Spraying Issues

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger explains how to curb spraying behavior.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: June 4, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: Gizmo, my 4-year-old male neutered Siamese mix recently started spraying everywhere in the house. My vet recommended giving him medication orally. However, Gizmo hates being medicated. He runs away when he’s approached and then kicks and fights us while we medicate him. After being medicated, he foams, drools, runs and hides. The medication also makes him lethargic and makes him lose his appetite. I hate doing this to him every day, but I can’t take the spraying either. I don’t want to give Gizmo up and if I am honest about his problem, he is not adoptable. There is also another cat, a 13-year-old male in the household who has no behavior issues.

A: Please call your veterinarian and tell him about how Gizmo is reacting to the medication and the challenges you are having administering it. Most likely, your vet will have an alternative medication that won’t affect Gizmo’s appetite or make him so lethargic. Furthermore, depending on the medication, your veterinarian may be able to compound it, making it much easier to administer. Medicating Gizmo should not be traumatic for either of you.

In addition to the vet-prescribed medication, I recommend that you find the reasons behind Gizmo’s spraying, then manage the triggers and use behavior modification to help stop the problem.

First determine what is triggering Gizmo’s spraying. Gizmo isn’t a bad cat. He is resorting to a natural behavior, responding to something occurring in his environment that may be causing him to feel stressed or insecure, resulting in territorial marking. Some examples of triggers are: construction or remodeling, new furniture, conflicts with the other resident cat, schedule changes, neighborhood cats, not enough vertical territory, litterbox management challenges and inadequate cleanup of the targeted areas.

Depending on the triggers, the solutions vary. Here are a few suggestions:

* Do a thorough cleanup of the targeted areas, using a good enzyme cleaner such as Anti-Icky Poo.

* If outside cats are triggering Gizmo to spray, you will need to both keep the neighborhood cats from visiting and temporarily block Gizmo’s view of the outdoors. 

* Provide lots of tall furniture, window perches or shelves for the cats. One way cats show their status to each other is by where they sit in relationship to each other.

* Provide scratching posts and horizontal scratchers in every room. In addition to giving themselves manicures, cats scratch to mark their territory.

* Provide consistency in Gizmo’s life. Put him on a schedule: feed, play and engage him in activities he enjoys every day at the same times.

* If the house is being remodeled or there is construction nearby, confine Gizmo in the quietest area of the house. 

* Pheromone plug-in diffusers may help. These disperse a synthetic pheromone into the air that can help take the edge off of the stress. Note that pheromone plug-ins and sprays are not magic bullets. They work best when used along with other solutions.

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Spraying Issues

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Reader Comments

X;L    X;Z, WA

6/22/2010 3:52:56 AM


XP;C    CX;, MA

6/19/2010 3:36:33 AM


Cathy    Hubbard, OH

6/8/2010 5:48:40 AM

Cat urine is one of the worse smells. I hope and pray you can help Gizmo out and keep him in the family.


6/8/2010 1:49:32 AM


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