Cat Spraying: Why Your Cat Marks His Territory


Cat spraying is quite frustrating to cat guardians. It often takes a while to get to the heart of what’s behind the spraying

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What Causes Cat Spraying?

In her book, Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–Not a Sour Puss, Pam Johnson-Bennett explains some reasons for cat spraying:

  • Cats are very territorial, so the spraying behavior may be a cat marking his territory
  • Stressful situations, such as the appearance of another cat outside, or arrival of a new cat to the household
  • Scent of an unfamiliar cat on his guardian’s clothes
  • Moving to a new house, or remodeling in the existing house
  • Unfamiliar visitors
  • Tension between cats in the house
  • Too many cats in the house

When cat spraying occurs, the cat exhibiting the behavior is trying to communicate with other cats, or his guardian. In order to stop the behavior, it’s necessary to figure out what’s causing it.

Once you determine the cause, remove the problem if possible or work on modifying your cat’s association to whatever is causing the problem.

Location, Location, Location

Where the spraying occurs can often help you determine the cause.  If the spraying is happening near doors or windows, the cause is probably appearance of a new outdoor cat.

Cat spraying on new items, such as a new piece of furniture usually is a cat’s reaction to the foreign scent.

Common reasons for cat spraying are addition of a new cat to the household, or conflict with another cat already in the household.

Don’t Assume It’s A Behavior Problem

When you determine you have a cat spraying problem, don’t automatically assume it’s behaviorial.  Cats often urinate outside the litter box when they aren’t feeling well.

When a cat has a urinary tract infection, she can associate the litter box with pain when urinating and begin avoiding the box, thinking it will stop the pain.

If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, take her to the veterinarian and have her tested for kidney and bladder infections to rule out a physical cause for the problem.

In Multi-cat Households, Determine Which Is Spraying

For multi-cat households, it’s important to determine which cat is the one doing the spraying.

In order to identify a solution that will work, you must know the offender. Set up a video camera near the litter box to see who’s using it and who isn’t.

If you are a single cat household, a video camera set up to view the area near the spraying locale provides insight to help solve the problem.


As with many feline behavior issues, it can take a while to figure out the cause, and make the necessary modifications.  It’s important to be patient and observant to find the combination that will work.


Written by Karen


Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.