Domestic cats spraying urine in the home is obviously highly unpleasant but is entirely normal behaviour for a domestic cat under certain circumstances. I was surprised to read some rather shocking statistics in Dr Bruce Fogle’s book Complete Cat Care. He correctly says that cats spray urine for two completely different reasons, (1) a cat is stressed and feeling vulnerable or (2) a cat is confident and assertive over his territorial rights and is marking territory.
Also sexually active cats spray to indicate a readiness for mating. Neutered outdoor cats also spray urine in the usual way to mark territory and to top up their previous spraying. You’ll see it happen: a resident cat spraying urine over a shrub in the garden and a wandering stranger cat sprays over it to claim territory and then the resident cat also over sprays it to reclaim the territory. I’m referring here to communal areas in apartment blocks.
It’s the sort of place where if the residents like cats there is going to be lots of domestic cat wandering around in quite a small area where they feel pressured to claim some home range which they can call their own. This leads me to the conclusion that the frequency of indoor spraying is directly in proportion to the number of cats in the territory.
We are then led to the territory of indoor cats in multi-cat homes. Here you have sometimes up to 10 cats or more inside their home all the time. They have to divide up a small space, by their standards, into ten portions in order for each one to have their territory. This doesn’t happen in practice because in such a confined space their territories overlap. In effect they share it. Depending upon the individual cat this may feel unnatural and stressful and force some to assert dominance while others submit.
Dr Bruce Fogle says that although one cat is unlikely to spray it is more likely if there are two cats, and if there are three cats, “there is over a 50% chance that your home will be treated to the pungent aroma of cat urine, and if you have as many as six cats it rises to over 80%”.
He then goes on to say that, “If you have lots of cats, be prepared for liquid communication.”
You get the drift. Spraying urine is a form of communication and in multi-cat homes where the cats have been added without adequate consideration for the emotional state of the cats in terms of how they get along and their territorial requirements, there’s much more likely to be urine spraying for the reasons stated in the opening paragraph, namely stress or marking territory.
This is why, or a major reason why, in homes where there are many cats it is likely that you will be met with the permanent pungent aroma of urine. And it’s very hard to stop it. There are some exceptions, perhaps in very large houses and where the number of cats is not too large and also where they have been selected very carefully to get along. But in a typical example of minor cat hoarding where there are 10 cats as is the case with my neighbour the house becomes pretty well uninhabitable because of this horrendous ammonia smell.
And I don’t think it is possible to resolve the problem without taking drastic steps. If you have six or up to 10 cats and there is spraying going on I don’t think you’re going to fix it without removing some cats. That’s my honest opinion. The problem has gone too far down the wrong route and you will have to backup and undo what you’ve done and start again. That means less cats. If and when feline urine spraying gets out of control the home becomes a huge toilet were some cats simply top up what they’ve sprayed before. Where there is urine, cats like to use the same spot. The toilet effect.
It’s the same when a domestic cat urinates inappropriately. They will do it in the same place and therefore you have to remove the urine with an enzyme cleaner to get over that habit. The lesson that Dr Fogle’s statistics provide is that you have to think very seriously before taking on several or more domestic cats particularly if they are confined to the home.
SOME MORE ON SPRAYING: