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Cleaning after a cat

Why cats spray territory and how to prevent it

Whether it’s through sound or behavior, animals are able to connect in ways that humans do not always understand. Though cats might share territory with others, they are naturally self-sufficient creatures and, unlike dogs, don’t often confront each other directly. In order to communicate, therefore, a cat may leave messages and signals by spraying. This is sometimes known as cat scent-marking.

Why do cats mark their territory?

Urine marking allows a cat to let others know what areas he has claimed, how long ago he was nearby and even when he’ll return. This skill is part of a highly sophisticated social and communication system that cats have naturally developed for survival. By designating the boundaries of its territory, marking helps a cat feel safe.

However, while the technique makes sense to the cats, it is not necessarily an acceptable practice to humans. Although spraying is an instinct, it can be prevented and corrected.

How to prevent a cat from spraying

The likelihood of urine spraying increases with the number of cats in the household. Assuming there is only one cat, here are some tips to prevent the behavior before it starts.

1. Get your cat spayed or neutered. Cats that haven’t been neutered or spayed are more likely to mark their territory. The tendency may decrease significantly if they are fixed before puberty.

2. Make sure your cat is getting enough attention. Though cats are independent, they may seek a trusted owner’s attention to meet social needs. If your cat doesn’t feel the love, it may be more likely to spray or mark.

3. Don’t let your cat around strays — Neighborhood cats or strays can threaten your pet’s sense of security, causing it to want to set boundaries. If your cat is especially territorial, it might be because it feels vulnerable. By exposing it to other pets in a healthy way, you can help make the cat more comfortable in its environment.

4. Check if your cat is anxious. A cat may spray more due to anxiety. You can address the issue by using herbs to calm it down. Catnip, valerian, kava kava, chamomile and St. John’s wort all have soothing effects on behavior.

How to correct spraying behavior

It can be frustrating if your cat is already in the habit of marking your furniture. However, the following tips can address the issue and help stop cats from spraying in the house.

1. Determine why your cat is spraying. Spraying usually has a medical or behavioral explanation. If your cat’s scent-marking has become a recurring issue, identify and eliminate any potential stress in its life.

2. Visit the vet. If the issue is medical, visit a veterinarian. Spraying could be related to diabetes, urinary tract infections, feline lower urinary tract disease, kidney infection or thyroid or liver disease.

3. Safely implement synthetic pheromones. If your cat is anxious, synthetic products can imitate the pheromone that felines produce when they feel comfortable in their surroundings.

4. Address your cat’s regularly sprayed areas. Thoroughly clean and deodorize any areas that have been sprayed to prevent the cat from returning. Additionally, by keeping those spaces or objects inaccessible, the cat may be less inclined to spray it. You can also increase the amount of litter trays you keep in the house.

Training a cat or correcting its spraying behavior takes patience and understanding.

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