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Why Do Male Cats Spray Urine?

Cats communicate with their owners and other cats by spraying.
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  • Originally Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Revised By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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Male cats spray urine for a variety of reasons, but by and large, they usually merely are trying to communicate with their owners and other cats. The message they want to convey might be about their sexual availability, territory and dominance status or a fight they won. It sometimes occurs because cats would rather send a chemical note than face other felines face to face, and stress is another big cause. The desire for something familiar can also be the problem. Different methods are available to stop the behavior, depending on what the issue is.

The Big Picture: Communication

Although very perceptive pet owners can figure out what their cats want and need, the simple fact that people don't understand their "language" is often problematic. The animals cannot, for example, walk up and tell their owners that they're scared of the giant new TV in the living room. In addition, they aren't always in the same place at the same time, and they need a method of getting and giving messages even when paths don't cross. They try to find ways to communicate as best they can, and one of the few means they have is to spray.

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Urine contains pheromones, or chemicals that send signals through the air, and which are picked up through the sense of scent. These substances let cats "talk" to each other about a wide variety of things, and cats are not thought to understand that people can't translate the pheromone message. When cats spray, therefore, they're trying to say something to another cat or their owner. What that something is depends on both personality and circumstances.

Sexual Maturity and Availability

It is very common for cats to spray urine to let others know they are ready to mate. In essence, the pheromones in the urine act like an attractive, arousing perfume. Usually, this starts happening when they are around six months old, and males who haven't been neutered are the most likely to do it.

Territory and Dominance

Cats can be territorial, so they sometimes spray urine in order to mark boundaries and make a claim on specific things. This is especially true in households with more than one feline, because the more animals that are in the home, the more limited space becomes. In this case, the behavior often connects closely to the desire to be dominant to some degree, with more aggressive pets usually being the worst offenders.

Victory

It is not unusual for cats to have confrontations, and sometimes this happens even among cats from the same house. If one wins a fight — this can be as simple as chasing the other animal away, or it can involve severe biting and scratching — it might spray urine as a way to announce the victory. By doing this, it declares that it isn't a cat to mess with, preserving territory boundaries and, in many cases, future clashes.

Confrontation Avoidance

Sometimes, a cat that is more shy wants to avoid face-to-face confrontations with other felines. They occasionally spray urine because, in doing so, they can communicate a message without having to be around anyone else. Many owners mistake this response to shyness with stress.

Stress

Spraying also can be a response to stress, and each cat has their own different levels of tolerance in this area. Some animals, for example, only get upset and anxious with big problems, such as having a dog in the house that constantly wants to chase. Others seem to be practically afraid of their own tails and don't respond well even to simple changes, such as a different kind of kitty litter.

Owners often misinterpret stress-related spraying as a malicious, intentional act of revenge — "He urinated on my favorite chair because I didn't give him his food on time," for example. Veterinarians and other cat experts usually point out that this interpretation of the behavior relies entirely on the assumptions that the animals understand the relationships that people have with their belongings, and that they share the human view that putting urine on something is "bad." Neither of these assumptions really can be proven.

Desire for Familiarity

A typical house contains many different odors, with scents in everything from furniture to laundry detergent. This can make some cats feel a little uncomfortable, so they spray to mix all the other smells with one they know. To them, it's the equivalent of lighting a candle to make the room smell better. Self-soothing and making things familiar in this way is often why new items become targets.

Ways to Stop the Behavior

The techniques available to stop male cats from spraying depend on why they are doing it in the first place. Neutering often shows improvement when the problem is connected to aggression and sexuality, both of which have some hormonal influences, but it is not always successful. Reducing the number of animals in the home, making gradual transitions to new items or schedules and spending more time providing attention and comfort typically help. When cats are severely anxious, they sometimes benefit from medication, but this should be considered a last resort, as any drug can have side effects.

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Discuss this Article

anon216613
Post 17

I have a friend who has a male cat that has started spraying. She is baffled by it. It's really frustrating. The cat is lovely, but she leaves it on its own all the time. She goes away for long weekends and just leaves it. Goes on holiday and leaves it, with someone feeding it. It's a house cat and so can't go outside and entertain himself.

Last time she went away, she came home and found he was really distressed. He bit her when she tried to pick him up. So she smacked him.

