Cat Got Your Attention? The Truth About When Cats Start Spraying

Typical Age for Kittens to be Spayed/Neutered

For many years, the standard recommendation has been to get kittens spayed or neutered around 6 months of age. However, research has shown that there are significant benefits to getting kittens spayed or neutered at an earlier age.

Current guidelines now recommend getting kittens spayed or neutered as early as 8-12 weeks of age. Some key reasons for this include:

  • Preventing accidental litters – Kittens can reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months old, so early spay/neuter prevents unintentional breeding.
  • Reducing undesirable behaviors – Early spay/neuter reduces behaviors like spraying, yowling, and roaming, especially in male cats.
  • Health benefits – Spaying female kittens prior to their first heat cycle reduces the risk of mammary cancer later in life. Neutering male kittens prevents testicular cancer.

While individual veterinarians may have differing opinions, current research and guidelines support getting kittens spayed or neutered between 8-12 weeks if the kitten is healthy. This helps prevent overpopulation and provides health and behavior benefits. Consult your vet to determine the ideal timing for your kitten.

When Do Male Cats Start Spraying?

Most male cats begin spraying urine when they reach sexual maturity, which is generally between 6-8 months of age. However, some may start as early as 4 months while others may not start until they are 10-12 months old. The onset of sexual maturity triggers certain behaviors in intact male cats, including the urge to mark territory by spraying urine.

Unneutered male cats spray urine to mark their territory and attract female cats in heat. The strong smelling urine contains pheromones that communicate information to other cats. Spraying is driven by the hormones testosterone and estrogen. Intact males that are not neutered will spray much more frequently than neutered males. On average, an unaltered male cat may spray urine multiple times per day, especially if competing with other cats in the area.

Spraying tends to increase during the spring and summer breeding season. Unneutered males roam more to find mates at this time, increasing the urge to spray and mark territory. The frequency of spraying behavior provides a clue that a male cat has reached sexual maturity and is unneutered.

When Do Female Cats Start Spraying?

Female cats generally start spraying around 5-6 months of age when they reach sexual maturity, though some may start as early as 4 months. Intact females spray to advertise their receptiveness and fertility to potential mates. They tend to spray more frequently when they are in heat. According to the ASPCA, around 10% of unspayed female cats display spraying behavior.

The spike in hormones that comes with an intact female cat’s heat cycle triggers her scent glands and causes her to spray urine more often than when she is not in heat. Females in heat may spray several times per day to attract male cats. The intensity and frequency of spraying often decreases after a female cat has mated, though some continue to spray regularly.

Spaying a female cat by around 6 months of age can prevent spraying from ever starting since it stops their heat cycles. According to the Humane Society, nearly 95% of spayed female cats will not spray.

Impact of Spaying/Neutering on Spraying

Spaying or neutering cats is very effective at reducing or eliminating spraying behaviors in most cats. According to the ASPCA, around 90% of male cats stop spraying within 6 months after being neutered[1]. For female cats, around 95% stop spraying within 6 months of being spayed[1].

The reason spay/neuter is so effective is because it reduces the hormones that trigger territorial marking behaviors. However, in some cases cats may continue to spray after being fixed, especially if the behavior has become habitual.

For cats that spray even after spay/neuter, behavior modification techniques and tools like synthetic pheromones can help reduce the undesirable behavior. But the success rates are lower compared to intact cats. According to the ASPCA, around 10% of neutered males and 5% of spayed females may continue to spray[1].

Other Causes of Inappropriate Urination

Besides hormonal factors, there are other potential causes of inappropriate urination in cats. Some of these include:

Medical conditions like urinary tract infections, bladder stones, kidney disease, diabetes, and neurological problems can all lead to inappropriate urination. These conditions can cause pain, discomfort, or difficulty controlling the bladder, which leads cats to urinate outside the litter box. According to The Underlying Causes of Cat Spraying, up to 30% of cats with spraying issues may have an underlying medical cause.

Stress or anxiety is another common trigger for inappropriate urination. Changes in the home environment, new pets or people, conflicts with other pets, loud noises, or insufficient resources like litter boxes can cause a cat to feel stressed. They may spray or eliminate outside the litter box to relieve anxiety or mark their territory. Creating a predictable routine, providing enrichment, and addressing sources of stress can help.

Solutions besides spaying/neutering include resolving medical issues through veterinary treatment, providing an appropriate number of litter boxes, cleaning with enzymatic cleaners, trying different litters or box types, using synthetic pheromones to reduce anxiety, and addressing environmental stressors. Medications may also help with anxiety or urge incontinence issues. While spay/neuter is highly effective, other approaches are needed for cats who spray after surgery.

