This will only make the cat more fearful and the problem worse. Is your cat spraying or urinating? Cats use urine as a scent signal or mark for themselves and other cats. The motivation for scent-marking is different to that of urinating to relieve a full bladder. Catching your cat in action, or a little detective work at the site, will help determine whether the cat is spraying or urinating.
To urinate, the cat squats and deposits a volume of urine on a horizontal surface. The carpet, duvet, sofa or bath are commonly chosen sites. To spray, however, the cat stands up, usually making a treading motion with the hindlegs, tail upright and quivering. A small volume of urine is sprayed backwards onto a vertical surface such as a wall, leaving an obvious scent mark. Cats commonly choose a spot close to the door or window, especially curtains, to spray. Some specialise in spraying electrical equipment or novel items in the home such as shopping bags!
Once you have ascertained which of the above your cat is doing, you can take action to resolve the behaviour. A cat that has started to urinate inappropriately in the house should be taken to the vet for a check-up. Cystitis or other types of urinary tract disease may cause the cat to strain and to pass small amounts of urine frequently. The infection or irritation makes the cat urinate immediately, rather than attempting to go outside or to the litter tray. Urinating in this way can sometimes be confused with spraying. Why does my cat soil indoors? A cat may not wish to go outside to urinate or defecate for a number of reasons.
An older cat may not want to venture out in bad weather or may be having problems using the cat flap because of stiffening joints. Providing a litter tray may solve the problem. There may be something threatening outside. Your cat may be afraid of a neighbourhood dog, another cat, or traffic after a close encounter with a car. Cats normally dig a hole, squat to urinate or defecate, and cover it up afterwards. A cat feels vulnerable during this process. If the problem is caused by another cat outdoors, or even coming in through the cat flap, then take steps to make your cat feel secure again.
Lock the cat flap and let the cat out yourself. This provides some security and helps frighten off any cats waiting in the garden. Dig up an area for your cat to use. Choose a quiet corner with some shelter. A pile of sand will be equally attractive, or provide a litter tray indoors. Occasionally cats urinate or defecate indoors as a marking behaviour when owners go on holiday and leave a stranger to care for them. Because they feel vulnerable, they mark an area that has a strong scent of the owners such as the duvet.
The best way to avoid this is to keep the bedroom door closed. If your cat normally uses a litter tray but has recently started to go elsewhere in the house there may be an obvious reason. Cats do not like using a tray if it is heavily soiled. Litter trays should be cleaned out every couple of days and the solids or clumps removed daily. If you have several cats, provide one tray for each. Using scented litter, deodorants or disinfectants with strong smells may put the scent-sensitive cat off using the tray.
Use a feline-friendly disinfectant and make sure the tray is rinsed thoroughly with clean water. Avoid disinfectants which turn cloudy in water as these usually contain phenols which are toxic to cats. Rinse the litter tray before use. Cats learning to use the litter tray initially may need to associate it as a latrine area and over-frequent cleaning may weaken this association. Changing the consistency of the litter, or changing to a scented type, may put the cat off using it. Many cats prefer fine-grain litter with the consistency of sand. If you want to change the type of litter, mix the new one in gradually over a week or so to gauge the cat’s reaction. If the tray is positioned in the open where the dog, children or other cats disturb it, the cat may feel too vulnerable to use it, and seek a more secure spot behind the sofa! Place the tray in a quiet spot where the cat only has to watch in one or two directions rather than in the open or in a thoroughfare.