Cat Spraying vs Peeing: How to Tell the Difference & Solutions

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As a cat owner, how do you tell the difference between cat spraying vs peeing? Either way, finding a wet spot left by your furry friend is never a fun experience. Read on to find out how to tell whether the spot your pet left behind is pee or a spraying/marking. We’ll also answer common questions about cat spray vs cat pee, why spraying happens, and how to clean it up and prevent it in the future.

What Is Cat Spraying?

Cat spraying occurs when a cat intentionally releases a small amount of concentrated urine onto a surface. This urine serves the purpose of communicating to other cats and animals that this territory belongs to that cat.

Cat spraying or urine marking differs from your cat’s regular bathroom habits. Unneutered male cats are more likely to spray than others, but any cat, whether spayed/neutered and female or male, can spray. Technically, urine marking involves releasing small pee deposits that are expressed normally and not sprayed, but the behavior stems from the same root cause as spraying and many cat people interchange the two terms.

Cat spraying is a way for your cat to mark territory. It is an instinctual behavior that may be done out of fear, stress, dominance, a desire to mate, or other various reasons. 

Is My Cat Spraying or Peeing?

It can be difficult to tell whether the urine you find outside the litter box results from spraying or regular urine. There are a few ways to tell, depending on your situation. 

Pee or Spray: Cat position

If you catch your cat in the act, its stature can alert you to the nature of the act. Cats generally squat to pee and stand to spray. If your cat is squatting, it is most likely regular urine. If your cat is standing, this indicates that he or she is spraying to mark territory. 

Pee or Spray: Urine Location

The location of the urine may clue you in if you find the urine after the fact. When cats spray, they prefer to do it on a vertical surface, usually a wall. If you find the urine in the middle of a rug, it’s more likely to be pee. If you find the mess on the wall, it’s more likely to be spraying. 

Pee or Spray: Litter Box Behaviors

Your cat’s behavior is the best indication of whether your cat is peeing or spraying. Is your cat peeing AND pooping outside of the litter box? If the answer is yes, this is likely not spraying. It can indicate your cat is unhappy with its litter box or possibly experiencing a medical issue. Be sure to contact your vet if you suspect a medical issue like a UTI is causing them to avoid the litter box.

If your cat is still regularly pooping in its litter box, but you have found urine outside of it, then chances are higher that you are dealing with spraying.

Additionally, cats usually use less urine when spraying to mark territory. If there is a lot of liquid, it is more likely to be pee.

Does Cat Spray Smell Different than Pee?

Cat spray and cat pee have similar smells, but you may be able to tell them apart.

Cat Pee Smell

Cat pee smells less “stinky” than cat spray. If a pee spot smells similarly to what you’re used to from the litter box area, then it’s likely to be cat pee not cat spray.

Cat spraying smell

Cat spray tends to be more pungent than regular pee. When a cat sprays, he releases scent chemicals designed for marking territory. The resulting smell far exceeds that of normal pee in intensity.

Why is My Cat Spraying?

The sense of scent is one of the best communication tools a cat has. Cats can spray for many reasons. The primary causes of cat spraying are:

  • To mark territory
  • A response if they feel threatened 
  • To attract mates
  • A stress response

Putting a stop to spraying will require you to identify the root cause and address it.

How To Prevent Cat Spraying

Cat spraying is a communication tool for cats, so you should ensure they are not indicating something is wrong first. If your cat begins exhibiting unusual or atypical behavior, consult a vet. 

Spraying Related to Basic Needs

First, make sure your cat has plenty of food and water, and his own food bowl and water bowl. Cats spray for territorial reasons, which are often related to basic needs. Additionally, make sure your cat has his own private litter box. The general rule is that there should be as many litter boxes as cats, plus one, to avoid litter box related issues. So if your household has two cats, there should be three litter boxes available.

Spraying to Mark Territory

Has your cat had an interaction with other cats recently? Do all the cats in your home get along? Are there any new cats in the house, the building, or the neighborhood?

Considering keeping cats in the home separated temporarily if there is an in-home conflict. Having a private safe space and a personal litter box can go a long way toward reducing conflict between cats. Over time, cats in the same home may warm up to each other and become friends, but sometimes a few months of transition time is needed.

Spraying as a Threat or Stress Response

Has your cat experienced any major life changes lately? Have you moved, introduced new animals or pets to the home, or had a significant change in routine? Some cats don’t like to be surprised. Even changing furniture or bringing a new large item into the home can feel threatening to your cat. If you can’t change the environment back to what the cat is used to, be sure that your kitty has a safe space to escape to. Reducing your cat’s overall anxiety will go a long way toward eliminating unwanted behaviors such as spraying. A cat diffuser may help relax your cat by providing friendly pheromones.

Calming Diffuser Kit Calming Diffuser Kit

This pheromone diffuser can help cats adjust to challenging situations and curb stress related unwanted behaviors

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Spraying to Attract Mates

Cats communicate through hormones in their urine, and your cat may be wanting to mate with another cat. Spaying or neutering your cat will help to reduce this behavior. Making sure they don’t have access to animals of the other sex will help as well; this is also important if you don’t want unexpected kittens to appear. Consider limiting your cat’s outdoor exposure to strictly supervised experiences. Neutering will also decrease the smell of male cat urine, since fewer hormones will be present in the pee.

How to Get Rid of Cat Spray Smell

You’ve got some ideas for how to prevent future spraying, but what do you do about the smell right now? Here are some options.

Vinegar Solution

Vinegar is one of the best and cheapest ways to eliminate any odor, including those resulting from your cat’s rear end. Take plain white vinegar, and dilute it by about half with water in a spray bottle. First, use a dry paper towel to soak up any excess urine or spray that you can. Next, spray the vinegar solution on the spot. Wait a few minutes, and then blot enthusiastically to remove as much liquid as you can. Repeat a few times, and then allow the spot to dry. Once the area is dry, the smell should be gone.

Best Cat Spray & Pee Odor Products

More specialized products are also available. This citrus spray will break down the scents left behind from cat spray or pee, and the UV flashlight will ensure that you don’t miss any.

ANGRY ORANGE Pet Odor Eliminator for Strong Odor ANGRY ORANGE Pet Odor Eliminator for Strong Odor
$37.99 ($19.00 / Count)

Zero-in on invisible stains with the UV light and use the pet odor eliminator for home to vanquish stubborn stains and foul smells. This pet stain and odor remover can be used on most surfaces, from carpets and floors, to garbage cans, pillows, clothing and even outdoor odors. Anywhere your cat pees or sprays, this will help.

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11/17/2022 09:07 pm GMT

The sooner you treat the spots the better, as the pee will have less time to saturate the surface.

You will also want to turn on your favorite cat-friendly air purifier. These air purifiers come with charcoal filters that remove odors from the air. This means that once you remove the remaining urine from the surface, the air purifier will quickly scrub out the rest of the scent and you can go back to enjoying your fresh air at home again.

Cat Spraying vs Peeing?

You should now be able to figure out if your cat is spraying, why he is spraying, and how to both treat the spray spots and adjust your cat’s long term behavior.

Cat Spraying Vs Peeing

Kelsey Madison

Kelsey Madison is a cat lover, fostering enthusiast, part time vet tech & writer. She has fostered close to 300 animals over the last 10+ years, and currently has 3 beautiful tabby cats who love to stick their faces in her morning lattes. She is passionate about helping others develop a deeper understanding of their beloved felines and learn more about fostering.