Cat Spraying: What is This and Why Do Cats Do This?


Have you found wet spots around your house and have no idea where they have come from? Or even worse, on your carpet or furniture? If you have a cat who is prone to leaving these “gifts” for you to find, you may be faced with a cat who engages in spraying. Spraying occurs when a cat releases a small amount of urine on areas outside of the litterbox, usually with the intent to claim something as its own.

There are a variety of reasons as to why your cat may be spraying urine outside of the litterbox, such as stress or behavioral issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most common factors that coincide with cat spraying to best determine what might be impacting your cat.

cat spraying

What is Cat Spraying?

Cat spraying is a natural behavior embittered by both domesticated and wild felines. Cat spraying is the process in which a cat eliminates urine in small amounts while standing up. Usually, a cat will raise its tail and spray urine on a nearby surface, leaving a strong sample of its scent. This instinctive behavior rose from cats claiming territory and warning other animals of their presence in the wild.

Despite its initial purpose, some domesticated cats will engage in this behavior inside of the home, much to their owners annoyance. Spraying can occur no matter the age or sex of the cat, although it is most common in unaltered male cats. If your cat is doing this behavior and causing a disturbance for you, it is important to figure out why your cat is spraying and what options you have to reduce the occurrence.

Why Do Cats Do This?

Listed below are the main reasons that cats spay:

Territorial Behavior

When a cat sprays, they essentially leave a very potent smelling message for you or any other animals in the house. Usually, cats are inclined to spray to mark their territory if they feel threatened, insecure, or otherwise agitated. It is a way for them to communicate that whatever they have sprayed is theirs and that it is best to stay away. Or, if your cat is unaltered, it may be doing this to signify that they are looking to mate. Both male and female cats will spray to leave their pheromones and let other nearby cats know that they are ready to reproduce. If your cat has started doing this out of the blue, however, this may be due to another factor, such as a change in environment or a medical condition.

To work around territorial marking, it is best to clean up the impacted area as well as possible. Cats are drawn to areas that have their smell and will are likely to repeat the behavior in the same location. Make sure to use a high-quality stain remover or urine dissolver on areas where your cat has sprayed previously to reduce the chance of re-offending.


Some cats may respond to stress by spraying. If you have recently moved or introduced a new cat into the home, your cat may be spraying as a way to cope or establish its territory, as discussed above. Cats use this behavior as a way to communicate, so in some form, this may be their way of trying to tell you that they are uncomfortable or stressed.

Issues with the Litterbox

Since indoor cats are often confined to relieving themselves in a litterbox, that can be a challenge for your cat if the box does not meet their expectations. Some cats can be very particular about their litterbox and will refuse to pee or poop in the box if it is not up to their standard.

Following vet-recommended litterbox etiquette can potentially reduce the frequency or severity of your cat’s spraying behavior. Ideally, you should have at least two litterboxes as some cats prefer to pee in one box and poop in another. Or, if you have multiple cats, one box plus the number of cats. Felines can be territorial and may not want to share their bathroom space with their housemates. With this in mind, it may be beneficial to have boxes spread out in different areas to promote privacy and give your cat the space it needs to feel comfortable.

Another litterbox consideration is the composition of the litter you are using. Clay litter is the most common type of litter pet owners use, but there are other options, such as pine, walnut, tofu, or corn pellets. Some owners even use silica litter or shredded newspaper for the box. Keep these factors in mind when you are experimenting, as your cats spraying may be due to dissatisfaction with their litter or litterbox.

Lastly, when it comes to litterboxes, make sure you use a spacious box for your cat to do their business. A box that is too small or flimsy may keep your cat from using it as their bathroom space. Even litterboxes with a hood or lid may present a problem to your cat and discourage them from eliminating in the appropriate area.

Medical Issues

If your cat has started spraying without any change to the home or the litterbox, it may be spraying as a symptom of an internal issue. Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or kidney disorders can be accompanied by inappropriate urination and can cause your cat to experience significant discomfort. Other signs of internal urinary issues include increased thirst, excessive licking of the genital area, bloody urine, vocalization while eliminating, vomiting, and lethargy.

Contact a Veterinarian if Your Cat is Spraying

Overall, if your cat is engaging in spraying behaviors, it may be best to consult your veterinarian about potential solutions. For unaltered animals, a spay or neuter surgery may stop inappropriate urination or at least reduce the frequency of its occurrence. Pay close attention to factors surrounding the spraying, such as increased stress, new litterboxes, or adding a new cat to the family. Spraying is a natural behavior for cats but, with some intervention and diligence, can be controlled to keep your home in much better shape.

For more information, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, contact Orlando Vets by calling one of our locations. We care about your pet’s well-being and will always be here when you need us.

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