"I think my cat is spraying - it is urinating outside the box!"
Urine spraying or marking is not always the same thing as urinating outside of the litter box, or inappropriate urination. Urine spraying and marking typically targets a vertical surface such as a wall, door, or piece of furniture. It usually involves a relatively small amount of urine. Spraying refers to the passing of a small amount of urine while in a standing position, and urine marking is generally considered be occurring from either a standing or squatting position. Usually cats do not scratch the area after spraying or marking.Although any cat can spray or mark, unneutered male cats most commonly exhibit this behavior. Intact female cats are more likely to mark than spayed females, and neutered male cats are more likely to spray than spayed females. Remember that spraying and marking behavior is often normal in the cat's context. It is a response to sexual, territorial and physical challenges. However, it is not considered an acceptable behavior in most households and consequently every effort must be made to reduce or correct the initating causes.
Cats that are able to see, smell, or hear other cats are much more likely to spray or mark than cats housed by themselves. Even the presence of cats outside of an indoor cat's home can trigger spraying by the indoor cat.Inappropriate urination is generally considered to be urination with the goal of eliminating waste rather than marking territory. It usually involves a large amount of urine and is generally performed in a squatting position. It typically involves flat surfaces. Many cats will scratch after inappropriate urination similar to scratching in a litter box to cover waste.
Stress and anxiety along with health issues such as cystitis commonly trigger spraying or marking behaviors. Inappropriate urination may also be initiated by stress and health problems, especially when poor litter box care is present.
Again, inappropriate urination may be entirely normal in the cat's context. If the litter box is heavily soiled, it is normal behavior to seek out alternate locations to urinate. If the type of litter offered is unattractive to the cat, many cats will seek out more satisfactory substrates such as soft bedding or clothing. If the path to the litter box is blocked by the presence of a more dominant cat, alternate elimination areas may be found by the more subservient cat. We consider these types of eliminations to be inappropriate because they are result in unpleasant and unacceptable household cleaning challenges.
"What should I do to avoid urine spraying and marking and inappropriate urination?"
1. Spay and/or neuter your cat! This reduces the chance of urine spraying and marking by 90%.
2. Keep household cat populations reasonable. Some studies have shown that urine marking and spraying rates approach 100% at least intermittently in households with 5 or more cats.
3. Discourage outdoors cats from approaching your home and spraying the outside of your home and landscaping.
4. Increase vertical space in the house to increase home territories and travel routes for the cats.
5. Reduce stress and anxiety levels in cats by having a predictable routine for feeding and atttention.
6. Give significant levels of attention to each cat- even 10 minutes a day of playing and bonding can greatly enrich your cat's life and reduce the chance of spraying and marking.
7. Offer multiple litter box stations and food stations in multicat households. This helps prevent dominant cats from intimidating lower hierarchy cats from reaching necessary resources.
8. Keep the litter boxes clean- scoop daily and use a soft unscented litter in large open boxes such as plastic storage boxes. Have at least 1 more box than the number of cats in the household.
9. Finally- if litter box problems occur, whether they involve urine spraying, marking or inappropriate urination, have your cat evaluated immediately by your veterinarian. A urinalysis and often a blood sample are required in addition to a physical examination to determine the presence of heath issues such as cystitis, diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and arthritis. And last but not least, follow the medical and environmental recommendations of your veterinarian- nothing is going to change unless you make a change!