Why is my Female Cat Spraying all of a Sudden? Myths Vs Facts

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 05/07/22 •  15 min read
Water spray

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I don’t know why my female cat started spraying suddenly!

One day, she was perfectly fine, and the next day, she started spraying.

Why is she doing this, now? I wondered.

I remember the first time she ever marked, it was back when I was still living with my uncle and he had brought her home a month ago in a wee little box.

She was so young and defenseless. The poor thing had no idea what she had gotten herself into until that fateful night she managed to find her way upstairs to the bedroom.

She found the corner furthest from our bed, raised her hind leg, closed her eyes, and let loose!

The smell repulsed me and I cringed as I ran and got a towel to mop up the mushy mess she made.

I mean, wasn’t the cat litter box enough?

If you’re reading this blog post chances are you’ve either been on the receiving end of a pungent spray outside of the litter box.

This has been a phenomenon I’ve seen throughout my years as an animal caregiver and one that I would like to share with you.

If you want to learn about why your female cats are spraying outside of the litter box, keep on reading.

I’ll tell you her story, how we solved the problem and how you can solve it too.

What exactly is spraying?

Urine marking is central to how cats communicate. Primarily, this is common in intact male cats although intact female kitties and even neutered felines spray, especially when under stress or when they feel threatened.

The pheromones in the cat urine communicate strongly to other felines in the environment in which the specific territory is occupied. A new invader smells the mark and is quickly deterred away.

Spraying commonly occurs during mating season, by both males and as they advertise their availability to mate with another cat through their pheromones. They mark surfaces and objects while at it.

Spraying involves the cat backing up to the object of interest, holding up her tail erect with its tip shaking, and jetting out the stream of urine that is strong-smelling. This is done at a height that can be sniffed by other cats.

Interestingly, in a multi-cat household, cats can tell the scent of urine sprayed by a fellow cat vs a new intruder.

Where does cat spray come from?

Cats communicate in various ways and scent marking is one of the forms of scent communication. Marking by cats can involve rubbing a person, especially their legs or a household object with their chins, foreheads, or even cheeks. These are parts that contain scent glands.

While the above are well tolerated, cats do take this marking a notch higher by spraying their urine. The urine contains a fatty component that leaves a sharp strong smell on the object sprayed. The rectum contains small anal glands that eject fluid to mark the feces of the cat with a unique identifying scent.

If you divide your cat into two, the scent glands on the upper part where the head lies are friendly hormones. The cat uses these to mark their territory that is close to where he lives. They have a calming effect on cats and show that the cat has a sense of security and that the territory is secured.

On the other hand, the lower part of the pet body contains scent glands that are for alarming purposes. This is because they are released during urination when a cat is stressed.

Male cats are notorious when it comes to urine spraying but some females spray too.

Unneutered male cats become territorial usually when they reach maturity, and they begin urine spraying as a way of stamping their authority and establishing and defining their ground to mark their territory.

The odor can make the cats more self-confident and more comfortable in their territory. This is true even for new cats, as they use this tactic to settle in.

A cat may spray on the vertical surface in the house or environment so that the scent marks are at a level that other new cats in the house or neighborhood can tell precisely that the territory is taken.

How do you tell that your cat is urine marking?

During urine cat spraying, a cat backs up to the object of interest, holding up her tail erect with its tip shaking, and jets out the stream of urine that is strong-smelling.

This is done at a height that can be sniffed by other cats. The quantity released is a controlled small amount of urine.

They use this method to communicate. Call it pheromone power.

Normal pee will be deposited on the litter or a flat surface where the cat can scratch and try to bury the pee.

The urine released during cat spraying is laden with pheromones that communicate to fellow cats to stay away. As a pet owner, you can catch the smell from the spraying cats and notice that it’s different from what you are used to. You may also see a stain-like mark on the surface.

Why is my female cat suddenly spraying?

Usually, your cat begins spraying when triggered by various factors such as:

This can trigger your cat to also have other behavioral changes.

 When you shift her to a new place, that they probably don’t like, this may also lead to cat spraying.

A litter box that they use but is now laden with waste may also cause her to use your furniture leg to signal that she’s unhappy.

 Let’s face it, your cat does not like competition. A dog or other animal will upset her too. You may like or favor a particular pet, and your cat notices this.

Potential medical reasons include:

Cystitis: This is a medical condition involving inflammation of the bladder due to a urinary tract infection, urine crystals, bladder stones, or other triggers.

Sterile cystitis: This is a medical problem caused by other reasons that don’t involve a bladder infection or crystal stones. These can cause discomfort and affect the urinary tract resulting in elimination outside of the kitty litter box by the cat.

For this reason, when your cat begins spraying, start by taking her to the veterinary officer to rule out any medical issues.

Hose spraying water

How do you stop a female cat from spraying?

This is how to stop a female cat from spraying indoors.

1.    Rule out any urinary tract medical issues:

Urinary tract infections are nasty! As soon as you notice that your cat is spraying, have her checked by the vet to rule out any medical condition.

They are recurring too, so just because she was treated 8 months ago doesn’t mean that she can’t fall ill again.

It is, however, a treatable medical condition and your cat should be back to normal quickly.

2.    Spay your cat:

The number one most effective method used to stop your female cat from spraying is by spaying. This involves surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. Male cats undergo neutering as a solution to the problem.

This is an irreversible medical procedure for your cat. The result is that your cat becomes less aggressive and noisy, more playful, affectionate, and content.

There is a reduced risk of uterine and ovarian feline diseases and breast tumors in cats.

Statistics have shown that 95% of female cats cease urine marking usually within three weeks to three months after the procedure.

