Should I neuter my cat? Ask a cat breeder.

Savannah cats mating
Savannah cats mating. Photo by Michael. Taken at A1 Savannahs. These cats were the opposite to reluctant.

A person who wants to adopt a male cat might ask why they should neuter their cat if they are going to be indoors full-time and there will be no other cats in the home; no chance of procreation. Incidentally, the word “neuter” has two meanings. It can mean the removal of the male cat’s testes in a simple and quick operation and it can also have an umbrella meaning namely the desexing operation for both male and female cats. For female cats this is an ovariohysterectomy which is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. The latter takes much longer to recover from than the former.

I’ve mentioned, in the title, a cat breeder (of Siamese cats) who talks about keeping a stud cat happy. A stud cat is a male, unneutered cat kept for breeding purposes for people new to the cat world.

Breeders normally keep male stud cats in outside enclosures. It looks rather cruel to me; such a sterile and unnatural environment. No fun for the cat. That’s the potential but this breeder makes a big effort to keep his cat happy.

But the reason why most or the majority of cat breeders keep their stud cats outside in an enclosure is because they spray urine all over the place in marking their territory. The breeder says that “99% of stud cats will spray urine around their territory”.

You don’t want that in the home because, as you might know, feline urine is incredibly strong smelling and very hard to get rid of. You have to use enzyme cleaners to chemically break down the urine so that it becomes a different substance and no longer smells.

In short, keeping a stud cat inside the home is probably impractical for most people but that said sometimes stud cats are kept inside the breeder’s home, perhaps in a separate room or a separate area of the home if it’s large enough.

2012 a breeding queen
2012 a breeding queen. Photo: A1 Savannahs.

One expert commentator in responding to the question, “Should I neuter my cat?”, said that an unneutered tom “will display strong territorial and sexual behaviour. This will include aggression and fighting, straying long distances in search of a mate and spraying urine to mark his territory.”

That comment, to me, points to the fact that a stud cat kept in an enclosure will not be able to do what he wants to do which is stray over long distances finding a mate. All the more reason to keep him as happy as possible in other ways.

I sense actually that there is an added obligation and responsibility on a cat breeder to keep their stud cat happy because they have to put him in a cage. That said, the enclosure can be dressed up and made to be as enriched as possible and it should be. Plenty of high places and interesting runs. It is quite involved but I guess it depends how concerned the breeder is.

The picture below is from A1 Savannahs in Oklahoma. I took it. I was not a great enclosure I am afraid to say. The stud was lonely and desperate for human attention. In the photo he is checking out my glasses which I hooked up to the fence to keep them out of the way. He was desperate for stimulation.

Breeding melanistic F4 Savannah cat in his cage
Breeding melanistic F4 Savannah cat in his cage at A1 Savannahs. Photo: MikeB

This Siamese cat breeder, Ross, says that he takes his stud cat out of the cage for one hour a day to be with him, to cuddle and provide him with some emotional warmth and enjoyment. And he suggests that it is reasonable to provide him with some neutered female company on occasions inside his enclosure.

If a stud cat kept in a cage is allowed into the home, they should wear ‘stud pants’ which is a kind of nappy. In fact, I suspect that some breeders put these on their male cats all the time if they are kept indoors. They should not cover the whole of the cat’s bottom so as to allow them to use the litter tray if they need to. Stud pants strap around the cat’s belly and with a second strap looping around the tail. Once again, the focus is on urine!

To return to the question about whether you should neuter or not neuter your male cat. The answer all about urine and horrible smells and stopping procreation! Too many cats already. That said, it brings to mind exotic pets. Some people in America like to keep wild cats as pets. And I suspect they don’t neuter these cats or perhaps they do.

But if they don’t, they can expect lots of urine in their home. More so when living with a medium-sized wild cat such as a serval.

Incidentally, an unneutered queen will attract tomcats to the house. They will wail or caterwaul when she’s ready to mate. This is a female cat on heat. If she is not kept away from unneutered male cats, she will become pregnant all the time and she may acquire injuries from mating. There are other health issues to spaying a female cat.

