What to Do when Your Dog or Cat Won’t Stop Peeing in the House! - Bonnie and Clyde Pet Goods

What to Do when Your Dog or Cat Won’t Stop Peeing in the House!

Black dog lying on floor

Your dog isn’t a puppy and your cat is well beyond his kitten years and yet they’re both continuing to have accidents in the house! Whenever you bring home a new pair of clothes, your cat makes it known that it is now “his” with a squirt of urine. Every time your dog walks past that one part of the couch he lifts his leg and disaster strikes!

Urinary marking, peeing in the house, or territorial marking, is a common problem in pets of all shapes and sizes. What exactly causes your pet to pee indoors, and what can be done to stop it? Learn what exactly the problem is, how it differs from common health issues and potty training, and five ways you can stop the problem for good!

What is Territorial or Urine Marking?

Dog urine marking onto a tree

Urine marking often presents itself as frequent accidents in the house usually along walls, pieces of furniture, or on objects recently brought into the house. Your pet may pee on a new pair of shoes, or may attempt to pee where another dog or cat has been. Your cat may lift his tail and “wiggle it” against a piece of furniture, spraying a small amount of urine against it.

Marking occurs for a number of reasons. In the wild, urine marking is a way for pets to mark what is “theirs” and to also send a message to other animals in the vicinity that they have been there. It may indicate a message such as “keep out this is mine!” or “I am here!” or “I challenge you!”.

In pets, the cause is similar and may be related to two adult pets vying for a “territory” (in this case, your couch), may be a way to relieve anxiety by stating that this area is theirs and safe to be in, or may be a way for your pet to include new objects in the “territory” by adding his or her scent. No matter the reason, urine marking can be a messy, pervasive problem that seems nearly impossible to fix.

What’s the Difference Between Territorial Marking, Potty Training, and Medical Accidents?

Before trying to stop urinary marking other causes of urinary problems should be ruled out. There are some key differences between marking behavior, potty training related issues, and medical problems. Determining what is causing your pet to go in the house is best prior to fixing it.

Black dog lying on floor near a cage with a guinea pig

Accidents: Accidents in the house often occur most frequently with very young animals, however, pets that came from a shelter or feral environment may have accidents if they were never potty trained or taught to use a litterbox. Pets that are new to the household and don’t have a routine in place may also have an accident if they don’t know the right place to go.

Pets that have accidents will often void their entire bladder in a LARGE puddle or mess, and may also pass stool outside of designated areas. Accidents are random and occur in different places or behind objects rather than focused on one particular object or area of the house.

A strict potty training routine of taking your pet outside or to a litterbox after eating, play, and sleep will show an improvement in potty training accidents, but does not usually affect marking behavior based accidents.

Cat using litterbox

Medical Problems: Medical problems such as a bladder or kidney infection, metabolic illness or age-related issues such as incontinence may also cause your pet to pee inside [5]. Urinary problems due to infection often present with signs such as urine that is cloudy or blood-tinged, small amounts passed frequently, and pain while urinating. Metabolic issues such as diabetes may show other symptoms in addition to accidents including increased thirst, changes in the frequency of urination and changes in weight/appetite.

Pets with urinary incontinence issues may also have an accident just outside of their designated potty area, as if they tried to make it but couldn’t. There is also no set pattern or location of the accident. Pets with incontinence may dribble urine while not appearing to go potty, or may have accidents appear in areas where they have slept such as a bed or rug.

Calico cat standing seen from behind

Territorial Marking: Marking behavior is a bit different than accidents or medical issues, and often involves a pattern of behavior. Your pet may urinate on the same object after cleaning, or may only have accidents in one location such as on your bed or a piece of clothing. Marking accidents are also often in very small amounts rather than an emptying of an entire bladder. Marking also typically involves only urine, however, some pets may mark with small amounts of their stool as well.

A typical marking behavior in a dog can include a short squat or lifted leg with a small amount of urine released. For cats, marking often involves placing the rear end to the object with the tail held high. You may then see the tail “wiggle” as your cat sprays a small amount of urine in the area and the urine may be more pungent [1].

