How to stop a neutered cat from spraying: 8 Keys

Did you neuter your cat but he’s still spraying urine around the house? Unfortunately, it happens from time to time. An owner neuters their cat expecting him to stop spraying but even after the surgery the spraying continues. Sound familiar?

In this article you’ll learn what is spraying, the difference between peeing and spraying, the 7 reasons why cats mark, which cats will likely mark, why your cat sprays after neutering, the 8 keys to stop a cat from spraying, and how not to stop spraying.

Orange male cat showing classic spraying or urine marking behavior. Tail up, backed up to a vertical surface while releasing a small amount of urine.
Classic spraying or urine marking posture, tail up and backed up to a vertical surface.

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Table of Contents

What is spraying?

Spraying is when a cat urinates on a vertical surface. Cat urine spraying is also known as urine marking. A cat will back up to the surface they want to “mark” with their tail raised and excrete a small amount of urine. While this is a natural behavior for cats, as a loving pet owner it’s tough to deal with having urine on our walls or a piece of furniture. While most common for a neutered male cat to do this, a female cat can also urine mark. 

What’s the difference between spraying and peeing in cats?

Spraying is when your cat sprays a small amount of urine. The volume of urine released when peeing is much more as your cat is emptying their bladder.  Your cat pees for the same reasons we do, to eliminate liquid waste. Spraying or urine marking is a behavioral issue. Spraying is where urine is deposited on a vertical surface. In the wild, a feral cat would spray or mark a tree.  On occasion, a cat may spray a horizontal surface. The cat would raise their tail, back up to the tree and release a small amount of urine.  Peeing is done while squatting and the cat will empty their bladder. For inside cats, we can look at spraying or marking as inappropriate urination. 

Why do cats urine mark? 7 reasons

In order to learn how to stop this undesirable behavior, you must understand what it is and why cats do it.

Urine marking has many purposes, and to be honest it is too complex to understand completely. However, in order to stop this behavior here is the minimum you should know about urine marking by cats:

  1. Urine marking is communication. It lets a cat send information by spraying urine, and gather information back by smelling the markings of other cats.
  2. Urine marking doesn’t mark borders. Outdoor cats, especially male cats, have large territories that usually overlap. There are no actual borders to protect. Marking with urine lets all the neighborhood cats to be aware of each other without a visual encounter.
  3. A cat will spray when stressed. Not because marked areas are safer, but because the information gathered through spraying makes the territory safer.
  4. Cats spray is communication to other cats. It’s not to show supremacy or claim possession. A sprayer actually expects other cats to spray over theirs. It helps them know if other cats visit there.
  5. Cats “refresh” their older spots. Basically this and the previous point mean that as long as the spot smells like urine, a cat will want to re-mark it.
  6. Urine marking is never for revenge. If your cat sprays upon your belongings after scolding, believe it or not your cat thinks this may improve your relationship.
  7. Cats spray to attract a mate. Intact male cats mainly spray. However 10% of neutered male cats and 5% of female cats spray so it’s not solely for reproductive reasons.

Which cats are more likely to urine mark?

An unneutered male cat is the more likely to urine mark than a neutered cat or a female cat.

In our veterinary clinic, many pet parents say they are neutering their male cat to stop the urine marking. The health and behavior benefits are secondary. Sometimes an owner is left disappointed when the surgery was a while ago, but the spraying continues. For more details on neutering (and spaying), please read our article The Difference Between Spay & Neuter Implications For A Cat.

Why is my cat still spraying after being neutered?

After surgery, your neutered cat can stop spraying instantly, gradually, or not at all. Urine spraying or marking in most cases is induced by the testosterone hormone in a male cat. It is produced by testes. Thus, if you remove the testes of your cat through neutering, testosterone is no longer produced and the cat may stop urine marking.

However, testosterone isn’t the only reason for marking. When your cat undergoes a neutering surgery, there are three possible outcomes regarding urine marking.

  1. Spraying disappears instantaneously. This is the most likely outcome since spraying is mainly a sexually driven behavior. Removing the testes will stop the production of testosterone and the sexual behavior will disappear.
  2. Spraying disappears gradually. Sometimes the cessation of hormonal activity takes time. Urine marking may disappear gradually. If it happens, most likely you’ll see changes within a few weeks while it still may take up to two to three months, or in extremely rare cases, even up to a year. The latter, though, is difficult to differentiate from the case mentioned next.
  3. Spraying doesn’t disappear. Sometimes it must be corrected by some other methods. Like environmental enrichment, stress elimination or behavior redirection. This last case most often occurs if an older cat who has been spraying for most of his life is neutered. The behavior is no longer hormonal but has also become a habit, is caused by stress (which doesn’t end with surgery). If you think this is your case, please read our article: “ How to enrich your cat’s environment? ” and : “Things that stress your cat and what to do about it

The false expectation of spraying stopping immediately comes from the misconception that spraying is a purely sexually driven cat behavior. It is in most cases, but spraying is also a form of communication between cats, territory claiming, and caused by stress in almost any cat including spayed females. Read more about possible reasons of cat spraying urine here.

