“Cricket” was a lively, four-year-old Siamese cat. He was always extremely vocal, and he “chirped” happily to himself all day, hence his name.
The past eighteen months had brought several changes to Cricket’s routine. His family had been working from home throughout the lockdown period and there was also a new addition to the household, a new, bouncy puppy.
Recently Cricket, who had always been a very clean cat, had been found spraying urine and sometimes urinating in other areas within the home.
Understandably his owners were not happy about his recent behaviour, and he was brought in for a check-up. Cricket was checked over and a urine sample tested. He was found to be healthy, and his urine sample was also normal. I advised his owners that his behaviour was stress related and likely to be due to the recent changes in his usual routine.
Cats will spray urine to mark their own territory. They normally spray in specific places: Busy thoroughfares where people come and go, to and from the house. Full-length curtains are often used. Also, new items, or ones which can smell differently, e.g., shopping bags, suitcases, handbags, shoes, and coats. Items that heat up and cool down e.g., radiators.
Cats will frequently mark the same area to ‘top up’ the fading smell of a previous mark, so you may find several areas in the home that are regularly marked on repeated occasions.
Spraying of this kind is called reactional spraying and normally becomes an issue when a cat feels threatened by something different in the house and so spray indoors to help them feel secure and safer. Reactional spraying occurs when there has been a change in your cat’s environment, either physically, or with the addition of new pets or people. There is a reaction when the change is in a place where they usually would feel safe, called their ‘core area’, which is where they eat, sleep and play.
You do need to rule out an underlying medical reason for inappropriate urination. Contact your vet and arrange for a thorough health check. If your vet is unable to find a physical reason why your cat is spraying, then it might be a behavioural issue. It could be something like the introduction of a new cat or dog to the household, or a less obvious trigger like a new cat in the area.
If your cat sprays in the home, punishment is not the answer, this will only make the cat fearful, and the problem ultimately worse. Despite the unpleasant nature of this problem, it is important to remember this is not a "dirty protest" and your cat is not seeking revenge or making a point. He is spraying because something has gone wrong in his wee world, and he wants to feel safe and secure again. While you are trying to resolve the problem, treat your cat as you would normally as cats are very in tune with changes in their owner’s behaviour and if they feel unsettled this could lead to more spraying.
Clean the soiled area as soon as you notice with a 10% solution of biological or enzymatic washing powder and then rinse with cold water and allow the area to dry thoroughly avoiding oversaturation. Once the area is dry, the final step of the cleaning process is to spray lightly with surgical spirit using a plant mister, scrub gently and leave to evaporate. You may want to try a small area first on delicate fabrics. You can use an enzymatic cleaner specifically sold for removing pet urine stains and odour. As well as cleaning you can also apply a synthetic pheromone cat friendly spray which your cat will find reassuring.
Cat spraying can be tricky behavioural problem to resolve. Just cleaning the area your cat has sprayed may not resolve the problem, and your cat might simply find new areas to spray. There are certain things that all cats need to be happy and healthy and providing an environment which feels safe to them will help to reduce any stress your cat may be experiencing. Keep a diary and make a note of where and when the spraying mostly takes place. Make sure your cat has enough litter trays, that they’re the right size, in the right place, have the right amount of the right litter, and are place in a quiet area. Ensure that your cat has a safe place to escape to in the home, with toys, igloo beds, cardboard boxes and viewing areas placed at a height to help them feel more secure. You can use a cat friendly pheromone plug in, and there are some natural anxiolytic oral treatments that can be of some additional help too.
If nothing seems to be working to stop your cat spraying in your home, then your Vet may be able to refer you to a cat behaviourist.
Cricket took time to adjust to his family’s new routine, and to the new edition, the puppy. He began to feel safe in his own quiet area though and gradually he did settle down, and thankfully his spraying eventually stopped.
His owners were very relieved, and he was a happy, chirpy little “Cricket” again!