Serval in an enclosure looking out forlornly
Serval in an enclosure looking out forlornly. Photo: Michael

Ross focuses very strongly on keeping his stud cats happy because if they become unhappy through boredom and confinement, they may become aggressive and difficult to handle. It may break the arrangement to the point where the cat is no longer any use to the breeder. Also, it would be incredibly unfair and cruel not to offset confinement in an enclosure outside with a genuine effort to entertain that cat on a regular basis and keep as happy as possible.

Neutering and spaying.

The truth of the matter is that there is no place in this human world for an unneutered male cat and the same goes for the female. In developing countries there are lots of unneutered male cats on the streets procreating. It’s why they have a cat problem. It’s why Greece has a cat problem in this why they are used to entertain tourists in the holiday season and why many are poisoned to death in the off-season! Horrible. And is why there are lots of stray cats in Israel and other Mediterranean countries. Cyprus is an island of cats thanks to a failure to neuter street cats. As I said there’s no place in the modern world for unneutered cats which is a kind of indictment really on the relationship between human cat. It is not entirely successful.

P.S. I have failed to mention that female cats also spray urine as they are also territorial but less so than males. The typical male wild cat home ranges include the home ranges of females. And females travel less far from the natal home range to find their own compared to males. They are less inclined to mark territory.

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Sometimes male cats can’t be neutered for this reason

Feliway diffuser may stop this
Feliway diffuser may stop this. Image:Feliway.

Sometimes male cats cannot be neutered. And it is entirely legitimate to leave them unsterilised and “whole”. This occurs when the cat cannot be put under a general anaesthetic. A veterinarian needs to put a male cat under a general anaesthetic to remove their testes.

A cat with early-stage hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) or any other serious heart condition cannot be placed under a general anaesthetic because it’s too risky. They have a good chance of not coming through it.

And HCM is a congenital heart disease. It can start in kittens or subadults. For example, HCM can start at 4-months-of-age in Maine Coons, a very popular cat breed.

This is the story of a lady of who adopted a kitten born into the home of a cat hoarder:

He was born out of a hoarding house, many generations of inbreeding. I adopted him as a very small kitten, brought him to the vet immediately and he was diagnosed with stage 5 congenital heart disease. Anyways to the point – he cannot be put under anesthesia. He probably will not wake up. Super super high risk. He has started spraying and I cannot have all my clothes and house and myself reeking like that smell, but I refuse to just get rid of him.

And if a male domestic cat cannot be neutered, they are typically going to display all their male, testosterone-fuelled behaviour which includes spraying urine against vertical surfaces.

That’s going to be very trying for a committed and decent cat caregiver. The only way you can minimise spraying is to remove testosterone which is produced in a male cat’s testes. You have to remove those under the neutering operation.

If that can’t be done you are left with a male cat who could be difficult to live with.

Under these circumstances, it seems to me, the best way forward is to create an environment which minimises the need for a male cat to spray. Why do male cat spray?

I can think of two major reasons.

Marking their home range-their territory

Male cats (and females sometimes) like to mark their home range which in effect is like leaving a calling card to other domestic cats that this is their place. As the smell of the urine deteriorates the “trespassing” cat can gauge when the resident cat was there. It helps them to avoid each other.

It allows for a kind of timeshare when there is an overlap in home range.

If, therefore, a cat who cannot be neutered is living in a multi-cat home they are likely to spray because of the pressures of the other cat encroaching on their compressed home range. Or they might see a cat outside the window which may trigger the need to spray.

To avoid these situations, you avoid having a multi-cat home and, perhaps, you blank out the window so the cat can’t see outside. Pretty severe solutions.


Often it is not just about marking a home range, it’s about making the place that they call home more friendly for themselves. They do this by spraying urine which smells of them. They might even defecate to achieve the same goal.

They may defecate or spray on an object of furniture which is particularly infused with the human smell namely the bed.

