How often do cats spray?

People ask the question, “how often do cats spray?”. The question is imprecise because it can only genuinely apply to wild cat species as domestic cats are normally neutered and neutered cats spray relatively infrequently and only when they feel driven to do it, perhaps because of anxiety.

If you refer the question to wild cat species the answer is quite interesting. For example, male servals spray up to 41.2 times per kilometre or 46 times per hour! That seems like an extraordinarily high figure but it is not unusual amongst the wild cat species because bobcats spray between 1.9 and 7.5 times per kilometre. Moving on to the Canada Lynx they spray more frequently than bobcats at about 10 times per kilometre. Tigers spray territory up to 11 times every 30 minutes. I think that you will find these statistics quite unexpected. Certainly, for me, wild cats spray urine as a territorial marker far more often than I had envisaged. I was sprayed by a large male serval as I was in his enclosure and my benign presence (I was photographing him) threatened him. Tigers sometimes spray visitors at zoos!

As for domestic cats, I don’t think you can say that they spray regularly because they usually don’t. There may be particular circumstances under which a domestic cat feels motivated to spray. Doctor Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense refers to the work of a colleague of his, Rachel Casey, a veterinarian, who specialises in feline behavioural disorders. She regularly diagnoses anxiety and fear as the main factors driving domestic cats to urinate and defecate indoors, outside the litter tray.

“Some cats spray the walls or furniture with urine, possibly to deter other cats from entering their owner’s house believing it to be cat-free; others find the point in the house farthest from the cat flap and urinate there, seemingly terrified of attracting the attention of any other cat.”

So in answer to the question in the title with regard to domestic cats, you cannot answer it because domestic cats do not spray routinely and there is no average but this is not the case, as mentioned above, with wild cat species. This is because wild cats are unneutered and they live an entirely wild and therefore natural life resulting in spraying in an entirely natural way.

The life of a domestic cat is, I would, argue unnatural as the domestic cat is barely domesticated. Therefore a cat’s behaviour is relatively unnatural but adapted to the environment. These adaptions also relate to spraying and of course neutering has a dramatic effect upon how often a domestic cat sprays if at all. Multi-cat households can lead to more spraying due to inter-cat tensions and free-roaming cats living in areas where there are other cats outside will also tend to lead to spraying even when the cat is neutered. I would suggest that even under the most pressing of conditions, a domestic cat does not spray anywhere near as often as the wild cat species referred to above.

My cat, when he was roaming outside, perhaps sprayed a couple of times a day because where I lived there were lots of other cats roaming in a similar manner criss-crossing upon each other’s territory. Currently, he never sprays because he is the sole cat within his own protected territory which is the house and the enclosed garden.

Do you have experiences of your cat spraying and if so how often did she/he do it?

P.S. The information on spraying frequencies comes from The Natural History of the Wild Cats by Andrew Kitchener ISBN 0-8014-8498-7.

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