What Makes A Female Cat Spray In The House?

Urine marking is a frustrating problem for many cat owners. It involves a cat urinating small amounts around a home, often on vertical surfaces like walls, furniture, and drapes. This behavior can damage carpets, floors, walls, and other possessions, leaving a strong ammonia odor that is difficult to eradicate.

While territorial marking is natural for cats, indoor spraying and urinating is not acceptable for owners sharing their home. Left unchecked, the behavior usually becomes more frequent. Understanding why and how cats spray helps you resolve it or seek professional help if needed.

Territory Marking

Territory marking is a normal feline behavior that allows cats to identify their territory (https://urinefree.com.au/blogs/blog/territory-marking-in-cats-how-to-resolve-it). Cats mark their territory by rubbing, scratching, and urine spraying. When a cat sprays urine, it is leaving both a visual and scent mark for other cats that come across the area. This is an important form of communication and identification for cats.

According to experts, territory marking begins when kittens are just a few months old (https://blog.catbandit.com/what-does-thai-cat-marking-territory-mean/). It allows them to find their space within their environment and claim areas for themselves. As cats mature, territory marking continues to play an important role in communication with other cats by establishing boundaries.

While marking territory is normal, inappropriate urine marking inside the home can become problematic. However, it’s important to understand that the motivation is communication, not spite.

Going Into Heat

Female cats go into heat and experience estrous cycles when they are sexually mature, which occurs around 5-9 months of age if they are not spayed 1. When a female cat enters her heat cycle, hormonal changes trigger certain behaviors to attract male cats for breeding. One of these behaviors is spraying urine, which leaves pheromones to let males know she is in heat and ready to mate.

According to veterinarians, the relationship between spraying and a female cat’s estrous cycle is quite clear. Unspayed females will spray frequently when they go into heat, which occurs every 2-3 weeks during breeding season 2. The spraying is part of their mating ritual and desire to find a suitable mate. So if your unspayed female cat suddenly starts spraying urine around your house, there’s a good chance she’s going into heat.


Stress and anxiety can be major triggers for cat spraying behaviors. Cats are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and stressors like moving homes, introducing new pets, or conflict with other cats can cause a cat to feel threatened. This leads to spraying as a way to mark territory and self-soothe. According to PetMD, cat spraying is often a response to underlying stress or anxiety.

Research has shown a link between stress and cat spraying behaviors. As discussed in an article by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, studies of cats’ hormone levels indicate that spraying is associated with higher stress. Environmental stressors that can trigger spraying include introduction of new pets, conflict with other household cats, or loud noises. A cat may spray out of anxiety, fear, or as an attempt to cope with her stressors.

Intercat Conflict

Spraying can be triggered by conflict with other cats. Cats are territorial animals and when new cats are introduced to a home, this can create stress and tension. Female cats may begin spraying urine around the house to mark their territory and show dominance over the new cat.

Aggressive behavior between cats like swatting, chasing, and tense standoffs can also lead to spraying. The presence of outdoor cats roaming near your home can likewise trigger a female cat to spray inside to mark her turf. Intercat conflict and the stress it causes prompts spraying as a way for the cat to cope.

To manage intercat conflict, you may need to reintroduce cats slowly so they can become comfortable with each other. Using synthetic feline pheromones like Feliway can help reduce tension between cats. Ensuring each cat has their own food, water, toys, scratching posts, and rest areas creates more harmonious sharing of territory. Limiting outdoor cats with cat-proof fencing can also ease spraying caused by outside cats. If aggression persists, consulting an animal behaviorist may be needed.

See: https://www.animals24-7.org/2017/07/24/we-cannot-adopt-warehouse-or-rescue-our-way-out-of-dog-cat-overpopulation/

Medical Issues

Certain medical conditions in cats can lead to spraying behavior. For example, urinary tract infections, bladder inflammation, crystals or stones in the urine, and other diseases affecting the urinary tract can cause discomfort and pain during urination. As a result, the cat may associate the litter box with this discomfort and begin spraying in other areas instead (https://catfriendly.com/why-does-my-cat/spraying/).

