An explanation for urine spraying in cats

Posted by Argos, 15 February 2014, last updated 1 October 2020.

Any cat owner feels alarm when they see their pet position itself rear-facing to the wall, start to knead the floor with its paws, raise its quivering tail and spray a stream of urine against the wall.

The smell, stain and pet’s reluctance to use the cat tray are all enough to make anyone lose their temper but getting angry with a cat for doing this will only make things worse.

As cats are naturally meticulous, indoor cat spraying has its roots in an animal being unhappy. The best course of action is to find out the reason for the behaviour and learn how to prevent it.

Ragdoll cat

Spraying explained

Firstly, it is important to clarify the difference between a cat urinating normally and cat spraying. When a cat goes to the toilet in a routine way, it squats and deposits a quantity of urine. When cat urine sprays, it goes through the actions described above.

Why do cats spray?

Whether a cat is male or female, young or old, neutered or not, it can spray. The action is part of how it marks its territory and communicates with other cats. Normally it does this outdoors and spraying regularly indoors is not natural and needs to be dealt with immediately.

A cat which is neutered may not feel the need to spray indoors as part of its biological make-up has been removed. Its owner may notice it occasionally go through the motions though.

If a cat is spraying urine indoors it‘s usually because it’s unhappy. Maybe it feels threatened by the arrival of another cat or pet in the home or even a new baby. A change of routine, building works or the presence of an unfamiliar person can also trigger urine spraying.

It is very important to provide a clean litter tray at all times, as healthy cats want to keep themselves clean. Even a mildly dirty litter tray, faintly smelling of urine can be enough to put them off using the tray and trigger spraying urine elsewhere.

Don’t forget that this change in toilet behaviour can have an underlying medical cause so seek vet advice to rule this out.

Security is important

Containing a cat to a defined area in the home from the start is one way of limiting potential aggravation it may feel if normal routines are disturbed.

If decorating has taken place recently then a cat owner can rub a soft cloth around a pet’s face in order to pick up its scent and distribute this on new carpets, furniture and along the bottoms of walls.

tortise shell cat


It is also possible to pick up a pheromone spray from a vet or pet shop in order to mark the home. This is close to a cat’s natural scent. Both the natural and manufactured variety unobtrusively spread the scent and only a cat can detect it. This makes it feel relaxed and at home, which can go a long way to stopping nervous spraying.


Occasionally a cat may be spraying not because it is anxious but because it has a problem in its urinary tract such as cystitis.

A vet check-up will provide an assessment of how best to deal with unwanted spraying caused by a health problem.

Knowing why your cat is spraying urine is important, as is protecting your cat with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Explore our cat insurance policies today.

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