How to Stop your Cat from Spraying Outside the Litter Box

We all love our cats right? May they be elegant, fluffy or full of attitude, they give us so much love. But don’t you wish they could talk and explain why they sometimes can’t seem to pee in the litter tray? Do all cats spray? If they do, what can we do about it as owners?

Firstly, you need to figure out whether your cat is spraying, which means it’s marking its territory in a splatter pattern or is it a result of not urinating properly, which may look like a larger puddle. Territorial cats will often spray the area around their litter box. You could also check with your vet that there is no underlying health condition which is resulting in this behaviour.

Ask yourself if anything has changed with the cat’s circumstances recently, such as a new member of the family entering the household, another animal to contend with or a new home. If you do move house, it’s likely that your vet will ask you to keep your cat indoors for several weeks to allow it to get used to new surroundings. This hopefully will allow it to relax in and get used to using the new litter trays, but it can also create anxiety and spraying. Territorial cats will often mark their space.

You will need to address the cat spraying outside the litter box straight away, before it becomes normal behaviour. Your cat may be feeling possessive, especially if you have more than one cat. It might be an idea to give each cat a separate living area if possible.

If your cat is spraying and scratching its way through your household and you are feeling at a loss, Feliway has a brilliant 30 Day Starter Kit, which addresses multiple issues including cats spraying.

Why do cats pee in the house in the first place?

Any frustration, stress or anxiety can result in a cat beginning to pee in the house. It could be the entry of a new pet or person or moving property. Remember your cat is a sensitive soul. There are lots of products on the market addressing anxiety and spraying such as this Cat Calm Spray. Please note though that you should avoid the brands with heaps of chemicals and if you are spraying anything onto carpet, you will need to test an area first to ensure it doesn’t stain.

So, how to stop my cat from spraying?

1. Neutering/Spaying

You may find that once your male cat is spayed, he will stop spraying. If male cats stop spraying if neutered or fixed, what about females? Girl cats spray usually when they are unspayed so again this is work looking into. When an unspayed female cat urinates everywhere, it’s time for a visit to the vet.

Will neutering stop my cat from spraying?

If you have waited until a male cat reaches sexual maturation before neutering him, then there is a chance that he will continue to spray. It’s a bit like a habit which needs to be broken. Also, if the cat is feeling stressed, such as a move to a new home or a new pet in the household, then spraying can begin.

2. Banish that Smell

Another consideration to stop cat spraying is ensuring that you eliminate all nasty odors. This will not only keep your house smelling clean, but will also discourage the cat from returning to the same area to pee. If the cat can still smell the scent (and they have a sensitive nose!) it will likely spray again.

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3. More than one Potty

When you ask yourself, why is my cat peeing all over the house, you might want to think about what it feels like to be caught short! Wouldn’t be easier to have a downstairs bathroom too? Same for your feline friend. Put another litter tray upstairs and give the best opportunity for the cat to hit the spot. Make sure it’s in an obvious place. If it’s hidden from view the likelihood is that your cat will not find it either.

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Consider buying anextra large litter box, in case you don't have the time to clean it every day. The bigger it is, the more comfortable your cat will feel taking care of its business inside of it!

4. Hide the Spot

If your cat keeps spraying in the same spot, try temporarily moving the litter tray over that spot once it’s clean. If you feel like your cat needs some encouragement, there are lots of pet behaviour sprays on the market. Be aware that some are toxic so read the labels carefully and choose one which is organic and non-toxic such as NaturVet Organic Stop Spray.

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The NaturVet Pet Organics Spraywill prevent your cat from spraying outside the litter box.

5. Keep it Clean

Cats are super clean animals, so it’s really important to keep the litter tray squeaky clean. Make a routine and stick to it so your cat knows that he or she will always have somewhere fresh and clean to do their business in. You can clean the area with water and surgical alcohol and then allow it to dry. Don’t use strong chemical products such as ammonia based cleaners. If you want to mask any smells yourself, there are several plug in diffusers on the market which can help your cat relax and stop spraying.

6. Closed or Open Tray?

Of course most owners would prefer a covered kitty litter tray. It hides some of the unpleasant smells and keeps any nasties out of our vision. However, lots of cats really don’t like covered trays, especially ones with flip doors on them. You may find your cat refusing to enter, or feeling trapped once inside. If he or she is an old cat, they may also have trouble getting in and out of the sides of an enclosed litter tray too. It might look nicer, but would you rather have an open tray or your cat spraying outside the litter box?

7. Which Litter is Best?

Again, there is a huge amount of choice out there from clumping litter, wood based chips to perfumed litter. If you have your cat from birth, then it’s wise to choose a good litter without any perfume and if possible, containing activated charcoal. If you’ve taken an older cat into the household, you may find that they don’t enjoy the litter being replaced by a new brand. If possible, it’s worth trying to figure out what brand they had before. Whatever you do, try to avoid the heavily perfumed litter brands. They contain heaps chemicals and really aren’t great for pets.

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8. Female Behavior

It’s often asked, do neutered cats still spray?

Female cat territorial problems can be just as serious as male cats. If the female cat was in a natural setting, marking an area with urine would be deemed normal behaviour. The cat would sniff the area, bend the legs and urinate. Some even crouch and spray.

Do female cats spray when in heat?

An unspayed female cat can come into heat once a month or even more frequently. That’s a highly hormonal, noisy lady every month to contend with! If she is in heat, she may spray urine to attract the male as a potent scent marker. As mentioned, make sure that you keep the area really clean and the litter changed regularly. She’ll likely need lots of extra attention during this period too.

9. A War at Hand

We’ve all seen a cat fight right? High hysterics and a lot of paw action. Conflicts between cats, often when a new cat enters marked territory can result in spraying. They may have fallen out with each other near to the litter box and this leaves bad memories. Or it may be the case that one of the cats feels anxiety as a result. As mentioned before, separate areas for a multiple car household and all the above again.

10. Ask the Experts

In their book ‘The Trainable Cat’ John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis argue this type of stress induced behaviour can be prevented or even eliminated with training. They are on-screen experts of the UK’s BBC2 Cat Watch programme, which really is the ultimate guide to making your cat a lot happier and social in general.

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You really want your cat to feel happy and stress free, whatever the circumstances. You may have a new home and want to re-house the cat without all the trouble of spraying. You could have a new pet in the home and want to know the right way to avoid either male or female cats getting territorial. Try everything on the list above and be patient, if it’s turned into a bad habit, it may take a little while to break.

You should see improvement within about one week. If the situation doesn’t improve at all then it might be time to seek some professional advice from your local vet.