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Feline Behavior:

Common Communication Breakdowns


Common Reasons For Spraying
First, it's important to know that both male and female cats spray. Here are some common circumstances under which a cat may spray:

  • Sexual maturity in intact males
  • The addition of a new cat, baby, dog, or spouse in the home
  • The sudden appearance of a strange cat in the yard
  • A move to a new home
  • Renovation
  • The disappearance of a cat in a multi-cat household
  • Change in family due to death, divorce, child going off to college, etc.
  • Feline hierarchical disputes
  • Territorial boundaries
  • Any perceived threat

Recognize Spraying VS Indiscriminate Urination
There's a difference between the two and it's important to be able to identify them. Spraying is usually done on vertical objects. A cat will first back up to an object (ex: the wall, stereo speakers). He may knead the ground with his front paws or tread with his back paws. His tail will also start twitching. A stream of urine is then sprayed on the object. The reason spraying is so effective from a cat's point of view is because it puts the urine right at nose height for any other cat walking by. Very efficient! Some cats do spray horizontally though (for example, on a guardian's bed). The urine will be in a thin stream as opposed to a round puddle.
Indiscriminate urination is usually done on horizontal objects. There are many reasons why a cat may urinate outside of the litter box but the one thing you must rule out first is any potential medical cause. There are several underlying medical reasons such as lower urinary tract disease, and they must first be ruled out before tackling this from a behavioral standpoint. It's not uncommon for a cat to associate the litter box with the pain he feels upon urination. He might seek out other areas, thinking it won't hurt so much in a different location. Also, an irritated bladder creates a constant sense of urgency so the cat may not make it to the box in time.

Once the cat gets a clean bill of health, here are some other reasons for indiscriminate urination:

  • Dirty litter box
  • Aversion to litter substrate
  • Not enough boxes for the number of cats
  • Discomfort getting in and out of box
  • Negative association to due medical condition
  • Abrupt change in litter brand or type
  • Aversion to the type of box (covered, electronic, etc)
  • Addition of another cat to the household
  • Move to a new home
  • Renovation
  • Change in owner's schedule
  • Addition of new family member (baby, spouse, dog)
  • Change in food or feeding routine

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