Numerous Causes Account for Urine Spraying in Cats

oct. 24, 2012

Urine spraying is not confined strictly to intact tomcats. Cats, whether male or female, neutered or unneutered, may spray urine to mark their territory when they feel stressed.  Spraying urine is one of many methods that cats use to mark their territory. Other methods include visual marking (e.g. scratching objects) and leaving their scent (e.g. rubbing objects with the side if their face).  Cats use territorial marking to delineate or outline their "property", thereby reassuring themselves that this "property" will not be "violated".  The territory may be wide-ranging, as is the case with most tomcats, or it may be confined to a relatively small area, as is the case with indoor cats.   If they are not threatened, most cats do not feel the need to mark their territory at all and are quite content to leave the worrying to us.

Numerous factors can cause a cat to suddenly begin to spray urine.  Most commonly, some form of emotional upset is involved. For example, competition may exist with another cat in the neighbourhood over who owns what.  A cat may be afraid of another cat or be in competition with it over who owns the territory. Often, when the threat (i.e. competing cat) is removed, the urine spraying stops.

Cats may also spray urine if there is some type of stressful change in the household.  For example, moving to a new house or the arrival of a new baby or pet in the household can lead to urine spraying.  In other words, cats may spray as a way of dealing with stress and anxiety.

In a few cases, urine spraying (and defecation) may actually be a form of vindictiveness on the cat's part, particularly with indoor cats. Some cats may defecate or urinate out of spite after being punished or scolded.  While many cat owners know this to be the case with their cats, proving spitefulness is usually difficult.

Cats that urine spray outdoors are not a problem. On the other hand, indoor cats that spray pose a serious health and hygiene problem. If it occurs in a single-cat household, the cat should be examined by a veterinarian and its urine tested to make sure that there is no concurrent urinary tract problem that may be causing the problem. If there is no underlying medical problem, the owner should try to determine the initiating stress that is precipitating the spraying and try to remove it. 

In multiple cat households, urine spraying becomes extremely difficult to resolve because of the natural competitiveness between the various cats. If the cause for urine spraying cannot be determined or removed, a deconditioning program or treatment with drugs, or both, may be necessary. (2012)