If the surgical procedure is done before sexual maturity is reached, almost all the cats never start to urine spray.

Try and investigate the source of your cat’s anxiety and stress and come up with remedies to this even though it may also take time. Knowing when she started spraying may help identify the stressors.

Get your pet professional help as soon as it’s necessary.

3.    Address the Bully cats:

Can you pause for a minute and just accept that your sweet favorite cat may be a bully and you are just too blind to see it, mainly because you don’t understand how cats communicate. A cat staring at a new cat may be all that it takes.

Separate the feeding areas from the litter box. Provide multiple sleeping areas too as this ensures the cats are not competing for limited resources. This may help solve the problem of marking.

To reduce any territory conflicts, the following hacks may help:

Ensure that you gradually introduce a new kitten or cat to the other cats in the home. This will help in warming up each cat to the other.

The goal is to make sure they like each other enough that the new cat isn’t attacked.

You may have to neuter or spay all the cats. This will help reduce cat aggression and calm them down even though they haven’t shown signs of aggression.

Have sufficient litter boxes to avoid the dominant cat from preventing the submissive cat from relieving herself in the litter box. Have these litter boxes in different rooms.

To avoid having the timid cat from feeling trapped or ambushed, provide enough entry and escape routes around each litter box.

4.    Avoid the strange neighbor cats:

That nosy cat occupying the view of your sitting room window on the outside could be the reason your cat started spraying near the windows or doors. You don’t need another cat staring at your pet.

To solve this, draw the curtains and close the blinds on the windows. Simple, right?

Attaching a motion detector gadget to the lawn sprinkler will do wonders in keeping away neighborhood cats that only end up stressing up your cat. A sprayed cat will run for the hills. This definitely will help keep any strange cat away!

If you are cheeky enough you can also use an all rights reserved sign aimed at your neighbor cats!

5.    Adjust to the mating season:

During this time, the female cat that hasn’t been spayed may begin to spray in a bid to release pheromones in the area and announce to the male cats that she is available. The male cat has only one option but to swipe right! (Hello tinder for cats)

6.    Deploy an enzymatic cleaner:

Use an enzymatic cleaner, as it will save you loads of stress and future problems when you use it correctly. Even though ordinary soap may help clear the smell according to your nostrils, remember that felines have heightened smell senses and can still detect urine smell in the cleaned area. An enzymatic cleaner is the only way to make sure that you’ve knocked this problem out completely.

Thoroughly clean marked areas with an effective enzyme cleaner. It might take a couple of applications until the smell of urine by the spraying cat is eliminated.

7.    Use a synthetic pheromone:

Watch this two-minute video on how this works:

How to stop a cat from spraying indoors:

Feliway is a spray or diffuser that has analogs of natural cat facial pheromones. This is a must-have for all cat owners for its use has great benefits for a stressed cat.

It should be sprayed on the objects around the house as it calms the cat and counteracts the cat’s alarm pheromones responsible for spraying. This way, it may help in stopping marking by your pet.

You should spray it every day for 30 days onto the areas where the cat had previously marked and on the vertical surface.

It is available as a plug-in diffuser or spray. The diffuser works well for busy cat owners since it only needs to be plugged in the room where urine spraying has been happening.

In case multiple rooms are affected, by the cat that has started spraying, you should get multiple diffusers for each room.

What not to do in the event your cat is urine spraying

Can female cats spray after being fixed?

The number one most effective method used to stop your female cat from spraying is by spaying. This is a medical condition that involves surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus from the pet.

This is an irreversible procedure for your cat. The result is that your cat becomes less aggressive and noisy, more playful, affectionate, and content.

There is a reduced risk of medical problems such as uterine and ovarian feline diseases and breast tumors in cats.

Statistics have shown that 95% of female kitties cease urine marking usually within three weeks to three months after the procedure.

If the surgical procedure is done before sexual maturity is reached, almost all the cats never start to mark.

Why would a fixed female cat spray?

If your female cat has already been fixed and is still spraying, she may:

Apply these follow-up treatment options for the small percentage of your cats that continue to spray after being fixed.

  1. Twice daily scooping and weekly washing of the litter box.
  2. If there are outdoor neighbor cats present, close the window drapes to prevent your spraying cat from seeing them.
  3. Clean any urine marks using an enzymatic cleaner
  4. If your cat is spraying on one or two specific spots in the house, use those areas as her feeding spots.
  5. Under the supervision of your veterinarian, administer anti-anxiety drugs such as fluoxetine and amitriptyline.

Do female cats spray to mark their territory?

Yes, female cats spray to mark their territory among other reasons. Spraying is a territory-marking behavior, and your cat will do it, especially when feeling threatened or insecure.

Do female cats spray on walls?

Yes, female kitties spray on walls, because cat spraying is a territory-marking behavior, usually done against vertical platforms like walls.

Why is my male cat spraying all of a sudden?

Usually, when a male cat sprays, it’s because he feels threatened. He might feel threatened by other cats in the neighborhood. He could also be feeling threatened by something that you can’t see — a neighbor’s pet or a stray animal.

He will spray to mark his territory.

Conclusion:

Many cat owners wrongfully assume that male and female cats spray exclusively to mark their territory. Unfortunately, this is a complex form of communication used for many purposes and goes beyond territorial marking.

The good news is that we have a wide range of possible causes for this cat behavior, and there are just as many ways to try and address the issue.

Understand why she is doing it and you will be on a home run in solving the problem once and for all.

After all, who doesn’t want a cat that eliminates exclusively in her litter box?

Davis Wilkins

Davis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.