Everyone knows that intact (unneutered) male cats are apt to scent mark by spraying urine onto vertical surfaces, and once you have smelled it once, this strong, pungent and unpleasant smell that can be a challenge to neutralise is very hard to forget! Neutering your male cat will go a long way towards preventing or curbing this behaviour, but what about female cats? Can females also scent mark by urine spraying, and why might they do this?
The answer to this question is yes-whilst spraying or scent marking is much more common in male cats (particularly tomcats) all cats can physically spray urine, male and female, neutered and intact.
However, the reasons behind why a female cat (particularly a neutered one) may behave in this fairly unusual way are usually different to that of tomcats, and so if your female cat is scent marking in your home or garden, it is important to find out why in order to curb the behaviour in the future.
In this article, we will look at why female cats scent mark in more detail, including some tips on how to curb and correct such behaviours too. Read on to learn more.
Scent marking involves urine, but it is different to normal urination, both in terms of the action and the resulting substance. Cats urinate in a squatting position (males too) and they do this to relieve their bladders, usually going to great pains to cover or bury their urine to mask its smell from potential predators.
Scent marking, on the other hand, is designed to be smelled and noticed, and takes the form of spraying onto a vertical surface in order to deliberately deliver the substance over a greater area. Additionally, scent marking spray is more concentrated and stronger than normal urine, and also contains hormonal chemicals designed to send a message to other cats (or other animals) in the vicinity.
In intact tomcats, scent marking in this way is designed to both attract a mate, and to warn any other males in the territory off, and when an unneutered female who is in season and so, also seeking a mate scent marks, the reasoning is the same. When it comes to neutered cats spraying, for males this is likely to be a territorial behaviour and/or a learned behaviour if they were neutered after they began exhibiting marking tendencies.
But for neutered female cats for which scent marking is uncommon and serves no procreational purpose, the reasons are likely to be different, and may indicate a problem.
If you catch your cat in the act of scent marking, which is performed by spraying urine with a stiff-tailed stance, you can be sure that what they are doing is indeed spraying. However, in other circumstances it is important to be sure that your cat is actually spraying, rather than simply urinating in the house, which may indicate a health issue or other type of behavioural problem.
If they are urinating and not spraying, or if you are not sure, ask your vet to check your cat out.
For unneutered females, scent marking may be connected to their ovulation cycle and breeding urge, and so this is the first thing to consider.
If a neutered female cat begins scent marking, the chances are that they are trying to dictate and reinforce what they think of as their territory, and there will usually be a specific reason behind this. If your cat is new to you and your home, they may be feeling insecure and simply trying to get to grips with the new situation, in which case the behaviour should stop once they have settled in a little.
However, if your cat has lived with you for some time and has only recently started doing this, the reasoning is likely to be different. If something is upsetting your cat or making them feel insecure in their home, scent marking is a common indication of this. If you have a lot of cats, have recently adopted a new cat (or other pet) or if someone new has moved in with you, this can all be quite stressful for your cat, and make them feel as if someone is invading their territory. Scent marking in this instance is a way for your cat to try to reassert their control of the situation and attempt to warn the offender off.
This can happen too if your cat is being bullied by another cat, either within your home or in the local area, particularly if said cat comes into your garden or worse, your house. Some cats are very sensitive to change and upheaval too, and even rearranging your furniture or getting a new sofa may be enough to lead to problems for a while.
Additionally, if your cat feels as if they are not getting enough attention or are being pushed out by the presence of another pet or person, they may scent mark for the same reasons-and this may even go as far as spraying clothing you wear often (such as a bathrobe) or even you yourself. Again, some cats need a lot of interaction and attention from their owners-the Siamese being a good example-and if they feel neglected or suddenly are not the centre of your world for any reason, they may begin to act out in this way.
In order to resolve the issue, you will have to tackle it by combining a variety of approaches. First of all, determine the root cause and address it. If your cat is being bullied by another cat, take steps to keep them away (such as by using a cat flap that can only be used by your cat) or for a new cat living with you, divide the house into territories and manage interactions until both cats are comfortable, ensuring that you provide enough attention to the original cat. New family members young or old should either be taught to leave the cat well alone (if your child distresses your cat or does not handle them properly) until they are able to bond with them, or for adults, make an effort to interact with your act until they accept them.
Telling your cat off by shouting at them or scaring them is counterproductive, and to be avoided-as is using anything strongly scented to either clean up the spray, or to try to put the cat off spraying in the same place again. Scented cleaning products and things like bitter apple spray will be “read” by your cat in the same way as another cat’s scent mark-as an imposter marking their territory, making the behaviour worse.
Use neutralising cleaning products and clean up spray promptly to stand the best chance of removing it.
You may wish to try using a Feliway diffuser or spray too, to help your cat to relax and feel at home-although this should be combined with your general approach, and not expected to resolve the problem on its own.