Cat parents can expect their kittens to begin spraying between the ages of six to seven months, typically when a cat reaches maturity. However, it is not uncommon for male cats to reach maturity as soon as four to five months.
Not all cats spray, however, and getting your kitten spayed or neutered is the best way to stop it from occurring.
Cat spray smells like urine but with a stronger, more pungent smell. The exact spray smell is unique to each cat, but the overwhelming odor is that of urine. When a male cat sprays, you may also detect a distinct tom cat smell. Neutering changes the odor of your cat’s spray.
This article explores what cat spray is and what it smells like.
Cat Spray Smells Like Strong Urine
Cat spray smells just slightly different from the usual cat urine. The presence of certain chemicals, including cat pheromones that interact with other urine odorants, gives your cat’s spray its distinct smell, which other cats can identify.
The smell of a male cat’s spray is even more intense because of the tomcat odor. This odor is very pungent and ammonia-like, and it is meant to signal to the queens around that your male cat is available for mating.
Remember, cats can breed all year round from as early as February to late December. This tomcat smell emanates from the skin, and it also seeps into the urine and spray all year round.
One thing cat experts agree on is that cat spray does not smell like poop.
Male and Female Cats Spray for Different Reasons
Typically, both female and male cats that are intact (not neutered or spayed) will spray.
However, male cats are more likely to spray for territorial reasons than their female counterparts.
But that doesn’t mean that female cats do not spray for the same reason. However, they are more likely to be letting males in their neighborhood know that they are ready for mating.
However, at least 10% of neutered male cats and 5% of spayed female cats continue to spray even after being fixed.
Neutering is male castration, while spaying removes the uterus and ovaries in a process known as an ovariohysterectomy.
Some people report that their male cat’s spray is more intense than that of their female cats. The tomcat odor could be the reason for this since this smell is just as pungent as ammonia from the urine.
Cats Typically Spray Vertical Surfaces
The classic presentation by your cat when spraying is to turn and back up to the vertical surface.
But before it does this, it sniffs the area extensively and shows a flehmen response. The flehmen response is characterized by a slightly upturned upper lip and open mouth inhalation, which allows your cat to expose its vomeronasal organ to the scent of a pheromone.
Your cat may appear like it is looking surprised, but in fact, it is detecting any other cat’s pheromones by scent sucking through the roof of its mouth.
Once the flehmen response is complete and your cat feels safe spraying, it will stand with its tail erect against the vertical surface. The tail is usually quivering, and your cat raises its hindquarters. It is common to see your kitty treading with its hind paws, but that is not a must.
As it treads, it will release a jet of urine which is typically less than two milliliters.
Urine marking may occur on horizontal surfaces, or on clothes and rugs on the floor. In this case, your cat will squat when spraying or stand and spray, ensuring the urine reaches the items on the floor.
Unfortunately, the markings may be quite difficult to identify, so you have to rely on your sense of smell. Trust me, you cannot miss a cat’s spray. It is pungent.
However, that means that you are working with identifying the location of the marking over a large area.
But you may be lucky and notice a brown, sticky substance on a skirting board, door, or another surface.
Here is a heads up; Cats prefer to mark full-length curtains, electrical equipment, plastic bags (the jury is still out on the fascination with plastic), and fabrics.
Now that we know how cat spray smells, let us delve deeper into the actual behavior and why it happens.
Cat Spray Is Not the Same as Urinating
Cat spray is the small amounts of urine your cat deposits on vertical surfaces all over the house and its territory. It is also known as urine marking. And although it smells like urine, it not necessarily your cat peeing which is why it is considered territory marking.
Communicating using smell is normal in the animal kingdom, and urine is a significant marker for felines and canines.
Cats are territorial about their space, and they have a very different concept of territory. Dogs have a pack mentality with a leader, so they are not averse to sharing territory.
On the other hand, cats do not like to share their territory because each cat considers itself equal to others. That means when a cat comes across a urine marker, it recognizes the presence of the other cat and backs away. Cats prefer not to handle confrontation because confrontation stresses a cat.
So, by spraying, your cat is warning other cats to stay away without having a confrontation. That means that your cat sprays when:
It Feels Threatened
The threat could be real or perceived. For example, if your indoor cat constantly sees stray cats walking through the yard, it may feel threatened by their presence even if the other cats are not trying to encroach on its territory.
Conflict between cats can be subtle, so it may be lost on you. But trust me, your cat is in a heightened state of awareness, and it feels the need to assert itself, especially if the stray starts to mark nearby.
As a result, your cat sprays inside the house to deter the stray cat from venturing close.
Consider blocking the view so that your cat doesn’t have to see the stray cat coming and going.
Alternatively, use remote deterrents that emit a sound every time a stray comes close to your yard, and the sound will scare the stray away.
Finally, you can also use a pheromone diffuser to relax your cat. Pheromone diffusers are commonly sold in pet stores.
Your Cat Is Stressed
Cats do not cope well with change. Sometimes even the slightest change in their environment could be a trigger to begin urine marking. You may notice frosty behavior towards a new baby, new furniture, a visitor, or a new pet.
And because they are not big on confrontation, they will urine mark their territory in a bid to keep the “intruder” out. Your cat hopes that the new item, person, or animal will recognize its urine markers and keep out of its territory, thus avoiding confrontation. They are hoping to keep the conflict level low.
In multi-cat households, those cats that experience long-term stress due to being in the same space with another cat will spray as a behavior problem, not necessarily to mark territory.
Separate the cats and keep their items apart. But gradually, you can consider reintroducing the cats to each other. Spread food, litter boxes, toys, and water all around the house so that each cat has access without feeling stressed by the other cats’ presence.
In some cases, you may need to create individual spaces by using baby gates to separate your feline friends.
And don’t forget to set aside time to spend with each cat individually. Doing this means that all the cats feel special and loved.
Your Cat Is Marking a New Territory
If you have moved houses, your cat may spray to claim its territory in the new environment.
Your cat was secure in its territory in the old house because it had already marked it. But in this new home, they may be worried about another cat coming along and taking over.
Also, in the new environment, your cat could be displeased at its new living arrangements, from the placement of its litter box to perhaps feeling traumatized by the move. This is especially common if your cat was very happy at your previous home.
Try making your feline friend feel at home by making its environment as similar to its old one as possible. If the litter box was next to a window, place it next to a window in the new house. Also, place favorite toys or the perch close by so that your cat feels a bit at home.
Hopefully, your kitty will feel at home again with time and a bit more rearranging.
Your Feline Is Ready to Mate
Both male and female cats spray when they are ready to mate to let other cats know that they are available.
Clean Thoroughly to Avoid Repeat Spraying
Here’s how to clean cat spray:
- Wipe down the area with a washing powder solution containing 10% biological components.
- Rinse it with clean water thoroughly before drying it as much as possible and spray it with surgical spirit.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle baking soda over the area you intend to clean.
- Allow the baking soda to sit for ten minutes before pouring some vinegar over it and let it fizz for just a few seconds.
- Blot out the mixture of baking soda and vinegar using a clean rag.
- Repeat the process with the baking powder and vinegar until you feel the area is clean.
Once the area is clean to your satisfaction, you can proceed to eliminate the odor.
Do not forget to use an enzyme cleaner to break down the uric acid and evaporate it for a fresher smell.
Air the room to allow the area to air dry and get rid of the spray smell.
Finally, use Feliway Classic Cat Calming Pheromone diffuser, which will help your cat calm down and reduce further instances of spraying.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku