Having trouble stopping your cat from spraying? We can show you how end this behavior.
Surely one of the most challenging and potentially heartbreaking conditions that a cat owner can be faced with is a cat who sprays indoors "inappropriately".
Indeed, "inappropriate elimination" is the most common behavioral problem seen by veterinarians. In 1995, 41 of the 62 cases of feline misbehavior treated at Cornell University's Small Animal Clinic involved this frustrating and perplexing condition. Tragically, house soiling/spraying is the number one reason for last resort feline euthanasia, over and above any other single behavioral or medical condition.
There is no significant gender difference observed in the number of female versus male cats exhibiting this behavior, and yes, contrary to what misinformed people may tell you, even cats that are spayed and neutered will spray!
The first step to take in meeting this challenge and seeking solutions for your cat is to find a vet that cares enough to work with you and your animal. If, as was my initial misfortune, you are told: "This is a no-win situation. I have seen a lot of this over the years. Nothing will stop it", grab your furry friend and thank them kindly in advance for forwarding your records onto another doctor. There have been so many recent advances in the use of relatively safe and often very effective anti-anxiety drugs, with new ones coming to market every year, that no animal lover should ever have to hear these words spring from a vet's mouth.
The first step in the discovery of possible causes is to rule out potential physical reasons. If your cat is not already spayed and neutered, this is a must. However, these procedures do not guarantee a cessation of the spraying behavior.
Examinations for lower urinary tract diseases should be given immediately as a painful case of cystitis (bladder infection), interstitial cystitis, urethritis, or a urethral blockage can certainly convince a cat that the litter box is the cause of the pain and an enemy to be avoided at all costs.
Simultaneous with seeking answers in the cat's physical health, a thorough analysis of the environment is in order. Have you recently moved? Gone on a trip leaving kitty at home alone or with a stranger? Brought home a new pet or significant other human? Have you finally added one too many cats to the household ? Has your schedule changed? Are stray cats loitering and spraying the exterior of your cat's property? Cats are highly territorial and if something, or someone, is threatening them and causing stress, the natural inclination is to redefine the territory (your house, bed, walls, appliances, furniture, drapes) as their own.
Perhaps a dominant member of the feline tribe has begun to bully a more submissive one, limiting their range of motion and access to the litter box area. When one of my favorite male cats began to spray up a storm in the house, his aggression toward a female cat that he had coexisted with for a couple of years dramatically increased. Her world quickly closed down, as did her ability to move about the house freely. She spent all her time under a chair trying to avoid the bully. Thus began house soiling problems with her as well since she was too terrified to brave the trip downstairs to the litter boxes.
Have you changed the location of the litterbox? Do not place it too close to the food and water area as cats do not like to eliminate in the same vicinity where they eat. Likewise, a brightly lit, loud, heavily trafficked and overly-exposed section of the house is not the place for your kitty to "do their business". Cats are dignified and prefer privacy for such personal acts.
Perhaps a new brand of litter does not appeal to your cat in either the texture and/or the scent. No matter how good a fragrance smells to you, bear in mind that your cat's sense of smell is far superior and what is simply pleasant to you may be repelling and pungent to them. (Cats detest citrus scents.) If you are a multiple cat owner, it is strongly advised that you have one litter box for every two cats. No one likes to wait in line to relieve themselves, and cats are fastidious. Keep the litter boxes scooped and clean, and be mindful when washing them to use only mild and unscented cleaning agents.
It is important to remember that cats thrive on consistency and familiarity, and are often confused and stressed by changes in their little worlds. All of these events can be very distressing to our feline friends and cause, in and of themselves, for a cat to express his displeasure by soiling or marking his territory. While there are a plethora of products on the market designed to eliminate the smell of "eliminate" and end this frustrating cycle once and for all, you may suddenly find yourself exhausting the medical and environmental options and considering the drug therapy course of treatment.
"Better living through chemistry" is a modern-day mood stabilizing anthem that also applies to our feline friends and the psychological symptoms and conditions that they exhibit. In years previous, up until the mid-1980s, Valium and progesterone derivatives were the only pharmaceutical alternatives available to most vets. Progesterone was effective in barely one third of the cases, and the potential side effects included hormonal and organ imbalances and severe damage.
While Valium was more effective, it was also addictive, and as the third and final drug I tried on my male cat, I found it to be not only unsuccessful in changing his behavior but heartbreaking to employ. The extreme stupor he displayed caused by the heavy sedative properties made him unable to navigate the stairs or walk with a steady gait. Drugging a cat so that he was unable to stand up long enough to spray was not an acceptable alternative.
Prozac is a medication that is frequently tried early on in drug therapy especially if the suspected cause involves an increase in the cat's stress and anxiety levels. Because this seretonin-enhancing drug is also effective in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and depression in humans, many cats cease their anxiety-related spraying once a Prozac regime begins.
One of the most recent and most effective drugs to be employed in a variety of cases is Buspiron, another anxiety-reducing agent. Unlike Valium, it is not addictive, the side effects are minimal, and the cat can undergo a retraining process while on the medication that can be sustained when the dosage is stopped. In addition, one of the positive side effects is an increase in the cat's confidence with a proportionate increase in their level of affection for and friendliness toward humans. An increase in play and "young at heartness" may also be noticed.
In just the few years since I experienced my own very painful and prolonged ordeal with my beloved but increasing aggressive and distressed sprayer, the research in this field has accelerated. More and more vets are receiving the education and important information needed to help the owners of such troubled cats make accurate diagnoses and humane decisions. While I was never able to find a drug or a solution that helped my cat and ultimately made the wrenching decision to euthanize him, new advances in the field should help guarantee that fewer of us need endure such a painful experience in the future.