Q: Our male cat has started spraying urine in the house.
Until now he has always used his litter tray. What can I do and why has he all of a sudden started doing this?
A: Urine marking is a communication system for cats.
Cat urine contains pheromones which are chemical substances that tell other cats certain messages.
Spraying is a common component of cat behaviour during the mating season with males and females communicating their availability with their pheromones.
The male cat will also mark his territory, letting other male cats know that these are the boundaries and this area belongs to him, however it can also be a stress-related problem.
Cats are creatures of habit and thrive in a consistent and familiar atmosphere. When their “comfort zone” is disrupted it can often result in stress which contributes to spraying.
Have there been any changes in the household, eg a new baby or pet?
Has your cat been ill?
Have there been any changes in daily routine, or have you changed your cat litter?
Some cats are more sensitive than others, something as simple as moving a piece of furniture or a new cat in the neighbourhood can trigger stress-related behaviours like urine marking in a cat.
Before the cause of stress is investigated further, have your cat examined for lower urinary tract diseases to rule out medical conditions which could be causing the problem.
For example, a painful case of cystitis may have your cat associating the pain of urination with its litter tray and it will therefore avoid it’s litter tray.
Once medical conditions have been ruled out you really need to find the source of stress to combat the problem, again your vet will try to help you determine the cause and then give you more specific advice on treating individual cases but here are a few general tips to help manage the problem.
Firstly, you never mentioned if your cat is neutered. If not, I would advise castration as entire males and females spray more than neutered ones.
You can also try pheromone products.
This therapy works by spraying a “friendly” pheromone in places where your cat sprays, the idea being to pacify stressed cats that are spraying urine in the house.
These products are also available in a plug-in diffuser. They are harmless to humans.
To remove the odour, clean soiled areas with biological washing powder before applying a pheromone product.
Always make sure that litter trays are kept clean and are changed regularly.
If your cat is happy with a particular litter then don’t change it.
Finally, there are anti-anxiety drugs available but these would only be used in extreme circumstances.
I have personally never prescribed such drugs for this problem as I feel it more important to remove the source of stress causing the problem.
This is a very frustrating condition and it has been impossible to go into any detail so if the above advice doesn’t help, please contact your vet.