This merges scents (scent exchange) which also calms the stressed cat by making the environment friendlier.

The trick here would be to make the environment as calm as possible for a cat that cannot be neutered. For me this would mean making the environment as cat friendly as possible. It would mean that the cat’s caregiver is at home as much as possible.

It might mean not being away from home for more than several hours at one go. This might in turn mean that the owner has to work from home when permitted and when possible. A lot of jobs allow this nowadays.

There are ways to make the more friendly which may help to minimise spraying. The classic is to use a Feliway diffuser:

Those are some major potential remedies for the problem or methods to minimise the problem.

Cleaning up

You probably know by now that the best way to clean up cat urine is to use an enzymatic cleaner specifically manufactured for the job. This breaks down the chemicals in the urine which in turn removes the odour. Using water and soap et cetera is not going to work.

Cat pee enzyme cleaner
Cat pee enzyme cleaner randomly selected. There are other examples. Image: Amazon.

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24 facts on problems with multi-cat households and some solutions

Multi-cat home problems
Multi-cat home problems. Image: MikeB. The image is free to use under a Creative Commons: ATTRIBUTION-NODERIVS CC BY-ND license. Click on it to see a full-sized version and then right click on that image. Select ‘save as’. Please link back to this page. Thanks.

  1. People make the mistake that two cats will automatically be company for each other. They might sometimes but often they don’t become friends.
  2. In the worst-case scenario, it may be necessary to rehome one of them.
  3. When siblings grow up, they may be no more friendly with each other than unrelated cats. They become independent-minded.
  4. The human home is quite a small amount of territory for a single domestic cat. It is a fraction of what they would normally enjoy having free rein. This compression can be stressful.
  5. More than one cat in a home is a stress-making situation for most cats.
  6. Domestic cats look upon their home as a place where there are resources such as food, warmth, security and protection. It is their “home range”.
  7. Anything which threatens those resources causes stress.
  8. People, dogs and other cats can trigger emotional conflict. The last in that list is the most common cause of threat.
  9. Cats do not disclose their stress through facial expressions or hardly so but they do through their actions such as increased marking of territory in various ways such as spraying, scratching, defecating and urinating outside the litter box, excessive vocalising, eating too much or not eating and developing cystitis (bladder inflammation) causing inappropriate urination.
  10. In a multi-cat household spraying is perhaps the most common indicator of the presence of difficult relationships between cats in the home. Cats may also scratch furniture more often to leave visible and olfactory messages. They may even, as mentioned, defecate outside the litter box as a marker and on their human’s bed.
  11. One aspect of domestic cats showing signs of insecurity in multi-cat homes is to “bed wet”; urinating on your bed sheets. The bed is a “scent soaker” in the words of Jackson Galaxy and is the core of their home range within the home. Marking it with urine is a major statement of their anxiety and the need to reassert themselves.
  12. Domestic cats spray for two reasons either as a signal of anxiety and the need to mark territory to reassert themselves within their home range or as an assertion of confident territorial ownership.
  13. Neutered cats also spray it should be added although less so than unneutered cats.
  14. The need to mark territory through urine spraying is the reason why multi-cat homes often smell badly of ammonia (a component of urine). These homes are full of anxiety and stress in some of the domestic cats living in it.
  15. Often people who keep more than one cat in the home keep their cats confined to the home which can add to the levels of anxiety because the cats’ home ranges are very much restricted. They are on top of each other, constantly interacting.
  16. People should keep a commonsense number of cats according to the size of their home. They should try and avoid cat hoarding, a not uncommon condition which is very much against cat welfare.
  17. It helps to maintain a peaceful multi-cat home if you choose opposite sexes as there will be less sibling rivalry between them.
  18. If a multi-cat home is stable in terms of cat behaviour, you shouldn’t add another cat to that group. If you do it should be a cat which is known to be sociable with other cats.
  19. One litter tray should be provided for each cat plus one more according to Jackson Galaxy and Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM.
  20. There should be one litter tray on each floor of your home. Each one should be cleaned to the correct degree. This doesn’t mean over-cleaning or under cleaning. Over-cleaning can remove the cat’s natural scent which can be a barrier to using it.
  21. Each cat should have their individual food and water bowl and they should be scattered around the kitchen.
  22. There should be many, solid, high quality, large, robust and tall cat scratching posts.
  23. There should be a variety of private resting places and high, elevated platforms for each cat to find their own comfortable and private location they can call their own.
  24. It is very rare for local ordinances to exist which limit the number of cats to any one home. It’s up to the cat caregiver to apply common sense and think about animal welfare.