Kidney disease is another medical problem that can lead to inappropriate urination and spraying. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, the cat may not be able to hold its urine as long and may spray as a result. Any medical condition that increases thirst or urination frequency can potentially lead to spraying (https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/cat-spraying).

If a cat that is normally well-behaved suddenly begins spraying, it is important to take the cat to a veterinarian for a full medical workup. Treating the underlying medical issue may resolve the spraying problem.

Inadequate Litter Boxes

Having an insufficient number of litter boxes is one of the most common reasons for inappropriate elimination like spraying. According to the ASPCA, there should ideally be one litter box per cat, plus one extra. So for a multi-cat household, having only one or two litter boxes can easily lead to problems. Cats are very fastidious about their bathroom habits and need adequate facilities 1.

When there are too few litter boxes, cats may spray around the house to mark their territory and establish new latrine areas. They may also begin using furniture, laundry baskets, or other locations not meant for elimination. Inadequate boxes essentially force cats to “hold it” for long periods, eventually leading them to spray or eliminate outside the box. Providing the right number of litter boxes, preferably one per cat in separate locations, can help reduce inappropriate spraying or soiling 3.


There are several ways you can stop a cat from spraying inside the home:

  • Make sure the cat is spayed or neutered. Unspayed females and unneutered males are more likely to spray.
  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner to remove odors that may attract the cat to spray again.
  • Try synthetic pheromones like Feliway to help relieve stress and anxiety. Plug in diffusers around the house.
  • Add more litter boxes around the home, keeping them clean and giving cats ample space.
  • Separate cats if they are fighting and give them their own territory.
  • Consult with your vet to rule out underlying medical issues.
  • Consider medication from your vet for anxiety or behavioral issues if necessary.
  • Block access to windows where cats can see outdoor cats.
  • Provide appropriate scratching posts and vertical territory for cats.

With patience, modifying the environment, and medical treatment if needed, most cats can be encouraged to stop inappropriate spraying. Consult a vet or animal behaviorist for help.

Professional Help

Cats spraying urine around the house can be very distressing for pet owners. In some cases, the issue may require professional assistance from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

It’s a good idea to seek professional help if the cat spraying is frequent or excessive, happens outside of the litter box on a regular basis, or occurs suddenly in a cat that was previously house trained. Dramatic changes in urinary habits can indicate an underlying medical issue like a urinary tract infection or kidney disease, which requires veterinary diagnosis and treatment (Source).

A vet can rule out medical causes and provide medication if needed. They may refer you to a certified animal behaviorist who can assess the cat’s environment and identify sources of stress or conflict triggering the spraying. The behaviorist will recommend customized treatment options like pheromone therapy, changes to the litter box setup, or a structured behavior modification plan.

Seeking professional help right away is key to stopping cat spraying before it becomes a habitual behavior. With the right interventions from an experienced vet or animal behaviorist, most cats can be successfully retrained to use the litter box consistently.


In summary, there are several potential reasons why a female cat may spray urine in the house. The most common causes include territory marking, going into heat, stress, intercat conflict, medical issues like a UTI, and inadequate litter boxes. While spraying can be frustrating for cat owners, it’s important not to punish or scold the cat as this can make the problem worse.

The key is addressing the underlying cause through solutions like spaying the cat, reducing stress and anxiety, resolving conflicts between cats, treating medical issues, adding more litter boxes, and cleaning soiled areas thoroughly with enzymatic cleaners. In some cases, consulting a vet or animal behavior specialist can provide further help. With patience and targeted solutions, spraying can often be resolved or managed so both cat and owner can live together happily.

Ultimately, spraying is a natural feline behavior, albeit undesirable indoors. But by understanding why it occurs and taking proactive steps, cat parents can get to the root of the problem and restore harmony in their home.

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