Will a cat stop spraying after being neutered? Most likely yes but you should keep in mind the changes may take time. You may also have to improve your cat’s environment, schedule, and increasing their play time spent with you.

How to stop a cat from spraying: 8 Keys

1. Neuter your cat to stop urine marking

If your cat is already neutered, skip to #2 below. There are many reasons why cats spray, but the two primary ones are to find a mate and secure their territory. While helping a cat to feel secure on their turf is a complex process (see more below), you can easily stop your cat’s sexual urges through neutering.

90% of the time, neutering your male cat will stop spraying. However, if your cat’s spraying does not stop after neutering, keep reading below.

IMPORTANT: You won’t stop your male cat from spraying urine without neutering. See here for the advantages and disadvantages of neutering a cat.

2. Properly clean the urine from marked areas

Cats mark their older spots to update them. Cats spray over markings of other cats to respond to their marking. From your cats viewpoint, if the spot smells previously marked, it’s a good reason to add to it.

Unfortunately it’s not enough to use household cleaning detergents to get rid of cat urine. That’s because your cat’s nose is 14 times more sensitive than yours. Your cat can smell the marked area and that means the urge to spray upon it is still there.

How do you get rid of male cat spray smell?

The easiest method is to use a detergent that is intended for pet urine removal. These are usually enzymatic cleaners that don’t mask the smell but eliminate the odor causing molecules.

These can be bought at most pet stores, hardware stores, and online. Most of them are easy to use as “spray on and let dry,” but check the label for instructions. While the smell is very noticeable, it’s often hard to see. For a detailed guide on how to find and clean cat (and dog) urine in your home, please refer to our article How to use a blacklight for cat urine and dog pee.

3. Change the purpose of the marked spot

The next step to stop cat spraying behavior is to make new associations for your cat about the marked spot. Why? Because in nature, cat spraying isn’t done in certain locations or situations. For example, a cat wouldn’t spray where they sleep or where they hunt. Can you use this behavior to help solve the problem? Absolutely!

Orange and white kitten with a small red and yellow toy ball sitting in a cat bed.
Increasing playing time will dramatically reduce spraying by a neutered cat.

Here are 6 ways to change the purpose of a spot in your home:

  1. Play with your cat near the spot. Playing equals hunting and cats don’t mark near where they hunt. This is because their prey animals will smell it and leave the area. Use an interactive toy for a few 15 minute play sessions near the place where your cat marks. Repeat daily for at least a week and you should see significant improvements. Continue to play regularly with your cat after that. Why? Because playing does wonders for your cat’s behavior and health.
  2. Feed your cat near the spot. Again, eating is a part of the hunting process. If you free feed, place part of the cat food available at the location. If you provide meals at set times (which we recommend), make one of them available near the spot where the cat marks. For best results, play and feed near the spot. That mimics what your cat would do in nature, hunt then eat.
  3. Place a scratching post next to the spot. Scratching not only gets rid of dead nails. For cats scratching serves several purposes and one of them is marking by leaving both scent glands from their paw pads and visual markers. If your cat scratches at the location, there is no longer a need to mark it with urine.
  4. Spray synthetic feline pheromones on top of the location. You can buy them at pet stores and veterinary clinics. These are synthetic derivatives of the feline facial pheromones that cats release by rubbing against objects. If the location is marked by rubbing, there is no need to mark the location another way. You can find more information about feline pheromones here.
  5. Place your cat’s bed near the spot. In nature, a cat’s nest must provide security. This means a cat wouldn’t mark near their bed because they want to keep its location undetectable.
  6. Place a water bowl nearby. Cats don’t leave their urine where they drink just like they don’t mark near where they eat.

Note: As you work around one or two marking spots, keep in mind that your cat may start spraying in new ones. This commonly happens if your cat feels insecure in their environment.

4. Redirect your cat’s attention before urine marking

Can you recognize when your cat is about to spray? Positioning a hind leg against the spot, treading their front legs, and raising their tail upwards are among the common precursors but likely you will see more. In some cases, spraying may also occur after some event like right after your cat comes indoors, when your dog passes by, or when he sees a rival neighborhood cat or postman through the window. Note these are possible sources of stress that may be need to be dealt with.

