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Pet World: What to do when male cats spray in the house

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have an eight-year-old indoor male cat that shares the house with a cat (sister) of the same age. The male cat, Zack, has a bad habit of spraying furniture and walls, doors on occasion and we struggle to learn why. We have three little boxes between the two cats and clean frequently. The two cats are very social with each other including us. There haven’t been any changes to the household either. Also, during annual vet visits we have had Zack tested for any underlying medical issues and nothing has been identified. Any idea what can be causing this bad habit?

-Joe, Coventry, Connecticut

Dear Joe,

Male cats spray for many reasons, the most common of which is marking territory. You didn’t mention if Zack was fixed, but if he is not, that is why he is spraying. If he is fixed, it could be that it is a learned behavior that was carried over from before his neuter. Every animal in the house should be fixed though, to reduce the chances of him exhibiting this behavior.

Before addressing the behavior, I always recommend getting a health check. Some male cats with urinary problems will spray indiscriminately, especially if this is a new behavior.

Stress can cause male cats to spray as well. Can Zack see other cats outside? These sightings can cause anxiety for many cats, and spraying is one way male cats manage the stress. There also can be unseen stress in the house between cats. They may appear to get along, but sometimes there can be some territorial issues that are undetected by us humans. There are over-the-counter anxiety supplements for cats that may help calm Zack, but if they don’t work, talk to your vet about a prescription medication. I also recommend Feliway/Comfort multi-cat feline pheromones to reduce anxiety. Get a collar for Zack to wear (and for all the cats if you can afford it), and some plug-in pheromones for the various rooms they hang out in.

Finally, make sure you have one litter box per cat plus one, so Zack can claim one for himself, and locate them in low-traffic areas with two escape routes each. Also, purchase an enzymatic urine and odor cleaner just for cats to remove the urine scent from your furniture and carpet to discourage Zack from going back to the same spots.

Do not yell or use a spray bottle of water on Zack when he sprays as this can make any stress worse. Let me know if these changes help.


Dear Cathy,

I would like your recommendations for our nine-year-old Golden Doodle. He is my fiancé’s dog and along w/her four-year-old Shih Tzu mix they have recently moved into my condo. Previously, the dogs were bound by an electric fence and didn’t get much leash walking. Now, we are walking the dogs (on leash) 2-3 times/day. The issue is the golden doodle, although seemingly a bit timid at home, acts very aggressively to other dogs being walked. It’s getting to the point where other dogs’ walkers see us and head in the opposite direction to avoid us. I sometimes do the same, just to avoid the drama. We recently purchased a harness-type restraint for walking the dogs. Can you make any suggestions to correct or temper this behavior?

–Ken, Simsbury, Connecticut

Dear Ken,

Dogs are often protective of us, but it’s important to teach your dog that you have things under control, and don’t need his protection. The harness-type leashes can make it easier to manage and train your dog but used alone won’t solve the problem. You can do that through training and body positioning when you walk him.

Begin by training him to look at you when you say his name and to heel (walks next to you) when you walk. Dogs allowed to walk in front of people are more likely to display aggression towards an approaching dog (or person) than a dog that has learned to heel. Say his name as a dog approaches, talk to him, and keep him focused on you and by your side. Don’t let him lunge in front of you. You may also use a Pet Corrector® (compressed air sound) in combination with his name to get his attention. If he doesn’t respond immediately, you can get his attention by turning and walking quickly in the other direction. The goal is to interrupt the barking with sound or movement and make him pay more attention to you than the other dogs on the walk.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




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