Stop Your Cat From Spraying & Peeing Outside The Litter Box With These Solutions

Understanding Cat Spraying

Cat spraying, also known as urine marking, is when a cat backs up to a vertical surface like a wall, furniture, or door and sprays a small amount of urine while holding their tail straight up. It’s different than peeing outside the litter box, which tends to be a larger puddle on horizontal surfaces.

Spraying is a natural territorial behavior for cats. They use pheromones in their urine to mark areas as theirs and warn other cats to stay away. Spraying can also be a sign of stress or anxiety. Changes to their environment, new people or animals, conflicts with other cats, or health issues can cause a cat to feel threatened and spray more often.

Spayed and neutered cats can spray too. While intact males spray more often to attract mates, fixed males and females will still spray in response to stress or threats to their territory. Understanding why your cat is spraying is key to reducing this unwanted behavior.

Getting a Vet Checkup

The first step when dealing with a cat spraying or urinating outside the litter box is to take them to the veterinarian for a full checkup. There are several medical conditions that can cause inappropriate urination in cats, so it’s important to rule these out before assuming the behavior is just a behavioral issue.

Some common medical causes for inappropriate urination include urinary tract infections, kidney disease, diabetes, and arthritis. A vet will run diagnostic tests like a urinalysis and bloodwork to check for any underlying illness. They may also do a physical exam to check for pain that could be causing the cat to urinate outside the litter box.

Treating any medical issues found through the vet visit could resolve the inappropriate urination. Even if no medical cause is found, it’s still important to get an all-clear from the vet before focusing on behavioral solutions. A clean bill of health rules out physical problems and allows you to focus on environmental and behavioral changes to stop the spraying or urinating outside the box.

Litter Box Solutions

One of the most common reasons for inappropriate elimination is an issue with the litter box setup. Cats can be quite particular about their bathroom preferences, so making sure the litter box setup meets your cat’s needs is crucial.

Some tips for optimizing the litter box setup:

  • Have at least one litter box per cat, plus one extra. The general recommendation is n+1 litter boxes, where n is the number of cats in your home. This prevents competition and gives each cat options.
  • Clean litter boxes frequently, scooping waste at least once per day. Cats prefer a clean bathroom. Allowing waste to accumulate can deter your cat from using the litter box.
  • Use an unscented clumping litter. Cats prefer lightweight, soft litter that lets them dig and bury. Scented litters can be off-putting. Clumping litter makes cleaning easier.
  • Place litter boxes in quiet, low-traffic areas. Cats desire privacy and tranquility when eliminating. Putting boxes in noisy or high-traffic areas can stress cats.

Ensuring you have adequate, clean litter boxes in cat-friendly locations can resolve many litter box issues. Scoop frequently, provide one box per cat plus an extra, use unscented clumping litter, and place boxes in quiet corners of your home. A proper setup makes it more likely your cat will consistently use the litter box.

For more tips, see this helpful guide on litter training cats:

Cleaning With Enzymes

Cat urine contains pheromones and proteins that can cause persistent odors if not cleaned up properly. The urine leaves behind an ammonia residue that encourages your cat to continuously remark the area. Using an enzymatic cleaner is the most effective way to break down the proteins and eliminate the urine odors.

Enzyme cleaners work differently than regular cleaners. They contain active enzymes and bacteria that target the ammonia in cat urine. The enzymes break down the odor and stain-causing uric acid compounds into simpler, odorless components that can no longer attract your cat to spray. This helps stop the cycle of marking and bad smells.

Look for enzyme cleaners made specifically for pet stains and urine odors. Some popular brands include Rocco & Roxie Professional Strength Enzymatic Stain & Odor Eliminator, Nature’s Miracle Advanced Pet Trigger Sprayer, and Bac-Out Stain+Odor Remover. Follow the product instructions carefully.

Enzymatic cleaners are safe for surfaces when used as directed. For best results, soak the area thoroughly and allow the enzymes time to work before wiping away. This will help resolve even old, set-in urine stains and odors.

Pheromone Diffusers

Pheromone diffusers can help reduce stress in cats and discourage unwanted spraying and marking behaviors. Synthetic pheromones, like Feliway, mimic feline facial pheromones that cats use to mark their territory. These pheromones signal that the area is safe and promote calmness. Diffusers continuously release small amounts of these synthetic pheromones into the air to help stabilize the cat’s mood (1). Research shows pheromone therapy can be beneficial for feline anxiety, although individual results vary. Using the diffusers continuously in problem areas is key to reducing stress triggers that lead to inappropriate urination (2). The pheromones create a state of well-being and security that can help prevent spraying behaviors.




