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Spraying (urine marking) is a frustrating and seemingly hopeless issue for many cat owners. Many believe that once a cat begins to spray he will always do it - a belief that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, spraying can be one of the easiest behavior issues to eliminate out of a cat's repertoire if you can find the cause for why it began in the first place. Unfortunately, many cat owners lose hope before seeking behavior help and choose to relinquish their cats to a shelter, which can often result in euthanasia.
Cats can urine spray-mark for a number of reasons, but territorial concerns are very high on the list. Territorial spray-marking can be triggered by common day to day events that you may not even be aware of. One of the most common and under-appreciated reasons that a cat may spray is his awareness of other cats lurking outside his home. Seeing other cats outside (through a window is enough) can cause territorial concerns that are enough to send your home into a urine war zone. You may not even think that there are outside cats in your neighborhood until you find vertical marking in your home. Outside cats often hunt in the morning between 3 and 5 a.m. If you mainly find new urine markings in the mornings, your cat may be seeing (and feeling threatened by) these early morning hunters.
Cats can spray urine on horizontal surfaces, but it is most often done on vertical ones as your cat backs up to the area in a standing position with a vertical and vibrating tail and typically treading front paws. A tell-tale sign that your cat is worried about his territory being breached is vertical urine placement around the perimeter of your home (on exterior doors, curtains, windows, furniture near windows, exterior walls, etc.).
Though spraying is most common in males, female cats can vertical spray too. The majority of neutered and spayed cats do not spray, but because cats are territorial by nature, it is possible in a triggering environment. If your un-neutered or un-spayed cat has already begun to urine mark, neutering or spaying will usually end the behavior.
Many cat owners think that any urine they find around the home is marking. This isn't necessarily the case. Normal urination is done in a squatting position and is a different behavior that should not be confused with urine spray-marking. If your cat is placing urine around the home in any way (vertically or horizontally), be sure to schedule a vet visit to rule out medical issues.
Who is Mieshelle Nagelschneider?
Meet Mieshelle Nagelschneider, ACCBC, a cat behaviorist and author of the science-based cat behavior book, The Cat Whisperer (Random House Publishing). Her passion and curiosity about cats, along with her study in animal behavior, has enabled her to help thousands of cat owners solve their cats' behavior issues for over two decades.
Learn more at The Cat Behavior Clinic, and look for her book later in 2013!