Before spraying happens, it’s a good idea to prevent it by redirecting your cat’s attention in a good way. Here are 4 ways to do this:

  1. Call your cat. If your cat responds, keep calling and give your cat a treat or pet them if spraying didn’t occur.
  2. Invite your cat to play. Scratch a toy against the floor or throw your cat’s favorite ball. If your cat responds, keep playing for few minutes.
  3. Offer your cat a treat. For most cats, in order to stop whatever they are doing it’s usually enough to open or rustle a pack of their favorite treats. Our cats perk up when they hear a can opener.
  4. Use clicker training. You can’t walk around with a pack of treats in your pocket or a cat toy all the time. In such cases, clicker training is very useful. Find more info about clicker training here.

IMPORTANT: The above applies only if you are able to get your cat’s attention BEFORE they spray urine. If you are too late, this will serve as a reward for spraying which is the wrong message to give.

5. Limit the stress your cat experiences

There may be many sources of stress for your cat. To limit stress, start by reading our article Things that stress your cat and what to do about it. It will help you to figure out how to limit the stress. Multiple cat households have the highest incident of urine marking. Why? Stress. Did you just bring home a new cat? All these contribute to stress.

One of the top areas of stress for your cat is their litter box. For example, do you have a litter box for every cat plus one more litter box? Is your cat avoiding using their litter box? Does your cat only use a clean litter box? Does your cat kick kitty litter out of the litter tray? If you have multiple cats, do they fight over the litter box? These may be signs of stress.

Cute kittens in a sifting litter box.
Multiple cats with too few litter boxes can be stressful and encourage spraying.

IMPORTANT: If your cat is under a severe amount of stress, veterinary assistance might be necessary to help relieve it. You can also read our article Environmental enrichment for indoor cats. It will help you to reduce the stress for your cat.

6. Don’t punish your cat for urine marking

If you didn’t make it in time to stop your cat’s action, the best approach is to ignore it, not physical punishment or yelling. In general, we strongly recommend positive reinforcement in training our pets. Negative reinforcement through punishment, yelling, or other negative actions will cause your cat stress.

IMPORTANT: Punishment will make your cat spray more. Neutered cats usually spray as a response to stress, and punishment increases stress.

What to do instead? Ignore your cat completely. You can clean up the location later. Don’t call your cat, don’t raise your voice, don’t get upset, just keep doing whatever you’re doing and next time try to get your cat’s attention BEFORE they spray.

7. Provide a calm environment for your cat

We’ve mentioned that the main contributing factor to urine marking by a neutered cat is stress. It’s in your best interest to reduce or minimize it. You can find more information about stress in cats in our article Can cats die of stress? If you do manage to limit stress, the urine spraying will likely go away. Your efforts will likely to help with other behavior problems as well.

8. Check for underlying medical conditions

Seek medical advice from your veterinarian about your neutered cats spraying. They can run tests to check their blood and urine for underlying medical issues. They’ll ask about medications such as cat pain medications. The range of health issues can be conditions such as a urinary tract disease such as a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or bladder stones. Making sure your cat is free of any health conditions that could be an underlying cause for the spraying.

How not to stop spraying

Don’t regret neutering your cat. It’s not that the surgery was a failure. It had the desired effect but may not been enough to stop the undesirable behaviors of spraying. One benefit is your male cat won’t wander the the neighborhood in search of unspayed females. Know that even if you did everything we’ve talked about you wouldn’t be able to stop the spraying without neutering your cat. As we started out this article, know that neutering is a must if you want to stop your cat from spraying urine.

FAQ on How to Stop a Neutered Cat from Spraying:

  1. What’s the difference between spraying and peeing in cats?
    • Spraying is when a cat sprays a small amount of urine on a vertical surface, while peeing is done while squatting and the cat will empty their bladder. Spraying is a behavioral issue, while peeing is to eliminate liquid waste.
  2. Why do cats urine mark?
    • Urine marking is a form of communication between cats, territory claiming, and can also be caused by stress.
  3. Which cats are more likely to urine mark?
    • An unneutered male cat. They are more likely to urine mark than a neutered cat or a female cat.
  4. Why is my cat still spraying after being neutered?
    • Urine marking can be induced by the testosterone hormone in male cats. Neutering will stop the production of testosterone, but spraying may not stop immediately, gradually or not at all. It may also be caused by stress or a habit, which can be corrected by improving the cat’s environment.
  5. Will a cat stop spraying after being neutered?
    • Usually, yes. However, changes may take time and the cat’s environment may need to be improved.
  6. How to stop a cat from spraying:
    • Neuter your cat if they haven’t already been.
    • Clean the marked areas.
    • Change the purpose of the marked spot.
    • Redirect your cat’s attention.
    • Don’t punish your cat for marking.
    • Provide a calm environment.
    • Check for underlying medical conditions.

You have learned what is spraying, the difference between peeing and spraying, the 7 reasons why cats mark, which cats will likely mark, why your cat sprays after neutering, the 8 keys to stop a cat from spraying, and how not to stop spraying. This will go a long way to a long and happy life with your pet cat. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.

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