Cat Spraying  

Patt Kellers
Originally Answered: Cat Spraying

This is for Dr. Wooten. I attended her FB live today and it was awesome. Thank you. My question: I have 2 male indoor Siamese cats. Both neutered. We adopted the first as a kitten almost 2 years ago and a year later adopted a 5 year old. The older cat is on Royal Canin urinary calm and also on anti anxiety medication. He is spraying occasionally and I would like to know if you think this is more of a urinary concern rather than a behavioral concern. My vet changed theanti anxiety medication because that didn’t stop the spraying . The current medication gapopuetin helped with the spraying in the beginning but after a month the spraying started again

Luis Ruiz
Originally Answered: Cat Spraying

Thanks for sharing

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS
Originally Answered: Cat Spraying

Hi Pat,

I'm sorry that Dr Wooten hasn't had a chance to get back to you, but perhaps I can answer your question. My name is Dr Woodnutt and I'm a qualified vet with an interest in behavior.

I would say that what you're describing sounds a lot like a behavioral cause, because you say your cat is spraying - but let's look at the difference between spraying and urinating real quick

  • Spraying - scent marking on a vertical surface
  • Urinating - occurs on a horizontal surface

However, urination can also be behavioral, especially in a stressed cat!

If your cat is spraying foul-smelling urine on a vertical surface like the walls, furniture, or doors, this is definitely behavioral. It's important to remember that spraying is a normal behavior for cats - it's a way of communicating with other cats to determine their territory boundaries. 

So how can you help?

  • Check your resources (litter trays, food bowls, beds, toys, even cat flaps) - at a minimum, there should be one for each cat and a spare, so in your case that's three of everything.
  • Check your resource placement: There's no point having three litter trays if they're all lined up in a row. Dot them around the house so that there's always one nearby. Choose out-of-the-way quiet places, out of sight of windows.
  • Consider your cats' relationship: Deciding whether your cats are friends can be tough, as cats can have 'silent conflict' that's hard to pick up on. If they groom one another, it's likely they're genuinely friends. If they don't, it's possible conflict in the house is causing the problem.
  • Consider whether the spraying could be related to anything else upsetting your cat - noises, building work, a neighbor's cat visiting the garden, etc. You need to decide why your cat is trying so hard to mark his territory.

Ultimately, these things are often best fixed with an outside pair of eyes - your vet may be able to recommend a feline behaviorist who would be willing to help.

Wishing you the best of luck - can you pop back and update us soon?

Dr J Woodnutt MRCVS

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
Originally Answered: Cat Spraying

Hey Patt - thanks for attending the FB live - I appreciate you!


I would like to chime in and tell you that if the spraying has started back up again, then there is something amiss. It could be a primary urinary problem or it could be behavioral.

The first step is to determine whether it is urine spraying/marking or inappropriate elimination (urinating outside the litterbox). Here is an excellent article from the Humane Society of America on how to tell the difference.

The second step is to have your vet check your cat's urine for abnormalities. The BEST way to do this is sterile collection straight from the bladder (that is called cystocentesis) - that is the best way to determine if there is an infection. Unfortunately, that does require you take your cat to the vet, but if your cat suddenly starts spraying again, then you need the vet's eyes. If there is an infection or a problem with the urinary tract, your vet will figure that out. Even chronic pain can cause a cat to spray, so have the vet check your whole cat out.

If everything checks out, it is time to go on a hunt for whatever trigger is causing the spraying. Remember - if your cat is spraying, that is a message that your cat needs help. That is when you need to work through all the things that Dr. Woodnutt suggested. Try to remember if you have changed anything, or if you have had visitors or renovations or ??? Maybe the cat doesn't like where the current litterbox is or the type of litter or the box itself if you have changed any of those in the past couple of months. 

If there are any changes that you think would help (maybe you don't have enough resources, or the litter trays are too close, or one cat is bullying the other, etc.) then try to make them one at a time. That way, if the spraying decreases, then you will know what helped.

You can also set up a video camera to record your cat and see if you can figure out what the trigger is. 

Make sure your cat has other ways to express himself - some cats will stop spraying if you make sure they have adequate places to scratch and rub - sissel rope and cardboard make for great scratching material - just make sure to put them high enough so the cat can really stretch out and scratch. You can also look into using bunting combs

Another recommendation is using Feliway spray or diffusers - Feliway is a pheromone spray that helps cats calm down.

I also recommend barring access to the areas where the cat is spraying (if possible), and cleaning the sprayed areas with an enzymatic cleanser like Nature's Miracle. You can even try putting a litterbox where he is going right now, and if he starts using it, slowly migrate the box (over days) back to where you want it to be. Alternatively, you can try putting his food and water where he is urinating - cats usually won't go where they eat.

The gabapentin dosage may need to be increased for a little while to help your cat get back on track, and that is ok. Gabapentin is generally very safe and has very little side effects. Remember, you don't know what happened to the 5 year old before you adopted him, and clearly he is a special needs cat. I hope you get this resolved soon - ping us back and let us know how it is going. 


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