What Does It Smell Like When a Cat Sprays: Dissecting the Odor

Cats are wonderful animals, but they can sometimes cause problems when they spray their urine. For those of you who have experienced it, you know just how unpleasant the smell can be. So, what does it smell like when a cat sprays? And why does it smell so bad?

In this article, we will provide an in-depth analysis of the odor, its causes, and how to eliminate it. So, let’s get started!

What is Cat Spraying?

Cat spraying is a common behavior in which a cat marks their territory by depositing urine. The urine is released in small amounts, and the cat will often back up against a vertical surface, such as a wall or piece of furniture.

Unlike litter box use, which is primarily for elimination, spraying is a form of communication. It is a way for cats to mark their territory and communicate with other cats.

Why Do Cats Spray?

Cats spray for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it is simply a natural behavior that is part of their instinct. However, there are other reasons why a cat might spray, including:

  • Marking their territory
  • Feeling threatened or intimidated
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Medical issues

Marking Their Territory

One of the most common reasons that cats spray is to mark their territory. Cats are territorial animals, and spraying is a way for them to establish their boundary. This is particularly true for male cats, who are more likely to spray than females.

Cats will often spray in areas that they consider to be their territory, such as around the house or in areas where other cats are present. They may also spray furniture or objects in the home to establish their presence.

Feeling Threatened or Intimidated

Another reason that cats may spray is that they feel threatened or intimidated. This can happen when new cats are introduced into the home, or when a cat encounters an unfamiliar cat outdoors. By spraying, the cat is trying to assert its dominance and defend its territory.

Stress or Anxiety

Cats are sensitive animals, and they can become stressed or anxious for a variety of reasons. When a cat is feeling stressed or anxious, they may respond by spraying. This is particularly true of indoor cats, who may become anxious if they are not given enough stimulation or if their environment is too small.

Medical Issues

In some cases, spraying may be a sign of a medical issue. Cats with urinary tract infections or other medical conditions may spray as a way of relieving their discomfort. If your cat suddenly starts spraying, it is important to have them checked by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues.

What Does Cat Spray Smell Like?

Now that we know why cats spray, let’s take a closer look at the odor. Cat spray has a very strong, pungent smell that is often compared to skunk spray or ammonia. The smell is typically musky and can be quite unpleasant.

The reason that cat spray smells so bad is because it contains a mixture of urine, feces, and secretions from the anal glands. These secretions contain pheromones, which are chemicals that cats use to communicate with one another. While these pheromones may be important to cats, they are not particularly pleasant to humans.

How to Remove Cat Spray Odor

If your cat has sprayed in your home, it is important to act quickly to remove the odor. Here are a few steps that you can follow:

  1. Blot up the excess urine with paper towels.
  2. Apply an enzymatic cleaner to the affected area.
  3. Allow the cleaner to sit for at least 10-15 minutes.
  4. Blot up any excess cleaner with paper towels.
  5. Allow the area to air dry completely.

Enzymatic cleaners work by breaking down the proteins in the urine and neutralizing the odor. It is important to use an enzymatic cleaner rather than a traditional cleaner, as the traditional cleaners may not be effective at removing the odor.

If the odor persists, you may need to contact a professional cleaner to remove the odor completely.

Preventing Cat Spraying

The best way to prevent cat spraying is to have your cat spayed or neutered. This will help to reduce their urge to mark their territory and lessen the chance of spraying.

It is also important to provide your cat with plenty of stimulation and a safe, comfortable environment. This can include providing them with toys, scratching posts, and access to outdoor spaces where they can explore.


Cat spraying is a common behavior that is often triggered by territorial marking, stress, or medical issues. The odor of cat spray is pungent and unpleasant, but it can be removed with the right cleaning products. To prevent cat spraying, it is important to have your cat spayed or neutered and provide them with a safe, comfortable environment.


Here are answers to some of the most common questions about cat spraying:

  • Q: Can female cats spray?
  • A: Yes, female cats can spray, although it is less common than in male cats.
  • Q: Is cat spray dangerous?
  • A: No, cat spray is not dangerous to humans. However, it is best to clean it up as soon as possible to avoid a lingering odor.
  • Q: Can you stop a cat from spraying?
  • A: Yes, spaying or neutering your cat can help to prevent spraying. Providing them with plenty of stimulation and a safe environment can also reduce their urge to spray.
  • Q: How do you clean up cat spray?
  • A: Blot up the excess urine with paper towels, apply an enzymatic cleaner, allow it to sit, blot up any excess cleaner, and allow the area to air dry completely.


1. International Cat Care. (2019). Spraying. https://icatcare.org/advice/problem-behaviour/spraying/

2. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (n.d.). Urine Spraying in Cats. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/urine-spraying-cats

3. Cornell Feline Health Center. (n.d.). Urine Spraying in Cats. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/urine-spraying-cats

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