Cats spray urine to mark their territories or because they’re stressed. While a cat usually squats to urinate, spraying typically goes up and out on to vertical surfaces, such as walls and furniture. This behavior is different than having accidents or peeing outside the litter box, and can be problematic if not addressed promptly.
Spay or Neuter
Cats are less inclined to mark their territory if they’ve been spayed or neutered. The surgery reduces the hormones that entice a cat to mark territory and can provide a host of health benefits including a reduction in the potential for reproductive system diseases and disorders. It will limit roaming, eliminate heat cycles in females and stop the birth of unwanted kittens.
While it’s never helpful to punish an animal physically, or after the fact, you may be able to deter the urge for marking if you can intervene and catch your cat in the act. Fill an empty plastic bottle with pennies and shake it at a spraying cat or use compressed air or a water pistol to deter her while she’s in mid-spray. Praise your cat with treats and attention when she properly uses the litter box for elimination.
Cats instinctively may mark territory when they feel they have to protect their turf from people or other household pets. They may mark indoors in an attempt to run off a stray cat they see and hear outside. Make sure you have adequate space for all household animals so they don’t feel encroached on by others. This includes having multiple litter boxes if you have more than one cat. Place litter boxes in out-of-the-way areas where cats can have privacy. If you have a multilevel house, consider boxes on each level to discourage against accidents or spraying.
Clean it Up
Keep litter boxes clean -- cats may stay away from dirty ones. Use an enzymatic cleaner specifically designed to remove cat urine when you're cleaning up accidents or urine sprays. If any trace or odor lingers, your cat will go back and remark the same territory. The odor may encourage spraying or marking from other household pets. If your cat is marking a particular space repeatedly, like the corner wall of a laundry room, you may have to close off the area and not allow your cat access until you can be sure there is no longer any residual smell.
Take your cat to the vet for an exam. Any type of unusual, recurring elimination habits can signal a health problem. Your cat may have an underlying issue like a urinary tract infection, kidney stones or diabetes. Spraying can also be related to behavioral issues, like a cat having a hard time adjusting to new surroundings or being overwhelmed by visitors. A visit to a pet behaviorist can help you identify potential non-physical issues. (ref 2)
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.