Man has 15 cats, 22 litter boxes and no smell. Here’s how he did it.

Many litterboxes in a multi-cat household
Many litterboxes in a multi-cat household. These are neatly organised. Photo: in public domain as published on Pinterest.

Below are some more pages on multi-cat homes.

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Cute cat does perfect walking handstands like a gymnast?

In an extraordinary video from TikTok we see a cute domestic cat that looks purebred (Brit SH?) practicing walking handstands as if they were human gymnasts. It is amazing. He pulls himself up just like a gymnast. Is there a plausible and practical reason for this form of feline behaviour? I have seen it before in dogs and monkeys (massively impressive in monkeys). The most relevant is walking handstands by domestic dogs.

Domestic cat performing walking handstand
Domestic cat performing walking handstand. Screenshot.

I have a video on that, also from TiKTok, which you can see by clicking on the link below the video. In my opinion the reason for, exceptionally rarely cats and less rarely dogs engaging in this behaviour (the dog’s version is much more impressive) is to spray urine from a high point to ensure that it is more noticeable by others on their territory.

This points to an animal that is perhaps stressed and who feels the necessity to do all they can to get the message across that this is their home range and please piss off! ๐Ÿ˜‰ – pardon the pun.


Reason why little dogs urine scent mark while performing walking handstands

The walking handstand while peeing phenomenon is not very rare for dogs. You’ll see it a lot on the internet. For cats it is a different matter. This is the only time that I have seen it. But it is about delivering sprayed urine at a height to maximize its effectiveness.

The cat in the video is not spraying urine but I believe they are practicing the handstand so that they can do it when suitable. I don’t see any other plausible reason and it fits in nicely with dog behaviour. Or perhaps the live with a dog in a multi-pet home and the cat is copying the dog. Cats are incredibly good at learning by observation.

Perhaps it is more frequent in dogs because the size difference is enormous in dog breeds while most domestic cats are pretty much the same size barring the enormous Maine Coons we occasionally see.

Small dogs feel a need to compete with the bigger ones in order to lay claim to their home range.

Below are some pages on cat behaviour.

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Reasons female cats pee on things

The phrase “pee on things” is very general. It could mean urinating in the usual way, outside of the litter box or it could mean spraying as a “calling card”. The way the title is framed I believe that people want to know why female cats spray urine so I’ll deal with that first.

Cat scent marking by spraying urine horizontally
Cat scent marking by spraying urine horizontally. Males and females do it but females less often than males. Photo: Gerard Lacz – Minden Pictures.


The reason why female cats spray on things is essentially the same reason why male cat’s pee on things. But in addition, females may scent mark when in heat to signal sexual receptivity. The difference between males and females is that females and neutered cats of both sexes spray urine less frequently and the scent of the urine is less pungent.

The odour of sprayed urine is distinctly stronger and more pungent than that of normal cat urine because it contains two unusual amino acids, felinine and isovathene. These amino acids degrade after they are deposited on the object. Male cats excrete much more felinine in the urine than do intact females or neutered cats. An adult tomcat excretes about 95 mg of felinine per day compared with about 20 mg per day excreted by female cats.

Domestic cats don’t spray urine to defend territory. They spray urine on vertical objects to tell people that they have been there. The other cats will not run away from that pungent smell but go to it and investigate. In investigating the smell, they can gain information about the individual who delivered it and indeed a male cat might smell the sprayed urine of a female cat who is in oestrus i.e. in heat. This would provide the male cat with information about the female cat’s reproductive status.

