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Why Is My Female Cat Spraying All of a Sudden? 5 Vet Reviewed Reasons 

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Nicole Cosgrove

tabby cat spraying outdoors to mark territory

Why Is My Female Cat Spraying All of a Sudden? 5 Vet Reviewed Reasons 

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Spraying is an unwanted behavior that is quite common among male cats, but it’s not limited to males. Female cats are known to spray too, so if your female cat has begun spraying all of a sudden, there are a few reasons that could have caused this.

It’s best to always contact your veterinarian when your cat is exhibiting unusual behavior so they can assist you in getting to the bottom of it. In this article, we’ll go over why your female cat may have started spraying and what you can do about it.

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The 5 Reasons Why Your Female Cat Is Suddenly Spraying

1. Pain or Illness

man petting a sick siberian cat
Image Credit: Olesya Alexandrova, Shutterstock

A cat’s behavior can change significantly when they are experiencing pain or have fallen ill. If your female cat has never sprayed before and is now suddenly displaying the behavior, it’s time to make an appointment with the veterinarian. There are many different reasons she could have begun spraying and we will discuss them, but you first need to rule out any potential medical condition that could be the underlying cause for the behavior. Once your veterinarian has ruled out any pain or illness as the reason, you can then begin the process of elimination for other potential causes.

What You Can Do:

Once you’ve observed the unusual spraying behavior, call your veterinary office and schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination and perform any diagnostic testing they deem necessary. If it is determined that your cat is suffering from pain or an underlying illness, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you and you will proceed accordingly.

The medical staff may even have some suggestions on how to stop the spraying once you are home. If it is not related to pain or underlying health issues, you can explore other reasons for the behavior and your veterinarian may have some professional advice to offer.


2. Marking Territory

A lot of cats mark for territorial reasons, and while this is more often observed in unaltered (not neutered) male cats, females may also spray to mark their territory. Spraying is one way for cats to communicate with others, and this allows them to let any other cat know that this territory is already claimed. This behavior could begin suddenly if your indoor cat has noticed strange, outdoor cats running around, or even if you have brought a brand-new cat or another pet into the home.

What You Can Do:

If you believe your female cat has begun marking due to territorial issues, you will first want to identify what has caused her to start up the behavior. Do you have neighborhood cats running around outside that she can see or hear?  If so, try shutting the blinds to ensure she can’t see them running around, as that could make her more comfortable.

If you have brought home a new cat, this may take time for her to adjust. If she’s not spayed, the best thing you can do is have this done, as spaying and neutering drastically reduce spraying. Make sure to do slow and proper introductions with new pets and allow her time to settle. You can try using pheromone sprays to help ease her stress. If this doesn’t work, reach out to your veterinarian for further advice.


3. Issues With Other Household Cats

angry cat hisses at one another
Image Credit: Gurkan Ergun, Shutterstock

Sometimes cats just don’t get along well with others. If you have more than one cat and there are issues among them, it could result in spraying behavior due to the stress of conflict or the territorial issues mentioned above. The conflict between members of the same household can be difficult to manage, so if you have determined the spraying could be a result of ongoing discord with other cats in the house, you will need to take some steps to rectify the problem.

What You Can Do:

Making sure every cat in the house is either spayed or neutered is the most effective way to combat unwanted behaviors like spraying or cat-on-cat conflict. If everyone has been altered, you will need to implement ways to reduce the competition between them. Try separating all of their needed sources, like food, water, toys, litter boxes, and bedding.

Do not force them to eat out of the same bowl or even side by side. Make sure they have different litter boxes in separate areas and make sure they aren’t forced to share the same sleeping spots. Always reward good behavior, so when they are interacting positively, reward with treats, affection, or playtime. You can even try using pheromone sprays to help diffuse the situation.

If you have tried everything to keep peace in the house, there is no harm in reaching out to your veterinarian or even an animal behaviorist that can help you come up with some ideas to create peace in the household.


