Why Is My Cat Suddenly Spraying?


Cat spraying is when a cat backs up to a vertical surface like a wall, a side of furniture, or a window and releases a small amount of urine. This is different than urinating on the floor or in the litter box and can be concerning for cat owners for several reasons. Cat spraying is often associated with territorial marking and can lead to urine odor and stains around the home or property. Additionally, persistent spraying can indicate an underlying medical condition or stress that needs to be addressed.

Territorial Marking

Territorial marking is a natural behavior in cats. Cats mark their territory to signal “ownership” and to advertise sexual availability. Marking can occur due to the presence of other cats in the home or neighborhood. Cats have scent glands on their paws, so scratching is one way they mark their territory [1]. Both male and female cats will spray urine, or “mark”, to claim an area as their own and define the boundaries of their territory [2].

When a cat feels their territory is threatened by other cats, they may start marking inside the home more often. This is why introducing a new cat to the home or a stray cat coming into the yard can trigger indoor spraying. Cats want to make sure their scent is prominent in the area to ward off “intruders”.

Stress and Anxiety

Cats are often sensitive to changes in their environment and routine, which can cause stress and anxiety. Common triggers for spraying from stress include:

  • A new family member or pet in the home
  • Changes to the household routine or schedule
  • Conflicts with other pets in the home
  • Construction, remodeling, or loud noises
  • New furniture or household objects

Research indicates spraying may be linked to higher stress levels in cats. When cats are anxious or feel threatened, they may spray urine to create a sense of comfort through a familiar, soothing scent (AVSAB). Any major changes that disrupt a cat’s perceived territory could induce stress that leads to spraying.

To reduce stress-related spraying, make changes gradually and establish consistent routines. Provide calming treats, pheromone diffusers, and plenty of affection to ease anxiety. If conflict with another pet is the cause, keep their resources separate and give them safe spaces to retreat to.

Medical Conditions

Various medical conditions can cause a cat to start spraying urine inside the home. Issues with the urinary tract, kidneys, or diabetes are common medical culprits. For example, a urinary tract infection (UTI) can make urination painful and cause the cat to spray in inappropriate places instead of the litter box (Source). Kidney disease leads to excessive urination and may cause a cat to not make it to the litter box in time. Diabetes can also increase urination and lead to accidents. Older cats are prone to developing medical conditions that impact urinary habits. If your cat is over 10 years old, a full veterinary workup is recommended to check for issues like kidney disease or diabetes. Any medical condition that increases thirst and urination frequency can result in inappropriate spraying. Consulting your veterinarian to diagnose and treat any underlying illness is key to stopping spraying caused by a medical problem.

Improper Litterbox Conditions

Cats are very particular about their litterboxes, and improper conditions can cause stress that leads to spraying. Litterboxes that are not cleaned frequently enough can cause a cat to start spraying 1. Cats like their litterboxes to be pristine, so boxes that contain waste and odor can be off-putting. Additionally, some cats prefer certain types of litter over others. Using a litter that is uncomfortable on their paws or produces too much dust can also cause cats to spray.

Having an insufficient number of litterboxes is another common cause of spraying. The general recommendation is to have one litterbox per cat, plus one extra. This prevents competition over resources. Litterbox location also matters. Boxes should be spread out in quiet, low-traffic areas of the home. Placing boxes too close together or in busy areas like hallways can lead to a stressed cat spraying to mark territory 2. By keeping litterboxes clean, using preferred litter, having enough boxes, and placing them in ideal locations, cat owners can avoid this behavior issue.

Unneutered Males and Unspayed Females

Hormones play a significant role in spraying behavior among intact (unneutered or unspayed) cats. Unneutered male cats will spray urine to mark their territory and attract female cats, especially when they sense a female cat nearby. The urine contains pheromones that communicate information to other cats. Intact male cat urine often has a very strong, pungent “tom cat” odor due to the hormones [https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/cat-behavior-problems-marking-and-spraying-behavior].

Similarly, unspayed female cats may spray urine when they are in heat, to attract male cats and advertise their receptiveness to mating. So for both male and female cats, getting neutered or spayed can help reduce hormonal drivers for spraying behavior.


There are several solutions that can help stop a cat from spraying inside the home:

Pheromones – Synthetic pheromones like Feliway can help reduce stress and anxiety in cats. Pheromone diffusers or sprays can be used around the house.

Medication – Medications prescribed by a vet like anti-anxiety meds or Prozac can help in some cases. These help reduce stress and calm cats.

More litter boxes – Providing at least one more litter box than the number of cats can give more options for toileting. Boxes should be spread around the house.

Cleaning – Thoroughly clean any soiled areas with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle to remove odors that may cause remarking.

Limit access – Use baby gates to limit access to previously sprayed areas until the behavior is under control.

Punishment does not work and can make things worse. Positive reinforcement training can help redirect the cat’s behavior.

In more severe cases, prescription medications or pheromone collars specifically for urine spraying could be options a vet may recommend.

When to See a Vet

If your cat begins spraying suddenly or the behavior becomes more frequent, it’s important to schedule a veterinary visit for an evaluation. There are several medical conditions that may cause increased spraying such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. Senior cats are at higher risk for these conditions, so increased spraying can be an early sign in older cats.

You should also see your veterinarian if the spraying is accompanied by signs like increased thirst/urination, vocalizing while using the litter box, blood in the urine, or straining to urinate. These are all red flag symptoms that could indicate a serious underlying problem requiring treatment.

For cats that have been spayed or neutered, spraying may indicate hormone-secreting tumors in the adrenal glands or ovaries/testicles. Your vet can do tests to check for this possibility.

Kittens that start spraying before 6 months of age should also be evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out congenital defects or conditions causing abnormal development.

Seeing your vet promptly when spraying arises suddenly or increases in frequency allows for earlier treatment of any underlying medical conditions. Your vet can also provide advice on behavioral interventions and products that may help stop the spraying.


The best way to prevent spraying behavior in cats is to get them spayed or neutered. Spaying females before their first heat cycle can reduce the likelihood of spraying by up to 99%. Neutering males also greatly reduces spraying, as the behavior is closely linked to hormones.

Providing environmental enrichment is another key preventative measure. Make sure your cat has plenty of interactive toys, climbing structures, and scratching posts. Play with them frequently using wand toys or laser pointers. Food puzzle toys can also keep them stimulated. Providing daily playtime and enrichment helps prevent boredom and stress, two common causes of inappropriate urination.

Lastly, maintaining proper litter box hygiene is essential. Cats prefer clean, open boxes, so scoop waste once or twice daily. Use an enzymatic cleaner to reduce lingering odors. Have at least one box per cat, if not more. Place them in quiet, low traffic areas. Try different litters as some cats prefer sand over clay. With these preventative steps, spraying can be avoided in most cats.


In summary, there are a number of reasons why cats may start spraying urine in the home, including territorial marking, stress, anxiety, medical conditions, improper litter box conditions, and hormones in unfixed male and female cats. Solutions include identifying and addressing the underlying cause through approaches like adding more litter boxes, relieving sources of stress, treating medical issues, neutering or spaying if not already done, using synthetic pheromones to calm cats, and cleaning soiled areas thoroughly with enzymatic cleaners. If the spraying persists, a vet visit is recommended to rule out medical causes. Prevention methods involve spaying/neutering kittens, providing a stress-free environment, maintaining proper litter box hygiene, and limiting inter-cat conflicts.

By understanding the potential reasons cats spray urine and implementing solutions tailored to the specific cause, cat owners can get this undesirable behavior under control and restore harmony in their home.

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