Prescription Medications

Some medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help reduce or stop inappropriate urination. These medications work by influencing neurotransmitters in the brain to reduce anxiety, fear, and stress that can lead to marking behaviors. Two common prescription medications used for cat spraying are:

  • Clomipramine – This tricyclic antidepressant has been shown to be effective in reducing urine marking in up to 90% of cats. It helps reduce anxiety and compulsiveness. The typical dosage is 0.5 mg per kg given every 24 hours.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac) – This selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant can also help reduce urine marking driven by anxiety and stress. The typical dosage is 1 mg per kg given every 24 hours. Recent studies have shown Prozac to be effective in many cases.

These medications are not a quick fix and take some time to start working. They need to be given daily, and you will need to follow up with your vet to monitor progress and make dosage adjustments. Used along with behavior modification, prescription meds can be very helpful for many cats engaging in inappropriate urinary marking.

Environment Enrichment

Providing environmental enrichment is an important way to reduce stress and boredom that can lead to inappropriate urination. Enrichment helps satisfy a cat’s natural desires to scratch, climb, play, and exhibit hunting behaviors. Be sure to provide plenty of enrichment items throughout the home.

Give your cat vertical spaces to climb like cat trees, shelves, and wall-mounted catwalks. Cats like to be up high to survey their territory. Place cat trees and climbing shelves near windows with outdoor views. Adding hammock beds and hideaway cubes up high creates additional space.

Rotate toys frequently to fight boredom. Interactive toys that mimic prey like feathers on strings or motorized mice are ideal. Puzzle feeders and treat balls provide mental stimulation. Set aside dedicated playtime every day to allow cats to get their energy out. Consider adopting a second cat for a playmate.

Providing appropriate scratching surfaces like posts and cardboard pads helps prevent inappropriate scratching. Place them near favorite spots. Encourage use by sprinkling catnip. Use horizontal or angled scratchers since vertical scratching is natural feline behavior (Gray Group).

Blocking Access

One effective way to keep cats from spraying or peeing in problem areas is to physically block their access to those locations. This can be accomplished by using furniture or other household objects to obstruct the space. For example, placing a chair or small table in front of the area you want to block will make it more difficult for your cat to gain access.

Another option is to use upside-down vinyl carpet runners, also known as double-sided sticky tape. These are strips of plastic with adhesive on both sides that create an unpleasant texture for cats to walk on. Cut the carpet runner to size and place the sticky side up across doorways, edges of counters, or any other area you want to prevent access to. The sticky feeling on their paws will deter most cats from crossing over.

Just be sure any furniture or carpet runners used to block access don’t impede your own ability to enter or exit the area. And never use methods that would physically harm a curious cat who tries to investigate. The goal is just to make the area less appealing so your cat will stop spraying and peeing in inappropriate places.

According to this Hometalk article, making doorway blockers wide enough to wedge firmly into the opening is key. Hinging double doors can also allow human access while deterring cats.

Punishment Doesn’t Work

Spraying your cat with water or using other punishments is not recommended for stopping unwanted urination or spraying. While punishment may temporarily stop the behavior, it does nothing to address the underlying cause and can actually make the problem worse.

Using punishment like spraying water increases stress and anxiety in cats. This creates more tension between you and your cat, damages your bond, and can worsen behavior issues stemming from stress (Source). Punishment is ineffective because cats don’t understand what they did wrong or how to correct the behavior.

Instead of using punishment, focus on identifying the root cause through a vet exam and making your home cat-friendly. Creating a low-stress environment and meeting your cat’s needs is a more positive and effective approach. Be patient, as resolving inappropriate urination takes time. Avoid yelling or punishing your cat, as this will only add more stress.

Be Patient

It’s important to be patient when trying to resolve a cat spraying problem. Spraying is a learned behavior that often develops over time, so it may take some time and effort to correct it. Cats don’t spray out of spite or defiance – there is usually an underlying cause triggering the behavior.

It can take 4-6 weeks or longer for a neutered male cat’s testosterone levels to decrease enough to stop the spraying. For a female cat, it may take a trial-and-error process to identify the triggers causing her to spray. Try various solutions one at a time and give each several weeks to determine if it’s working before trying something else.

Be a detective and watch for patterns to the spraying – is there a certain area, time of day, or trigger that seems to set your cat off? Keeping detailed records can help identify their specific motivation for spraying. Understanding the underlying cause is key to stopping the behavior for good.

With consistency, patience and being observant of their behaviors, you can resolve your cat’s spraying issue. But it takes diligence and time for new patterns to form, so try to be patient and know that you will overcome this with the right approach.

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