4. Stress

Cats are very sensitive to their environment, and they thrive on routine.  When they experience any type of change in their daily routine, it can cause them a significant amount of stress. When a cat becomes stressed, their behavior may change significantly. Sudden spraying could be an indication of stress.

If you notice any significant behavioral changes, like spraying, lack of appetite, using the bathroom outside the litter box, or diarrhea, you need to get in touch with your veterinarian. You will first want to rule out any potential underlying health condition before assuming it is only behavioral.

What You Can Do:

A cat may stress for reasons that may not seem significant to you. Even small changes that disrupt their routine could cause significant stress. If you notice changes in behavior, evaluate what has been going on around you. Have you introduced a new person or pet into the home? Have you moved furniture or are you doing a home remodel? Is there any type of loud noise going on outside the home?

Once you figure out the source of their stress, you will be better suited to help relieve it. If you are aware of upcoming changes in your lifestyle, you can try and get ahead of the problem by talking to your veterinarian about reducing their stress before it begins. Handling your cat’s stress may be dependent on the root cause.

You will want to talk to your veterinarian about ruling out underlying health problems since signs of stress can also be signs of medical issues. Your vet will be able to give you their suggestions and possibly even medication to help give them relief from stress if that is determined as the cause for sudden spraying.


5. Mating Behavior

abyssinian-cat-meowing-at-the-sofa
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Intact females may spray urine during their heat cycle as a way to attract males. While it is much more common for male cats to spray, females will too, which is why it is highly recommended that you spay at a very young age to prevent heat cycles and decrease the likelihood that spraying will ever occur.

Spaying can be completed at any age and may decrease or eliminate spraying altogether once it has been completed. But a small percentage of cats may continue spraying after they’ve been altered.

What You Can Do:

If your female has begun spraying due to mating behavior, it is time to contact your veterinarian and get her spayed. Spaying will not only significantly decrease the likelihood of spraying but will also prevent unwanted litters that can contribute to the current crisis surrounding the homeless pet population. It also has many other health and behavioral benefits and is the best thing you can do for your cat.

For those that struggle financially and cannot afford the cost of spaying at a veterinary clinic, many places offer low-cost spay and neuter services. You can reach out to your local animal shelter to discuss what options you have in your local area.

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Cleaning Up Cat Spray Messes

Now that we’ve discussed the potential reasons for your female cat’s sudden spraying, you may be wondering how to best clean up this smelly mess. Cat urine has a very strong ammonia smell that can be difficult to eliminate.

Here are some tips on cleaning and eliminating the stains and odor:
  • Clean and treat the area as soon as possible. It will be much more difficult to remove old stains and set-in odor. Quickly blot the urine and soak it up with a rag or paper towel to prevent it from being heavily absorbed into your carpet, flooring, or furniture.
  • You can either use your favorite odor and stain remover or dilute some soap into the water and apply it to the area once the urine has been soaked up with the towel. Wipe the area down until there is no trace of the urine spray left behind.
  • Apply some baking soda to the area. Baking soda is great at eliminating stains and odors, so you will want to let it sit in the area for a couple of hours or overnight. Keep pets and children away from the area.
  • Vacuum up the baking soda once it is finished sitting. Make sure you vacuum thoroughly to ensure there is no powder or residue left behind.
  • Finally, use an enzymatic cleaner to wrap up the cleaning process. Cat urine is strong, and chances are that traces of urine will remain. Enzymatic cleaners will break down any leftover urine and eliminate the odors, making it less likely your cat will be drawn to spraying that area again.

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Conclusion

Male cats may be more well-known for spraying, but females can exhibit this behavior as well. There are several reasons your female cat is suddenly spraying, and once you have ruled out any underlying health concerns as the cause, you can evaluate your situation to determine the reason she has started this behavior. Make sure to get your cats spayed or neutered at a young age to help prevent spraying in the first place.


Featured Image Credit: Helen Liam, Shutterstock

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