New Product Helps Curb Urine Spraying Behavior in Cats
Michael W. Stephan, D.V.M.
Juno Beach Animal Hospital
Urine spraying in cats can be a frustrating and difficult problem to treat. There are a number of medical conditions which can result in inappropriate urination and these should be investigated and ruled out before a diagnosis of behavioral spraying is made. If, however, there is no medical reason for the spraying, Feliway, a pheromone spray, has been proven effective in reducing or eliminating this behavior.
Urine spraying is a specific behavior of both male and female cats. During normal urination, the cats assume a squatting posture and urinate on a flat, horizontal surface. When a cat is spraying, they will typically back up to their chosen target, stand with their rear end held high, and its tail erect and quivering, and squirt a small stream of urine. The marks of urine spraying are usually found 8 to 10 inches above floor level on a wall, door, or piece of furniture. Occasionally cats will stand in the middle of an open area and spray, and in this case the urine will just be found on the floor. Observation of the spraying in the upright position as opposed to the normal squatting posture is key in determining that this is urine spraying.
Urine spraying commonly occurs in two different situations. In the first situation, intact males and females will spray at the onset of estrus, or heat. This is the females way of advertizing the fact that she is in heat, and the males way of announcing that he is available and is staking out a territory. In the second situation, the cat is marking in response to a stressful change in its environment.
If you are dealing with the first situation, you should start by having your cat neutered or spayed. Some male cats may continue spraying after neutering, but most will stop shortly after surgery.
In the second situation it may be helpful to identify the object of your cats stress. It may be the introduction of a new pet, or the addition of a new person in the household, either a new baby, an aging parent who moves in with you, or a new partner. Cats may also be stressed by the loss of a person in the house, the death of a family member, or a child going away to college. Unlike dogs, cats are also very focused on their physical surroundings and possessions. The addition of a new piece of furniture, or finally getting rid of that ratty old chair that only your husband and the cat ever sat in, may stress them both.
Keep in mind that in nature, cats are solitary creatures. While most cats have adapted well to our desire to keep three or more of them around, this may create more stress than one of them can handle. Even cats who appear to get along well, may in fact, be experiencing struggles for dominance which are not readily apparent to the casual observer. The first signs of these struggles will usually appear at the food dish, litter box, or favorite sleeping spot.
Feliway spray is applied directly to the urine marking spots and other prominent vertical objects in the house twice a day. Feliway is colorless and odorless to people, but contains pheromone from the facial glands of cats used for marking. In the study of 57 households in the Midwest, there was a decrease in the number of marking episodes within the first week of use, and total elimination of spraying in one third of the households by the fourth week of use. The number of cats per household varied from one to thirty eight, and there was no correlation between the effectiveness of the product with the number of cats or the ages or sex of the cats, or the duration of the problem.
If you are experiencing problems with urine spraying with your cat, have them evaluated to rule out any underlying medical conditions. If no organic reason for the spraying can be found, Feliway spray may help eliminate the problem.