Five Ways to Stop Your Pet From Peeing in the House

Pug lying on floor

Completely stopping your pet from peeing in the house can be a lengthy procedure, however, there are many techniques that can be used to improve your pet’s behavior and save your carpets! Here are five great ways to stop marking behavior in its tracks.

Changing the Environment: Changing your pet’s environment around may seem counter-intuitive but it can be useful in breaking bad behavior such as peeing in the house [4]. In some cases, removing the problematic object may completely stop the marking behavior. Picking up objects off the floor, blocking off furniture, and hiding clothing can prevent your pet’s access to these objects and stop the behavior. In some cases, competition with other pets in the home may be to blame, and providing each pet with their own personal “space” to hide, food and water dishes, and toys may be enough to decrease competition and prevent marking.

Deterrents: In a similar vein to changing the environment, deterrents may be helpful in distracting or preventing your pet from marking. Stopping them from getting to commonly marked areas with the use of non-harmful scented sprays, ultrasonic sounds, or even simple aluminum foil can deter your pet from the area without hurting them. Spraying objects or walls with sprays that remove scents, or that mask them may also stop marking behavior. Using barriers such as baby gates to restrict your pet’s access can also stop them from certain rooms such as bedrooms or hallways.

Cleaning Routines: A good enzymatic cleaner is a key to preventing repeated marking. Enzymatic cleaners are different than carpet and other generic cleaners as they break down the urine particles present in the environment. This removes the scent and any trace of urine from the affected area and may stop your pet from peeing there again. If it doesn’t smell like a previous pet or even your own pet’s urine, your pet may “forget” the need to continue marking. Enzymatic cleaners come in a variety of types, and can be used on fabrics, washed goods, walls, floors and more.

Spaying/Neutering: Spaying and Neutering to prevent marking behavior in pets is a hotly debated topic. Several studies have come out on both sides of the matter and some such as the article by SG Hopkins [3] showed that castration reduced marking (and other) behaviors, while other articles such as Benjamin Hart’s [2] study showed it had little to no effect. Anecdotally, the evidence for spaying/neutering to reduce marking is strong, and many veterinary professionals and owners have seen a great improvement in peeing in the house a few months post-surgery. Spaying and neutering also has many other benefits for pets including reduced risks of cancer and fewer unwanted litters – a plus for owners not wanting to deal with unexpected babies!

Reducing Stress and Anxiety: While stress and anxiety are lesser known causes of urinary marking, they should still be addressed. Stress over the competition of resources such as bedding, shared attention, food, and toys may cause an increase in peeing indoors. Anxiety from being left home alone, or even from new people or places may cause your pet to begin having accidents as a way to express control over their environment. Calming techniques such as treating underlying anxiety, providing safe places for your pet to get away from other pets or people, and pheromone diffusers in shared spaces may help.

Cat and dog lying on sofa

Patience and persistence are key to stopping marking and it may take a few tries before your pet is back to their well-mannered self. Addressing the common causes of territorial marking, any underlying health or behavioral problems, and providing a good training routine for your pet is beneficial. A healthy diet, lots of exercise, reduced stress, and loving owners are all integral in stopping your pet’s urinary marking and getting back your home!


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[1] ASPCA. “Urine Marking in Cats”. Common Cat Behavior Problems. Web. 04 Jul. 2016. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/urine-marking-cats

[2] Hart, Benjamin L. “Environmental and Hormonal Influences on Urine Marking Behavior in the Adult Male Dog 1”. Behavioral Biology, June 1974. Web. 04 Jul. 2016. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091677374903216

[3] Hopkins, SG. “Castration of Adult Male Dogs: Effects on Roaming, Aggression, Urine Marking and Mounting”. Europe PMC. JAVMA, 1976. Web. 04 Jul. 2016. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/945256

[4] Pryor, Patricia A, DVM. “Causes of Urine Marking in Cats and Effects of Environmental Management on Frequency of Marking”. AVMA. JAVMA, 15 Dec. 2001. Web. 04 Jul. 2016. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2001.219.1709

[5] WebMD. “Urine Marking in Dogs”. ASPCA, 2009. Web. 04 Jul. 2016. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/urine-marking-in-dogs