I’ve seen one domestic cat outside my window spraying urine onto a bush. And then along comes another cat and sprays over it. This seems to be an act of competition over that patch of territory outside my window between competing cats. It is saying that this is mine, or I live here. It is not trying to deter the other. They are laying claim to that plot of land or territory but often domestic cats share the same territory because they have to due to population size.

This sharing of a home range would happen if the cats’ owners are apartment dwellers and the common area for cats and people is outside their apartment. The common areas become a shared home range for the domestic cats who go outside.

Inside the home it is said that female and male cats are more likely to spray because they are stressed and anxious. The stress and anxiety will be caused by the amount of space available which has been compressed and so there is potential friction between the cats. Under these circumstances a cat, either female or male, may worry that their territory is being invaded by another cat in the house. They spray inside the home to tell other cats that this is their place. It also reassures them because they surround themselves with their own scent.

It’s a form of claiming ownership of the core of their home range which is very small in multi-cat households if they are all full-time indoor cats. Cats are very adaptable and if five cats share the inside space of one detached home, they live in an environment which is essentially unnatural in terms of space. They adapt to it but some better than others. And some cats might be bolder than others or shyer. The timid cats are going to be more stressed than the bold ones.

The person who sums up spraying better than anybody else is Dr. Desmond Morris. He says that the scent marks made by spraying urine function “rather as newspapers do for us. Each morning we read our papers and keep up to date with what is going on in the human world. Cats wander around the territories and by stiffing at the scent marks, can learn all the news about the comings and goings of the feline population.”

That is spraying urine from the recipient’s point of view i.e. from the point of view of the cat smelling the urine. The cat delivering it is writing the newspaper. They are telling the other cats that they are around and claiming what they consider to be their rights.

Cats spray urine regardless of how much urine they have in the bladder. If it is nearly empty the urine is rationed. A cat spraying delivers the same number of squirts no matter how much liquid the cat has drunk. Even if a cat has run out of urine it will continue to complete the scent-marking routine. The act of spraying is independent of the presence of urine in the bladder.

What causes a cat to start spraying?
This is a good illustration of a lion spraying to mark its territory. It reminds us that this is a hardwired form of feline behaviour inherited from the African wildcat with respect to the domestic cat. Photo in public domain.


Turning briefly to urination, female cats, like males, can suffer from cystitis which means that they can deposit urine in inappropriate places because they can’t help themselves due to a bladder infection. Idiopathic cystitis is often exacerbated by stress caused by other cats. Cat owners should look to the environment that they have created for their cat if they see small drops of urine around the home, sometimes in the bathroom and in the bath. The urine might be bloody as a result of the bacterial infection.

Another reason for inappropriate elimination is the position of the litter tray, the wrong substrate, and being bullied by another cat if they share the litter tray when each cat should have their own. That’s a brief summary. Declawed cats are seven times more likely to eliminate inappropriately compared to other cats. This is almost certainly due to the fact that the substrate in the litter box hurts them. Further, this points to the fact that they have sore feet all the time.

Home range

On the issue of home ranges, females normally have smaller home ranges than males. This applies to all the wild cat species including the big cats. In the world of big cats such as tigers, the male home range may encompass the home ranges of four female tigers. Female tigers tend to make their home range not far from their natal range i.e. where they were born whereas smell tigers tend to strike out much further to find their home which may get them into trouble when fighting with other tigers.


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Why do indoor cats spray?

The question is asking why indoor cats spray urine, which is done, as you probably know, to establish territory. Because this is the purpose of spraying urine (normally onto vertical surfaces) it occurs when cats feel that their territory is threatened by an ‘invading’ cat. How might this happen to an indoor cat?

Some examples of situations which elicit indoor cat spraying

Normally the sort of situation that elicits marking territory by spraying urine is when an indoor cat looks out the window and sees a cat entering the backyard or coming near the home.

