Vicky Halls Cat Behaviour Counsellor

Q: I've caught one of my cats standing up and spraying jets of urine on a number of upright surfaces in our house. It smells awful! What can I do about this and what's the best way to clean it up? We've got two other cats who behave very well.

A: This sounds like territorial marking called 'spraying'. A cat will back up to a vertical surface and lift their tail. A small jet of urine will then be squirted onto the surface. This seems to act as a reassuring gesture for the sprayer and a signal to others to enable a number of cats to utilise the same territory without bumping into each other all the time. Cats can tell a great deal about the sprayer from urine, including how recently that cat was in the vicinity.

There are a number of reasons why this may have started. Cats mature socially between 18 months and 4 years of age and some get very sensitive about territory. Your cat may feel threatened by one or both of the other cats or a strange cat may have come into your house and made him feel unsafe.

You can use any proprietary urine odour remover to remove the smell, or make your own solution of one part biological washing powder to nine parts warm water. Wash the area thoroughly, rinse with water afterwards and then spray with surgical spirit to finally remove all traces of the substances that create the smell.

Ask your vet to make sure your cat is well with a thorough examination and then request a referral to a pet behaviour counsellor. These problems can be complicated and the sooner you tackle it, the better.

Q: My cat means the world to me. So much so that I even get up during the night to give her some fresh food, just in case she gets hungry. I spend a lot of my time at home so she gets my undivided attention. However, I've noticed that she has started spraying urine around the house. Is this the thanks I get for giving her all the attention she could possibly want?

A: I would imagine that, without knowing further details, your cat is responding to something that is challenging her in her cat world. Is there a cat outside that is bothering her? Has a strange cat come inside the house?

You have a very close relationship but there will still be things that bother her outside her life with you. Please don't think this is symbolic of her displeasure with you; there are times when being extremely compliant is not in anyone's best interests but I doubt that this is the primary cause for her spraying.

I would suggest you put your mind at rest and contact your vet for a referral to a pet behaviour counsellor. Your vet will of course check first that she is well physically. When you see the behaviour counsellor you may want to ask about that nocturnal feeding too!

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Got a question? My Feline FAQs and Free Guides page answers some of the most commonly asked questions and gives you access to some great advice in my free cat behaviour guides.

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