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Most cat owners know that male cats that aren’t neutered spray to mark their territory or attract a mating partner.
Spraying is different from inappropriate urination, as it doesn’t cause a puddle of urine, but rather a pungent spray on walls, furniture, windows, doors, etcetera.
Some people are often surprised to see their female cats engaging in the same behavior. Do female cats spray? Is it normal? The answer is yes. Just like male cats, females like to show their dominance and spray when they are ready to mate.
Vets and cat experts agree that stress and anxiety are two of the most common reasons that a cat might feel insecure, timid, or fearful in general. Spraying is a sort of defense mechanism that makes the cat feel more secure and in charge of things.
Here are a few situations that may make your cat feel stressed or scared:
1. Conflicts with other cats in the house
If there are many cats in the house and they don’t get along well, the one that is scared may express herself by spraying on things. While you may not be able to sense the tension between them, there may be some bullying or harassment going on.
The introduction of a new cat that gets more attention in the house may also make your female cat feel insecure about losing her status. She may spray to mark her dominance and signal to the new family member that she is the boss.
To avoid such triggers, provide different beds for sleeping, food bowls, and litter boxes to your cats so that they don’t compete for resources. When a new cat joins the family, spend some time introducing her to the other cats so that they don’t feel insecure.
Make sure the older cat gets the same amount of belly rubs, cuddles, and attention as before so that she knows your love is undivided.
2. Neighbourhood cats
At times, the cause of the stress may not be within your control because it is induced by neighborhood or stray cats.
When your cat sees noisy neighbours outside, they may feel intimidated about losing their territory. This may trigger their natural instinct to spray on things so that the outdoor cats get the message and stay away.
No matter how much we may dislike it, spraying gives your cat a sense of calm and security. To avoid this, keep the window blinds closed so that she does not see or interact with stray cats.
Also keep scratching posts in the house because they help your cat release stress and calm down.
3. Changes in routine
Sudden changes in your normal day-to-day routine may spike the anxiety levels of your cat. So, if your cat has been spraying a lot recently, consider anything that may have changed in the household – a new boyfriend, a new baby, a new cat sitter, or veterinary visits.
To fix this behavioral issue, give your cat some time to adjust to the change and be patient. Let the new person (a new boyfriend, guest or caretaker) play with your cat and give her treats so that she doesn’t feel scared or insecure.
4. Medical issues
While spraying in female cats is mostly related to behaviour, there may be medical reasons behind it. Cystitis or bladder inflammation is a medical condition caused by an infection of the urinary tract or bladder stones causing discomfort.
Before you assume that your cat’s spraying is a behavioral issue, take her to a vet for a thorough examination to rule out any medical problems. Severe sprayers may often be put on anti-anxiety medication, but you must be prepared to give this medication to her for a long time.
Now let’s cover two of the most common questions that we get asked related to female cats and spraying:
Do female cats spray when in heat?
Yes, both male and female cats spray when in heat. They use urine as a tool for communication. It can communicate many things such as sex, status, age, and availability.
Female cats can spray to indicate that they are sexually mature to reproduce. The first heat cycle in females often occurs at about 6 months, and sometimes it may be as early as 4 months.
Besides spraying, a female cat may indicate her readiness to mate with other common signs such as unusual irritability, affectionate behavior, and frequent vocalization. If you see your cat standing vertically against a wall or window and spraying urine, it’s normal feline behavior.
Here’s what a female cat spraying while in heat looks like:
Do female cats spray after being spayed?
When in heat, female cats may use spraying as a means to inform male cats about their availability. But what happens when a female cat is spayed? Does she cease spraying?
If you got your female cat spayed (or fixed) to stop her from spraying around the house, then you may end up disappointed. Fixed cats can also spray, but it’s not due to the heat cycle.
There may be other reasons behind the continued spraying, and a common one is that they got into a habit of spraying before they were fixed.
Remember that if your female cat can urinate, she can spray too, and getting her spayed is not guaranteed to stop her from wetting things around the house.
Don’t punish your cat when she engages in the act, but try to investigate the reason(s) behind it. Use an enzyme cleaner to get rid of the smell, and consider using synthetic pheromones to help your cat stay calm.