Do Female Cats Spray When in Heat? (Answered and Explained)

Whether or not you love cats, knowing that your beloved companions are prone to spraying is an unpleasant and often uncomfortable prospect. Knowing when and why your cats spray is often the key to anticipating and dealing with this natural behavior. So, do female cats spray when in heat? Stick with us and we’ll answer your question shortly, as well as provide you with more info on this curious habit.

To begin with, many people are surprised to learn that cats spray. When they hear the word “spray,” most people think of the defense tactic used by skunks to scare away predators. However, many mammals spray, and most are also equipped with anal scent glands (like skunks), regardless of whether or not they use them.

Do Female Cats Spray When in Heat?

While the thought of your cat’s spray stinking up your home may be enough to dissuade some people from owning cats, there are several important factors to consider regarding why and when cats spray that may end up changing your mind.

In brief, female cats spray when in heat. However, not all cats spray and not all cats go into heat. While you may be scratching your head at this, don’t worry.

We’ll explain shortly why some cats do while others do not, and how you can determine whether your pet cat is prone to spraying, or if it’s even something you have to worry about.

Why Do Female Cats Spray When in Heat and What Is Spraying?

Female cats of all species (including big cats like tigers, lions, and leopards) spray when in heat as a way to mark their territory and to attract potential mates.

A cat in heat has reached a stage in their ovulation cycle when mating is optimal and chances of fertility and a resulting pregnancy are high. To let males know that they’re ready to mate, female cats will spray to catch their attention.

To this end, a female cat’s spray is essentially a calling card that identifies an individual. Similarly to how we use and give out business cards, a cat’s spray is unique and traceable, containing the cat’s signature scent.

Unpleasant for us as humans, the spray of a cat in heat can be quite alluring and enticing to male cats. Although appealing to male cats, the spray is also thought by researchers to act as a signal warning rival females to back off.

What is Spray?

We’ve gone over a bit about why female cats spray when in heat, but have yet to discuss what exactly spray is.

Spray is typically a small amount of urine that is excreted on a vertical surface to mark it. What makes the urine of cats in heat so potent are the high levels of pheromones and hormones in the urine that act as signals to other cats.

These pheromones and hormones are produced by the animal’s body when it comes into heat as a direct result of the cat’s increased fertility, which is exactly what is being communicated.

The presence of pheromones and hormones in the cat’s urine chemically trigger a mating response in males, who become aroused by the prospect of an eligible female, and thereby encouraged to seek her out.

Does Cat Spray Smell?

Yes, absolutely. When female cats spray, the urine they produce is especially pungent and leaves behind a strong urine smell. If you’re familiar with the scent of litter boxes, you’ll have a general idea of what we’re referring to.

Unfortunately, the spray they produce when in heat is usually more potent than normal cat urine. This scent can also linger for quite some time if not cleaned up immediately.

The biological purpose of this is clear: the longer the scent lingers and the stronger it is, the more likely another cat is to pick up on the scent and pursue the eligible female.

While a lingering and potent urine smell is biologically advantageous for cats, having this scent taint your furniture and home can be quite frustrating and unpleasant.

How do I Prevent a Female Cat from Spraying When in Heat?

To answer this we need to reframe our question and look to the root of the problem. Rather than attempting to prevent female cats from spraying when in heat, we should be looking at ways to prevent female cats from going into heat in the first place.

The main way to prevent a cat from going into heat is by spaying. Spaying is the surgical removal of a cat’s reproductive system. By removing the reproductive system, the cat will no longer cycle into heat. As the cat can no longer reproduce, there is no longer any need to attract a mate.

cat at the vet | image by Kerri Lee Smith via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

This may sound unpleasant, but it’s an incredibly normal and routine procedure that most cat owners perform on their pets. The surgery has been shown to improve the wellbeing and extend the life of your animal.

As an added benefit, spaying also prevents unwanted pregnancies. While kittens are cute, having a whole litter of them can be more than most people can handle. Otherwise, if you choose not to spay your cat, there are not many other sustainable options for curbing your cat’s desire to spray when in heat, and you’ll have to learn to live with it.

If you acquired your cat from a shelter, it is likely already spayed, and you don’t have to worry about spray in your home.


Now that you know how and why female cats spray when in heat, as well as how to deal with it, we’re sure that for many of you the prospect of your female cat spraying your home is less frightening than it was before you read this article.

Understanding the biology and purposes of the behaviors and bodily functions of our animals helps us become closer to our pets and explains a lot of what they do and why they do it.

Spaying is the simplest solution to the issue of cat spray and is one that contributes to the well being and happiness of your animal.

Lastly, it’s good to keep in mind that your cat may still urinate on furniture, even if your female cat is spayed and does not go into heat. However, if this occurs, it is most likely due to poor training and socialization, and can be remedied with a little extra work.