Cleaning and Removing Cat Urine Smells

Cat urine can produce strong, unpleasant odors that permeate into fabrics, carpets, and even walls. Getting rid of these stubborn smells requires using the right cleaners and techniques. An enzyme cleaner designed specifically for cat urine is the most effective option. These contain bacteria that break down the compounds causing odors. Popular brands including Nature’s Miracle and Anti-Icky Poo work well for removing cat urine smells.

Apply the enzyme cleaner liberally on the soiled areas according to the product’s directions. Allow it to soak in for 5-10 minutes. Blot gently with a clean cloth or paper towels. Avoid rubbing, which can spread the urine deeper. Rinse thoroughly and allow the spot to air dry. Fans or open windows can help speed drying. Sometimes several treatments are needed for heavily saturated areas.

For carpets and rugs, sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda after using the cleaner. Let it sit for several hours or overnight before vacuuming. Baking soda helps absorb odors trapped in fibers. Avoid using steam cleaners as heat can set urine stains and smells.

To prevent recurrence, thoroughly clean soiled areas to fully eliminate odors. Cats are drawn back to areas that still smell like urine. Restrict access if needed while cleaning. Use a blacklight to find all traces of urine. Look for deterrent sprays that use natural citrus scents to help stop cats from re-soiling the area.

With the right products and cleaning methods, even difficult cat urine odors can be successfully banished from a home.

Litter Box Aversion

Cats are fastidious creatures and can develop an aversion to their litter box for a variety of reasons. Common causes of litter box avoidance include:

  • A medical issue like a urinary tract infection making it painful to urinate
  • Anxiety caused by changes in the home environment
  • A dislike of the litter substrate or box location
  • A previous negative experience like being ambushed while in the box
  • The box not being kept clean enough for the cat’s preferences

To encourage litter box use, make sure boxes are scooped at least once a day and the litter is changed regularly. Try different litters to find one the cat likes – some prefer fine vs coarse grains. Add more boxes around the home, especially in problem areas. Cats may want a separate box for urinating vs defecating. If the issue persists, take the cat to the vet to check for underlying medical problems and treat anxiety/stressors at home. With patience and by making the litter box an appealing, safe place again, litter box avoidance can be resolved.


Seeking Veterinary Advice

Inappropriate urination or spraying outside the litter box can be frustrating, but may often indicate an underlying medical issue. If behavioural solutions don’t work, it’s important to schedule a veterinary visit.

Cats that suddenly start spraying or urinating outside the litter box should be evaluated by a veterinarian. They can perform diagnostic tests to check for conditions like urinary tract infections, bladder stones, kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism.

Vets may analyze a urine sample or recommend bloodwork, urinalysis, x-rays, or an ultrasound to get to the root of the problem. Based on test results, they can prescribe medications or recommend dietary changes to help treat any medical condition contributing to inappropriate urination.

For cats spraying due to anxiety or stress, vets may prescribe anti-anxiety medication or synthetic feline pheromones to help them feel more secure. Medications or supplements can also help reduce spraying behavior.

Getting a veterinary perspective is crucial, as inappropriate urination should never be considered just a behavioral quirk. Proper treatment and management is key to resolving spraying or litter box avoidance issues in cats.

Managing an Intact Cat’s Spraying

Since spraying is a normal instinctual behavior for unneutered male and female cats, managing an intact cat’s spraying takes effort and patience. But there are some strategies that can help curb the behavior:

Confinement when unsupervised – When you are not around to monitor your cat, confine them to a small room with easy to clean floors and surfaces, devoid of any fabric furniture or rugs. This limits access to preferred horizontal spraying surfaces.

Discouraging spraying spots – Place sticky tape, aluminum foil, or upside down vinyl carpet runners on surfaces where your cat sprays. The texture deters cats from spraying there. You can also place their food bowl in key spraying areas to make them less desirable.

Cleaning with enzyme cleaners – Thoroughly clean any soiled areas with an enzymatic cleaner formulated to break down cat urine proteins and odors. This helps fully eliminate urine smells that can draw cats back to the same spots (

While managing an intact cat’s spraying takes diligence, neutering is ultimately the most effective solution for both male and female cats once they reach an appropriate age.


To recap, while there’s no set age, most cats start spraying between 5-9 months of age if they remain intact. The act of spraying is linked to sexual maturity and the desire to mate and mark territory. That’s why getting cats spayed or neutered by 5-6 months is recommended to prevent spraying behaviors from developing.

Spaying or neutering cats is extremely effective at stopping spraying in 90% or more of cats. The younger the cat is neutered, the better the results. However, even cats neutered later in life often stop or significantly reduce spraying after the surgery.

If an intact cat continues spraying past the typical age range or if a neutered cat starts spraying, it’s important to seek veterinary advice. Persistent spraying can indicate medical issues like UTIs, anxiety, or stress that needs to be addressed. With patience and the right techniques, spraying issues can usually be resolved.

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