I live in China, by the way, and this is how people treat their pets. Horrible. This is also a girl who is really dotty about cats and believes she is a good owner.

anon161132
Post 16

There is a male cat that keeps coming into the house and spraying everywhere. I presume it is not neutered. I have two male cats in the house that are neutered and don't seem bothered by this at all. Why is it doing this and how can i stop it from coming in? I have tried to scare it away countless times. Is it looking to mate? Is it possibly a stray? Please help.

anon93613
Post 15

Two cats that live next door spray on the next door neighbor's door. Do cats that have been neutered still spray? The cat owners say that the cats have been fixed up. They moved here about 12 months ago so maybe the cats are marking new territory. I keep reading that it is mainly cats that haven't been fixed up that spray so I am confused.

anon91179
Post 14

we have a household of quite a lot of cats -- five to be exact -- and one is a one year old ginger male cat. he seems to be spraying around the house quite a lot and embarrassing to say, he has sprayed me four times. I'm not sure what it is. does he need to be neutered? please help me.

missg75
Post 13

I have a nine month old male cat and I'm really disturbed by what he did. Well, i was sitting at my desk on my computer and my four year old was hugging me so my cat jumped up in front of me on my desk and sprayed me. Does that mean he marked me as his property? what do i do. Please help!

anon71402
Post 11

About six months ago, i got a two year old cat for my mother when hers had been missing a month and a half. He didn't like her though, and a day later her own cat came back.

Now I have a neutered cat that follows me everywhere i go, but he pisses on all of my stuff! getting rid of him, or putting him on meds is simply not an option, but i am at a loss as to what to do. When i first got him this wasn't a problem, but within months we had moved into a new house with two new people and an additional female cat.

Thanks to information on the web i am fairly sure what he is doing is simply territorial, but for obvious reasons i would like to know how to stop it.

anon61805
Post 10

Can you please tell me if newly neutered cats smell? We have just acquired a stray who has just been neutered and the smell is incredible. It is all over the house!

anon43869
Post 9

I have been feeding a male cat for a few years. I don't think he belongs to anyone, he seems to live rough. He recently has started to trust me and he now will come into the kitchen. His tail flutters as if he is spraying but each time I check for moisture or marks there aren't any. My kitchen is starting to smell, sometimes of ammonia or just other unpleasant smells. Could he be spraying even though I can't see or feel anything?

anon41579
Post 8

I have two cats, a female and a male. Both of them are fixed but there is a male cat roaming the neighborhood that isn't fixed. He has been around for about a week and recently I can't stop smelling cat urine! Is it the cat outside, or could it be my fixed male cat angry that this other male is outside sending our female his mating noises! Please help! I'm going crazy here!

anon39657
Post 7

my cat has only recently given birth and lost all 5 kittens through neglect and is now in heat again. i'm going to get her spayed but is there a type of cat aiti-heat spray i can spray her with so the other cats don't go for her?

tucoandpatch
Post 6

please help my cat Tuco is spraying everywhere im paranoid that my house smell of cat wee. i do have three other cats 2 girls and 2 boys total, i read your web page and it says it could be out of frustration which i think is the cause as he is not the alfa male, my female cat is. she rules the roost, but i want to find a way to stop him spraying as i worry that i and my boyfriend smell of cat wee please help. my other cats don't spray at all and all cats are spayed so how do i stop this?

dez101976
Post 5

i have noticed that one of my three male cats has began to spray, but its weird he only sprays on my husbands things. I even caught him almost spraying on him while he was sleeping. can you explain to me why he is the only one of the three that is doing this and why he has targeted my husband and his stuff. and how can i get the smell out of the carpet naturally or cheaply.

AuthorSheriC
Post 4

Yes, I think it may be a territorial thing then too! I once had two male cats and they seemed to "compete" in a similar way to what you describe. Now I just have one female cat. Once in a while she'll poop outside her litter box, but never any spraying problems at least!

anon10075
Post 3

oh yes, he is healthy, very healthy. He has two boxes inside (littler boxes) I don't like them going out side at all as it is. He will rush you out the door, then get almost in the bushes and start spraying, I will try and rush him or spray him with a hose. I am going to guess there are other males around the neighborhood. Also, what has just started, my other "male" cat, who doesn't spray, is now pooping only on the balcony when no one seems to be around, and no, he too is very healthy, and I keep clean clean boxes.

AuthorSheriC
Post 2

Did you get the cat checked by a vet to rule out a urinary problem? This is common in male cats. If you see the cat squatting then it is peeing rather than spraying. If the cat is healthy, then it is probably a territorial thing. Does your cat use the garden as his own private litter box? Maybe he doesn't want your other male cat using 'his' garden area. Your vet may be able to suggest a safe yet repelling substance that you can spray on your plants.

entkitty
Post 1

I have a male neutered cat that insisted on spraying outside on my plants. I can’t stand the smell and have never had a neutered male spray. What, if anything, can I do to stop him from spraying, all I need is for my other male to start spraying.

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