Do Both Male and Female Cats Spray?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains the triggers for cat spraying.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: August 1, 2008 11 a.m. EDT

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Q: I currently have a 15-month-old female brown tabby cat named Callie and am considering adopting another kitten. I have heard mixed opinions on whether I should get a female or male. I was always told that male cats spray, but someone recently told me that females are more territorial and might actually be more likely to spray than male cats.

Can you offer any advice on the subject? Callie is not aggressive -- she is more likely to avoid and/or hide from a new person than act in a hostile manner.

A: Any mature cat, depending on the circumstances, can spray. Typically, whole (unfixed) male and female cats will spray. Whole males are more likely to spray for territorial reasons and because it lets the receptive queens know they are available for a little hanky panky. When queens spray they are telling potential males in the neighborhood that they are ready for action. Fixing cats will stop cats from spraying in the majority of cases.

Given the right triggers, any cat, including fixed males and females, can spray. Sample situations that can cause a cat to spray include: outside cats; changes in the household; less than ideal litterbox situations; too many cats; not enough vertical territory (tall cat trees); introducing cats too quickly to other household animals; stress; grief; poor urine cleanup; health issues; other whole males/females.

There are factors to consider when choosing a new potential live-in buddy for your cat. For your particular situation, I recommend choosing a male cat that is proven to get along with female cats. Additionally, the personalities of both cats need to be taken into consideration. The new kitty should be around the same age as your resident kitty because some older cats do not have the energy levels that the youngsters have and don’t appreciate a youngster incessantly trying to play with them.

Once you choose a buddy for your cat, make sure to introduce them slowly to each other.  The introduction period can take a month or longer. The cats should be separated from each other by a closed door while a series of activities is done that encourage the cats to have pleasant feelings and positive associations with each other.

Start the introductions by exchanging pheromones. Gently pet the new cat’s cheek and area around his cheek with a clean sock. Do the same with your resident girl, using a fresh, clean sock. Exchange socks, putting them in the other cat’s area. This should be done a couple of times a day, each time with a clean sock.

After both cats are comfortable with the pheromone-laced socks, introduce other pleasant experiences while they are kept separated. Simultaneously feed both cats treats and regular meals on each side of the closed door. Encourage them to play under the door with each other with the help of a double-sided toy. After the cats are playing and pleasantly interacting with each other under the door, encourage nose kisses by cracking the door open about ¾ of an inch. Use your foot as a wedge so the door can’t be pushed open.

Eventually, you will be able to open the door for short periods of time, allowing supervised visits. Begin this by moving the feeding stations a distance away from the door. The cats should not be near each other while being fed, but they should be able to see and hear each other eating when the door is opened. Open the door and feed them at the same time. After they’ve eaten, close the door.

Gradually increase the amount of time the door is left opened after they’ve eaten. Visits should be supervised, and if there are any signs of possible aggression, the cats should be separated and the process taken slower.

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Do Both Male and Female Cats Spray?

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Reader Comments

Teresa    Fayetteville, NC

2/9/2013 10:00:27 PM

Your AngelNook looks exactly like my MowMow. MowMow showed up in our neighborhood Mother's Day 2012, a month after we moved into our apartment. I think someone dumped her off, because she had a collar and is house-trained (as in she wakes me up to let her outside - maybe she was raised around dogs?) We haven't adopted her yet - but are thinking about it, when we move in a couple of months.

Scott    Fort Lauderdale, FL

12/22/2010 1:18:10 PM

My pregnant indoor/outdoor cat is pregnant with Litter #2 and I just caught her spraying inside in the area where I think she's planning to nest. That might be a good sign, as she decided to have her last litter under the house!

Rose Taylor    Bangor, PA

8/24/2010 1:00:29 PM

How to determine male or female

Kim    Los Angeles, CA

7/12/2010 10:23:10 AM

This article is good. I have a 3 month old female and a 1 1/2 male tabby. I had the boy first as a kitten and when he got near 1 year he started spraying and spraying so i put him outside and it got worst. Someone said to get him fixed before 1 year and he should not spray, obviously i missed that mark. So I finally got him fixed like 3 months ago and low and behold a week after he was fixed he stopped completly and gained a bunch of weight and stays inside. Now I have to fix the girl because I love to enjoy my pets and not get mad at them for smelling up my house with spraying. So my advise is to just get the pets fixed and help the pet populatiion.

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