The indoor cat begins a defence strategy which is to spray a surface somewhere within their ‘home range’ perhaps nearer the boundaries of the owner’s home as they represent the boundaries of the cat’s home range. They may also run to the door and hiss or growl at the window. They watch the intruder with intensity.

When a new cat is introduced to a resident cat there may be issues of spraying because the resident cat feels threatened by the incoming cat while the incoming cat may also feel stressed because they’ve been removed from their home range and suddenly dropped into an entirely alien environment. They need reassurance and spraying urine reassures them.

In multi-cat households they might feel crowded because their home ranges have been severely compressed. This might elicit spraying from one or more of the cats.

Lastly, a change in an indoor cat’s routine which a cat perceives as a threat may also prompt spraying both to confirm to the unknown threat that this is their territory and also to reassure themselves by surrounding themselves with the scent of their urine.

If a female cat is unsterilised she might advertise that sex is available. This behaviour would increase during the mating season and during courtship.

Personal story

On this topic, I have a visiting cat from a neighbour. My cat is not an indoor cat but he spends a lot of time indoors. When the visiting cat comes into my home through the cat flap, on occasions, she might spray urine near the kitchen sink on the countertop. She’s doing this because she feels a bit stressed in entering the home range of my cat. She feels a need to mark it to ‘claim’ territory or at least attempt to. I think she sprays near the kitchen sink because sometimes I put bleach down the plug hole and bleach seems to stimulate mental activity in domestic cat a bit like catnip. I think it can trigger this kind of behaviour. This behavior annoys me. I’ve considered stopping entry. However, my cat seems to enjoy her company.

Stopping spraying

The classic treatment for stopping spraying is to spay and neuter (sterilize) domestic cats particularly before spraying behaviour begins i.e. usually before six months of age. This should be effective in 80%-90% of cases. It was ineffective for my cat. I have seen him spray urine in my backyard perhaps because of this visiting cat.

In the examples above, of an intruding cat being watched by the indoor cat from a window, one way to avoid the indoor cats spraying under these circumstances to prevent her looking through the window or prevent the incoming cat from arriving in the backyard. That’s common sense but prevention is better than cure.

You will have to use your imagination as to how you keep a neighbour’s cat coming into your backyard. It can be difficult but people suggest motion activated water sprinklers as one possibility.

As to difficulties in multi-cat households, perhaps the best answer is to consider carefully whether you really do want to adopt another cat. A lot of aggression problems come out of multi-cat homes on my research. And if you can’t do that then you might consider a way of extending their overall territory by building a catio or catios or even a full-blown backyard enclosure to allow stressed cats to find more space and feel more secure.

Lastly, you’ve probably have heard of the commercially produced product Feliway which is a brand of synthetic pheromone, similar to cat cheek scent markers (marking territory through scent from glands in their cheeks). It is said to help relieve stress and calm cats. It is also said to keep cats away from an area where they have sprayed.

As a last resort you might consider a variety of behaviour modification drugs as recommended by your veterinarian. Personally, I would steer clear of these unless you’re really desperate.

Detecting sprayed urine and removing it

Sometimes you might be unsure if your cat has sprayed in the home but you sense they have because of a faint (or stronger!) odour. I think the best way to detect urine is to buy an ultraviolet torch (cheap on Amazon). If you use it at dusk when the interior of your home is dark it will pick up urine stains very positively. You remove urine stains with an enzyme cleaner which changes the urine chemically and nullifies it. On hard surfaces an ordinary cleaner will suffice.


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Do female cats spray?

Yes, female cats spray urine. To be clear, spraying urine is not the same as urinating to remove a waste product. You probably know that but it’s got to be stated for complete charity. Spraying is to scent mark territory and it is carried out horizontally onto a vertical surface.

The basic information about female and male cats spraying is that females do it less often than males. And being sterilized (spayed and neutered) doesn’t necessarily stop it. For example, my male cat is neutered but he still sprays occasionally because he is telling another cat who visits that he owns the place. And he does by the way! Males do it more because they are more concerned about maintaining their home range.

