and discourage your cat from spraying there again
  • use this calming pheromone cat collar that reduces anxious, anti-social or aggressive behaviour in cats by releasing chemicals (pheromones) that naturally relax and calm them down
  • soothe their restlessness and agitation with Aggression Formula, a homeopathic remedy for aggressive pets
  • help your pet cope during times of stress, anxiety and fear with PetCalm, a natural and effective homeopathic remedy for pets with nervous dispositions

If you have any questions, contact our team for FREE advice. We're always happy to assist you!

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