How Can I Get My Cat to Stop Urinating Outside the Box?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, offers solutions that can help an adult cat stop spraying after the arrival of a new kitten.

By Arnold Plotnick | Posted: February 18, 2011, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: I have had my 2-year-old spayed cat since birth. Ever since we got a new kitten four months, my adult cat has been peeing on the walls. It smells horrible in the basement. My mom wants to give them away because of this. If I give my kitten away, will my older one stop spraying on the walls? Also, is there a way to stop her spraying?

A: Cats mark the locations where they live in a variety of ways, such as cheek rubbing, scratching and urine spraying. It is a way of sending a message that says “I was here” and “this is mine.” Cats will also mark their territory when they feel threatened or stressed. This can occur with a change in household routine, addition or departure of new people or cats, and other environmental and social changes. It seems pretty clear that the new kitten is upsetting your 2-year-old cat, and she’s trying to send a territorial message to the kitten.

An unspayed female is more likely to spray, but your cat is spayed, so this is not an issue. Although this sounds like a behavioral issue, a urinalysis, urine culture, and possibly an X-ray should be performed to rule out medical problems.

Sometimes, simply adding one more litterbox can help reduce spraying. Ideally, the minimum number of litterboxes should equal the number of cats plus one, the litter should be cleaned daily and changed at least once a week, and proper odor neutralizing products should be used on any sprayed sites. You need to use a product that doesn’t just mask the odor, but actually gets rid of the odor molecules, for example, something like Nature’s Miracle.

Ideally, the treatment is aimed at eliminating the motivation for spraying. Since the problem seems to be due to the arrival of the new kitten, you may need to keep the cats in separate parts of the home with their own litter and sleeping areas. Reintroduction of the cats may be possible when they are properly supervised. Allowing the cats together for positive experiences — such as feeding, treats and play sessions — helps them adjust to each other’s presence and associate the experiences with things they enjoy.

There is a commercial product called Feliway that may help curb your cat’s urine marking. It is a synthetic facial pheromone. When sprayed on areas where cats have sprayed or on those areas where the cat is likely to spray, the likelihood of additional spraying in those areas decreases. Feliway also comes as a diffuser that when plugged into the wall, will diffuse through the air, resulting in a calming effect on the cats in the house. This may reduce anxiety in your adult cat, and help reduce or stop the spraying.

If these methods fail, medication can be administered that often results in cessation of the spraying behavior. The drug of choice for this is Prozac. If the spraying stops when Prozac is administered, the drug can be tapered, and in some instances, the cat can be taken off the Prozac completely with no return to the spraying behavior.


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Reader Comments

Susan    Citrus Heights, CA

7/14/2011 7:02:47 PM

I appreciate your advice and explanation on the reasons why cats spray. I found this to be extremely helpful, a great deal more helpful then the person I spoke to at the local pet clinic I take my cat to. She(not a vet) told me cats spray to be mean and that she got rid of her cats because nothing she tried worked. Her attitude was horrible. I can understand now that my cat is probably stressed because of some changes in the household. I am going to try the feliway diffuser and continue using natures miracle.


2/26/2011 4:18:26 AM


O-DS    O-D, MI

2/22/2011 1:56:02 AM


Loois    Fort Collins, CO

2/20/2011 4:25:18 PM

Thanks for the information

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