A common issue that some cat owners will come across is “spraying”, a completely natural but messy behavior in cats. Spraying can make many pet owners stay away from bringing cats into their home, and it can make many prospective owners wonder if Savannah cats spray.
Savannah cats can spray, and because of their large size compared to domestic cats, it can be an even bigger problem. However, it’s mainly intact (unneutered) males that are known for spraying to mark territory and attract females. Most Savannahs, unless they are “breeders”, will be neutered.
However, as there is no guarantee as to whether or not your Savannah cat will spray, it’s worth learning more about this behavior and what causes it. Below, we’ll talk more about what spraying is and how you can deal with it.
What Is Spraying?
Spraying is a natural behavior exhibited mainly by unneutered male cats, where they will “spray” urine onto a wall, tree, or other vertical surface. While in the act of spraying you will notice your Savannah will not be squatting like they do during normal urination, but will stand with their tail held erect and sometimes twitching.
Additionally, spray smells much more potent than normal urine due to other pheromones being present in the spray. These additives in the urine spray are how cats – including Savannahs – communicate with other cats as well as other animals. Males may spray in order to mark their territory, but also to attract potential female mates.
This potent cocktail of urine and pheromones is why most breeders will have separate enclosures for their males. Some may even build their male enclosure a significant distance from their females to reduce spraying. Separate enclosures limit the spread of odors and discourage spraying. Spraying can be very damaging to normal household walls, carpets, and other furniture.
Because spraying is often associated with intact males, it is important to note that they run a much higher risk of contracting testicular or prostate cancer. Additionally these males will be so overwhelmed with the urge to spray and locate a Savannah female in heat that you run the risk of them escaping. For a Savannah cat this can be a very serious and dangerous outcome.
In general, male cats are very territorial and will spray and even fight with other males, and a Savannah is much larger than most domestic cats, even having the potential to kill another cat. It is also possible your Savannah could suffer their own injuries or contract any number of diseases from these interactions, such as feline leukemia.
Causes Of Spraying
Spraying is a natural way for your cat to communicate, and in the wild cats use urine spraying to communicate both positively and negatively. So, while your Savannah may not live in the wild, they still possess the instinct or the urge to spray. Most often, because they live in your home and not in the wild, a Savannah would spray to communicate with you or possibly another cat.
A common reason for intact males to spray is to mark and communicate territory, and in your home this can be caused by changes to their environment or other pets being around. If there is another male or female cat in the area around your home, this could also spark your Savannah’s urge to spray. This is especially true if there is a female in heat.
Stress Plays A Part
Spraying to mark territory is much more common in unneutered males, but in rare cases you may see it in a neutered male. Usually, this is the result of a drastic change in their environment such as moving from one house to another, causing your Savannah to become overwhelmed. Spraying caused by this type of stress is usually temporary, especially if your male is neutered.
Many Savannahs are very prone to separation anxiety and loneliness, particularly if they are of an earlier generation. Having an intact Savannah who is left alone a lot, or if there is a sudden change in schedule or the death of a companion, can lead to stress and anxiety. In this case your Savannah may try and communicate their stress via spraying.
Females Can Spray Too
Although much more rare, intact females will also sometimes spray, and this occurs most often during their heat cycle. A female Savannah spraying would send a signal to males in the area that she is ready and available. In some cases, females may also spray to establish dominance with other females and sometimes males.
Spraying for territorial reasons in the house – by females or males – is often the result of a new animal being present. If you already have a Savannah or other cat in your home the introduction of a new cat could trigger their instincts to establish a hierarchy. Your current resident cat will immediately send the message “this is my home”, by marking several areas important to them.
Dealing With Spraying
For many, spraying can be resolved by simply having your Savannah neutered or spayed when they are about five to six months old. This will help suppress their urge to spray as the urge to mate will also be suppressed by the removal of their sexual organs. Removing the testicles, ovaries, or uterus will reduce the number of reproductive hormones released in their body.
Most instances of spraying are caused by the urge to mate. For example, male Savannahs often only fight for territory when trying to impress a female. Similarly, females can also lay claim to territory by spraying and fighting with other females to make sure they are the only available mate in the area.
Neuter Them Early
If a Savannah is neutered or spayed at a young age, before they have even learned to spray, will make it very unlikely for them to ever start. The longer you wait to have the procedure the more likely it is that your Savannah will learn the behavior, making it harder to overcome.
If you have a multi-cat household and are concerned about spraying, it’s always recommended to have one litter box per cat plus one extra. While spraying is not like normal urinating, if your Savannah feels it does not have its own space to do its business it may start to spray areas around the litter box. This type of spraying is used to tell the other cats, “this is my litter box”.
Removing The Smell
For cases where your Savannah has already started spraying to claim a litter box – or any territory for that matter – you will want to make sure you eliminate all traces of urine scent. Cat urine is incredibly strong smelling, and even the smallest trace can be smelled by your Savannah(s), encouraging them to mark the area again.
To remove all signs of any urine you will want to use an enzymatic or bio-based cleaner that is both safe for your cats but that will also eliminate smells and not just cover them up. You can find these cleaners in almost any pet store or online. It is important that you never use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners as they act as an attractant and are more toxic.
As with their litter boxes, it is also a good idea to feed your Savannahs separately from one another to prevent fighting over food, which may ultimately lead to conflict within the hierarchy itself. Avoiding the opportunity for conflicts to arise can help prevent future spraying as a sign of dominance.
Keeping your Savannah active with daily play sessions or using puzzle toys can help reduce stress, keeping your Savannah happy without the desire to spray your furniture. Boredom or neglect can heavily affect your Savannah, so remember to spend plenty of time with them when you can.
One other thing some pet owners like to use to not only prevent spraying but help a Savannah’s overall mood is to use calming pheromones. These specially selected feline pheromones release into the air via a plug-in or standing diffuser. When your Savannah smells the diffuser, it reduces stress and anxiety, helping them to relax.
So, while Savannah cats can spray, there are ways to prevent it. Most spraying occurs in unneutered males due to their urges to secure territory and to mate, and neutering helps eliminate this urge, preventing them from spraying. A Savannah that feels secure with themselves and their environment is unlikely to spray in the home, so always try to keep them free from stress!