Ah…one of the many age old questions: “Why is my altered cat spraying?” As a seasoned cat owner, you know that there are many answers to that question. You did your research. You have been to the veterinarian and nothing is physically wrong, but the spraying has not stopped and the house smells horrid. The next possible action on your agenda is drastic – transporting your fuzzy friend to the local shelter. Alright, don’t get hasty.
Why not consider some exercises that could change your cat’s behavior? As most cat owners probably know, spraying is connected to a cat’s stress level. Thus, it is important to know how to identify when a cat’s stress level is elevated. This will help you understand which steps to take to relieve that stress, which could be the solution to your problem. During the visit to your veterinarian, you may have been referred and/or opted to hire a behavior specialist, and that’s great. However, a lot of people are strapped for cash these days, so it is not always the most practical choice. So then, it’s up to you to calm down your kitty. But what contributes to the elevation of a cat’s stress level? Several things (a few of the most common are discussed here).
CAT’S STRESS LEVEL ELEVATES EASILY
An important thing to remember is that cats are more sensitive than they appear. Each one has a different personality and stress level. One cat may be scared of everything while another will sleep through an earthquake. Oftentimes, people think cats will adapt to a situation quickly when, in reality, it may be causing the cat more stress. For instance, getting a new cat can cause a trickle effect of stress in a cat’s hierarchy. Typically, the new cat is seen as a territory invasion, which results in the other cats getting stressed. Dominant cats tend to redirect their aggression toward the weaker cats, which can stress the weaker ones out even more. Now instead of having just one cat spraying out of dominance, there is a good chance that the weaker cats will also spray out of fear and/or frustration (Rainbolt, 2008).
Another thing that stresses out cats is change. Such changes range from mild to extreme and usually take the form of switching work shifts, getting new furniture, moving, arguing/fighting, or being bullied by a dominant cat (Rainbolt, 2008). Even something as minute as moving a food dish when cleaning can stress out a cat. So then, if Mr. Whiskers is touchy, what should you do? Watch your cat’s behavior and try to pinpoint or narrow down the source of the stress. Once the source of the stress is established, actions can be taken to alleviate it.
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR CAT’S STRESS
New Cat. To reduce stress levels when a new cat is brought into the home, be sure to supervise the introduction of him/her to the other cats. If any of the other cats tries to attack the newbie, remove him/her from the room. Do not reward the other cats in any way. Repeat this exercise until your other cats socialize with the newbie without attacking him/her. Then the other cats can be rewarded. Keep the newbie in a separate room when you or any other responsible pet owners are not home.
Schedule Changes. When your work schedule changes, be sure to fill up the food dishes before you leave. This will alleviate anxiety about having an empty food bowl, which is of great concern to a cat.
New Furniture. A week before expecting new furniture, put some towels on the items that will be removed. When the new furniture arrives, transfer the towels to the new furniture for one more week. This will combine the smells of the new items with the old, which helps cats adapt to the smell of the new item. It also lessens the chance that they will spray the new items.
Arguing. Even though arguing is not pleasant, it does happen. When it does occur try not to let the situation blow up. Doing this not only helps kitty’s stress level, but the stress level of the situation in general. Remember, lowering stress lowers that chance that your cats will spray, which is the goal here.
Moving. When moving is in the picture, the best thing for your cat is to keep him/her in the room that they find most comfortable. Be sure to bring in the food and water dish, litter box, toys, and pet carrier. Empty this room last, and put your cat in its carrier and into the car before moving that room’s contents. Try to have this room set up first in the new home, and return kitty to this environment as soon as possible. Keep kitty there until the moving truck is gone, and inside the house until he/she is used to their surroundings (Feline Advisory Bureau, 2008).
Bullying. When bullying is the case, find out who is bullying whom. Then take two clean, dry washcloths. Wipe one cat with one washcloth and the other cat with the other washcloth. Switch the washcloths and wipe down each cat with the opposite one. This will help combine their smells, which will make them less likely to mark their territory. Repeat until bullying and marking cease (Rainbolt, 2008).
Cats begin spraying when there is something wrong in their world. Either they have some sort of illness, or a behavioral pattern has formed because something is stressing them out. Cats are very sensitive to their surroundings and can get stressed out very easily. Some situations that could cause a cat stress are a new cat, changes in your schedule, adding and removing items from your home, moving, arguing, or being bullied or attacked.
Solutions to these problems are easy exercises that when used consistently will help you solve your spraying problem. Simple steps such as supervising the introduction of your new kitty, combining smells of your old and new furniture, and transferring each cat’s smell by using dry washcloths can ease your cat’s stress. Easing stress eases spraying, which eases our minds as loving pet owners. So why not give these exercises are try?
Works Cited: Moving House with Cats. Feline Advisory Bureau. 2008 November. Web. 16 May. 2011.
Rainbolt, D. Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace & Sanity in Your Multicat Home. Connecticut: 2008, Print.