THE FELINE GOLDEN SHOWER

By November 11, 2019 Veterinary Advice

By Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M. BSC

TO SPRAY:  to atomize, drizzle, dust, scatter, shoot, shower, smear, spatter, splash, spritz, squirt, throw around . ( These  synonyms  are from a  GOOGLE SEARCH :  Thesaurus com/browse).

Spraying behavior is a communication system of cats, a kind of twitter post to other resident felines providing important information from the cat’s point of view about his or her gender, territorial rights and claim for social status.  The spray message also can be a notice of availability for those cats wishing to attract members of the opposite sex.

Spraying of urine, also known as marking, is an activity which starts with the cat backing up to a socially significant surface such as a wall, couch, bed, a pile of laundry or an owner’s personal possession.  It then vibrates or flags his or her tail while ejecting a horizontal stream of very pungent, pheromone-rich urine to anoint the chosen area.

Spraying is a normal feline behavior and not generally a litter box problem. The cat does not need to pee, for peeing’s sake, but is experiencing a desire to leave a  “ pee-mail” message for other cats.  Intact male cats are the most likely to spritz urine although neutered and un-neutered cats of all ages are capable of doing so.      

Frustrated or anxious cats may spray because of changes in their environment or routine. As well, anxiety brought on from being picked on by “ he or she who must be obeyed ”cat types or playful dogs can bring on episodes of this behavior. Disruption of their previously established social status due to an introduction of a new cat or family member may also be a trigger, Cats disturbed by these issues probably urine mark to create a familiar scent around them, thus decreasing some of their anxiety.

In mult-cat households, especially if the living space is cramped, territorial disputes and conflicts are much more likely to occur. In many cases if one ensures that that there are adequate numbers of food bowls, resting places and litter boxes for each cat their will be a noticeable reduction in the number of spraying episodes. A good litter box formula is to have one box per cat plus one extra box.  Litter boxes themselves should always be well tended, spaced out from each other and attractive to each cat.  Features of importance include cleanliness, litter depth, (optimally three to four inches deep in litter), type of litter and size of litter box. (Bigger is definitely better!). Studies show that many cats prefer unscented clumping materials to scented or clay litter products.  Litter boxes should be easily accessible, placed in quiet locations and where the cats spend most of their time.

Time spent in positive interactions such as brushing and game playing with your cat is time well spent. It provides a positive bonding experience for both parties.   Punishment should always be avoided as it can increase anxiety and create the potential increase of unwanted spraying behavior.  

Some factors outside the control of an owner such as the presence of neighborhood cats or squirrels can trigger marking behavior.   Blocking off of windows and glass patio doors from the cats view may help with this problem

To keep cats out of certain areas there is a product called a ScatMat. The ScatMat responds to your pet’s touch with a mild, harmless static pulse. Pets soon learn which areas to keep away from.

Anti-Icky-Poo (1-800-745-1671) or Nature’s Miracle are good urine cleansers. If there are only a few target spots then one can attempt to make those areas less attractive by covering them with aluminum foil, by placing upside down plastic runners  (nubs up) as obstacles or by placing potpourri at the marking sites.  In a pinch, even vinegar helps but do be sure to avoid ammonia since the ammonia smell of urine is what encourages the cat to return to the same place repeatedly to supplement the scent!

If it becomes apparent that these measures are ineffective it is very useful to have the offender checked by your vet for some underlying medical causes.  These can range from bladder disorders to metabolic diseases to aging changes resulting in marking as a display of irritability by older cats.   Numerous effective medications are available to help with the great majority of these problems.

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