Cat scent marking by spraying urine horizontally
Cat scent marking by spraying urine horizontally. Males and females do it but females less often than males. Photo: Gerard Lacz – Minden Pictures.


It should be said, too, that spraying urine is an olfactory signal to which you can add vocal signals and visual signals (scratches and scrapes). They all serve a similar purpose. Each is used alone or in concert with others depending upon the circumstances.

Adult male cats, and we’re mainly talking about feral cats because these cats behave more naturally as they live in the wild, spray urine frequently while travelling. They leave the scent of their urine at locations where other cats are likely to encounter the signals. Domestic cats spray as well particularly when allowed outside in say an apartment complex where they is a greater chance of meeting other domestic cats. These circumstances force the cat to constantly mark and remark to restate to others that they are present. One cat will spray over another cat’s urine scent mark and the other might reciprocate.

In a study in Sweden it was found that dominant male feral and semi-feral cats spay at rates of 22 marks per hour whereas less dominant males spread less frequently at 12.9 urinations per hour. That sounds like a lot. I am not sure that it is typical.

Depositing faeces is also an aspect of scent marking and faeces are left uncovered in areas beyond the core area of the cat’s home range whereas within the core area the faeces of covered.

The quote Mel and Fiona Sunquist of Wild Cats of the World at page 108 on the domestic cat:

“Females also spray urine while travelling, but not at the higher rates recorded for males. Females spray at higher rates just prior to estrus, thus ensuring a male’s presence at the appropriate time.”

So, for female cats there is this other purpose, which is to attract males for mating.

Often when the experts write about marking territory by spraying they do not differentiate between females and males. But, as stated, females will normally do it less often.

Touching on domestic cats, if a male or female cat is spraying inside the home it is probably due to feeling insecure. Spraying is a form of self-reassurance.

Mel and Fiona Sunquist referred to the work of JD Mellen who wrote “A comparative analysis of scent-marking, social and reproductive behaviour in 20 species of small cats”, published in 1993.


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Cat tail quivering when spraying urine to mark territory

This is a very specific post about a feline behaviour which you may have noticed. When cats spray urine to mark territory as a calling card they back up to a vertical object such as a bush or tree and spray urine horizontally onto that object. When they do it their tail may quiver or twitch. It is a distinct form of feline behaviour associated with urine scent marking. So why do cats quiver their tails when they do this?

Domestic cat scent marking by urine spraying
Domestic cat scent marking by urine spraying. The tail quivering is probably a result of effort to force the urine out vigorously. But the experts are unsure. Photo: Pixabay (modified).

Well, I can disclose that its function is unclear but I am pretty clear about it myself! Perhaps you have your own thoughts and if so I would be delighted if you would spell them out in a comment below this post.

It has been suggested that the quivering or twitching is possibly a visual signal “or an automatic manifestation coupled to micturition”. Micturition is the action of urinating! A fancy word and an interesting one used by Fiona Sunquist in her book Wild Cats of the World.

Experts say that among captive cats – and this must be referring to wild cat species in a zoo setting – this form of tail twitching was observed when the spraying was particularly vigourous.

Cat Peeing On Walls
Cat spraying onto a fence in marking territory. Photo in public domain.

In observing black-footed cats (described as the fiercest wild cat species although this is a domestic-sized cat) this form of tail twitching was simply part of urine-spraying behaviour as was treading of the hind feet.

I will add my thought as follows. I think tail twitching or quivering when spraying urine to mark territory is simply a physical process to force the urine out of the bowel more vigourously. It’s the kind of thing people do when trying to force something. You can make your own mind up as to what I’m referring to!

P.S. I have an afterthought. Cats might quiver their tails when they are happy. It may be a sign of a feeling of pleasure. It is reasonable to assume that cat territory marking may be pleasurable for the cat. If so this may be a reason why cats sometimes quiver their tails when spraying urine.

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