HomeBehavior & trainingHow Can I Stop a Cat From Spraying?

How Can I Stop a Cat From Spraying?

Is your cat spraying? Read more to learn the why cats spray and effective methods to stop this behavior.

by Adrienne A. Kruzer, BBA, RVT, LVT, | March 18, 2024

How Can I Stop a Cat From Spraying?

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Did you just discover that your cat has been spraying? It’s more common than you might think. The harsh reality is that some cats eat spray. Spraying once or twice a year (while super gross) isn’t cause for concern, although it’s not much fun to clean up. But if your cat sprays more than once a week, you have a behavior that could soon become a hard-to-break habit.

Cat spraying is widely misunderstood, but it can sometimes be solvable by identifying root triggers and applying modifications or treatments. Patience — coupled with cleaning, vet assessments to rule out health conditions, and positive reinforcement — can help increase the likelihood of an odor-free future for you and your cat. Read on for our step-by-step tips for stopping your cat from spraying.

What is spraying in cats? 

Cat spraying is an unwanted behavior in which cats spread their urine onto a surface such as a wall or piece of furniture. Spraying can occur in both male and female cats. It is messy and smelly, and it indicates that your cat is trying to tell you something.

What is the difference between cat urine and spray?

When an indoor cat urinates in a normal fashion, it squats and empty its bladder into a litter box, leaving a puddle of urine that gets absorbed into the litter. When a cat sprays, it is still urinating, but it typically remains standing while raising and wiggles its tail as urine is sprayed vertically, usually onto a wall, curtain, or piece of furniture. 

On occasion a cat will squat when spraying but this is not typical. The bladder usually isn’t emptied when a cat sprays but both regular urination and spraying produces urine. The reasons why and how your cat is eliminating urine are different though. Vertical urine spraying is not the same thing as a cat squatting to pee and empty their bladder outside the litter box. Cats purposefully spray as a means of communication while they urinate to simply relieve their bladders.

Why do cats spray? 

Why do male cats spray? Why do female cats spray? The answers are sometimes the same, but it’s helpful to understand the reasons for both sexes if you want to know how to stop them from spraying indoors. Cats communicate differently than humans so while they may make some noises, the things they do, like spraying, are also often cries for help.


If your cat has an underlying medical issue, they may be spraying to tell you something is wrong. Cats are very good at masking pain so they may spray to express their discomfort. Medical issues that can cause your cat to spray include cystitis, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease and even arthritis. Diagnosing and treating a medical problem will require a visit to your veterinarian so that an appropriate and effective treatment plan can be made. 

Just because your cat suddenly starts spraying doesn’t mean that a medical issue just started though. The medical issue may have been going on for a while or could have suddenly started so a full work-up by your veterinarian may be warranted to figure out if there’s an underlying medical issue for your cat’s spraying.


If a vet has ruled out a medical problem, the underlying reason for your cat to be spraying is a behavioral one. Territorial feelings, anxiety, and your cat’s sex drive can all cause them to spray to mark their territory. There are a variety of reasons why a cat may feel stressed and/or anxious, territorial, or have the desire to mate and therefore start spraying. 

Some common behavioral reasons for a cat to start spraying include: having a new person or pet in the household; there’s construction in or around the home; your indoor cat has smelled or seen an outdoor cat; your cat is in heat or smells another cat in heat; the type of food, litter, or litter box was changed; there aren’t enough litter box options for all of your cats; and many other things. 

It can be difficult to determine the root cause of your cat’s behavioral issues so if you are unable to solve the problem by yourself, veterinary professionals specialized in behavior are available to help. 

Tactics to stop cat spraying

The things you can do to stop cat spraying will vary depending on the reason for your cat to be spraying in the first place.

1. Vet check-up

If you don’t see any obvious environmental reason for your cat to suddenly start spraying, you’ll want to get your cat checked out by your veterinarian. A full physical exam alongside diagnostic testing, such as blood work, urine tests, X-rays, and an ultrasound, may be recommended in order to determine your cat’s health status. If there are any abnormalities in the physical exam or test results, your veterinarian will hopefully be able to make a diagnosis and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. 

Depending on the diagnosis, treatment may include medications, supplements, dietary changes, or even surgery. Depending on the diagnosis, these treatments may be temporary or permanent lifestyle changes. If there are no abnormalities in your cat’s check-up or test results, a discussion surrounding your cat’s environment and any potential stressors and anxiety triggers should be held. 

2. Neutering and spaying

If you’re wondering how to get a male cat to stop spraying, having him neutered is the first thing you should do. If you’re wondering how to get a female cat to stop spraying, having her spayed is the first thing you should do. Eliminating a female cat’s ability to go into heat and the sex drive of both males and females may be the solution to your spraying problem. For male cats in particular, having them neutered before the age of five and a half months has been shown to decrease urine spraying behavior, so hopefully, you’ll never have to ask yourself, “Why is my fixed cat spraying?”

3. Provide stress relief

A cat who is spraying because they are stressed needs help. Using feline pheromones in your home is one way to help decrease your cat’s stress but whenever possible, you’ll also want to eliminate the source of the stress. This can be easy to do if the stressor is something like a new litter box or house plant but if it’s a person or pet, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make the environmental change your cat is requesting.

In addition to the pheromones, you may need to discuss giving anxiety-reducing medication to your cat or using calming foods or supplements. These options may help provide enough stress relief to your cat that they stop spraying without having to eliminate the source of the stress or to temporarily help your cat if the stressor won’t last forever, such as construction or a visitor in your home. If you are unable to have your male cat neutered and are wondering how to stop a male cat from spraying without neutering, these stress relief tactics may also be helpful.

4. Clean the marked area

To discourage continued spraying, a thorough cleaning of the marked area should be done as soon as you notice the mess alongside treatment for the underlying medical or behavioral issue. A special enzyme-based cleaner should be used instead of a cleaning solution that temporarily masks the smell. This will help prevent your cat from wanting to spray in that same spot again and destroy the odor so you don’t have to keep smelling it. Follow the instructions on the enzyme cleaner to get the best results.

Commonly asked questions

How to train a cat to use a litter box

Thankfully, it’s not difficult to train a cat to use a litter box. When a cat pees or poops, they will naturally want to bury their waste. By simply providing your cat with a clean container that contains a loose substrate-like litter, your cat will want to make use of it. Be sure your cat has an appropriately sized litter box with litter that’s about one to two inches deep. At least one edge of the litter box should be low enough for your cat to easily get into and out of the box on their own and enough space to turn around and scratch.

If you have a new kitten, gently set them in one of their litter boxes when you bring them home so they know where at least one of their boxes is and allow them to climb and explore on their own. Cats of any age should have access to their litter boxes at all times, the litter boxes should be placed in quiet areas, and there should be at least one more litter box than there are cats in the home to give everyone options to use.


Spraying and marking indoors

A Meta-Analysis of Studies of Treatments for Feline Urine Spraying

Current Perspectives on the Optimal Age to Spay/Castrate Dogs and Cats

Adrienne A. Kruzer, BBA, RVT, LVT

Adrienne A. Kruzer, BBA, RVT, LVT

Adrienne Kruzer is an accomplished veterinary technician and writer with over 15 years of hands-on experience caring for domestic and exotic animals.

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