Cats hate change and will respond to circumstances beyond their control usually by spraying. This is the equivalent of a feline four-lettered word, or a feline ‘V-sign.

Cats also spray when they go outside to mark their territory. Another cat walking past will ‘read’ this marking and know that O’Malley Murphy at number 22 deposited it there and know whether or not O’Malley Murphy is a neutered or entire tom and what he ate for breakfast. A kind of feline News of the World if you like.

This will be useful if O’Malley Murphy wants to let any usurpers know that if they encroach on his patch, they’d better watch out. 

Female cats also spray outside and this lets any would-be suitors know whether or not she is in season and they get ready to do the deed. If of course, O’Malley Murphy is about, and she’s his property, they’d better watch their step. Serious injuries are caused by fighting between unneutered tom cats and it’s usually over women.

Indoor cats can also spray and the reasons are varied and complex. As I said, cats hate change. So let’s take an average family with two children of school age. Perhaps one of the children leaves home to go to college. He may have been quite close to the cat and with his absence, the cat will grieve. The dynamics of the household will change which will also affect the cat.

I always tell my cats the truth. Each time I leave the house I call out to them that ‘Mummy loves them, be good boys, Mummy won’t be long.’ If I’m going on holiday then I tell them I will be back in so many 'sleeps' so that they get an understanding of where I am, how long I'm going to be away or what is going to happen.

Changes in households are multitudinous and various: new boyfriend/girlfriend; partner or spouse leaves/dies; new baby; loud music; lots of arguments/shouting; moving house; redecorating or new items of furniture, carpeting etc coming into the house. These things are stressful enough for the human counterparts but you can imagine how it must feel to cat who doesn’t understand. As I said before, cats read our body language and our facial expressions. They will know if someone is sad, happy, and angry or any other emotion we may be experiencing at that time. Cats will respond accordingly – they will either start behaving badly in other ways or they will spray.

It’s important that if you do have litter trays that you use a litter which the cats like. Don’t get something that you like; you’re not the one using it. Don’t be tempted by the media ploy of covering up the smells by using scented litter tray liners; this is purely to get you, the hapless cat owner, to spend more money on unnecessary items. Cats do not like highly scented products – and that goes for perfumes and after shave as well.

Ensure that you have sufficient trays for the number of cats in your household. 3 cats will require 4 litter trays. 6 cats will require 7 litter trays and so on. Position them somewhere quiet, easily accessible for the cat to reach (thus avoiding inappropriate toileting behaviour) and somewhere where there isn’t a lot of traffic. For example, you wouldn’t put the litter tray by the front door where the poor cat could be thumped on the head mid-poo by the Daily Mirror zinging through the letter box or the day’s post hurtling to the mat. Likewise you shouldn’t position the tray where people are likely to be walking past it every two seconds which would be as off-putting to the cat as it would be to you if you were sitting on the toilet trying to do what you wanted to do, and the world and his wife kept opening the bathroom door.

Keeping the litter tray scrupulously clean is another important factor.  Take the wet lumps and poo lumps out as soon as you can; almost as soon as the cat has buried the doings and walked away – then pounce and remove. Every couple of days you can top up with a bit more litter and once a week you should thoroughly clean the tray.

First, put some newspaper down on the floor and tip any remaining litter on to it, removing any soiled matter before you start. Then, using an old washing up brush to remove any ‘skid marks’, run the hot tap all over the tray to wash any residue away. Dry thoroughly with an old tea towel kept for just this purpose and then replace with the litter, topping up with some fresh litter.

Please DO NOT think of using products like DETTOL or bleach to clean/disinfect the tray. DETTOL contains very harmful chemicals which could kill a cat. And all bleaches contain ammonia, which is a component of urine. So a cat will ‘read’ his own tray as if another cat has used it and will not use it. Another reason he will spray elsewhere.

Simple common sense and trying to understand how a cat thinks, getting down to his level, should ensure that you give your cat a long and happy life with you and your family. If you’re prepared to put in a little bit of thought and consideration, there is nothing to stop a wonderful relationship existing between you both and spraying, hopefully, will be a thing of the past. 

  

In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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