How to Prevent Dogs and Cats from Marking Your Home

Cat Spraying No More

catspray, cat

Itʼs one of the most dreaded behaviors of dogs and cats – marking that causes urine stains and odors in your home. Dogs and cats mark for different reasons, but if you understand the problem and take the right steps to fix it, thereʼs a good chance you can eliminate the behavior.


According to

, dogs that mark with urine (which is a different behavior than eliminating as a bathroom necessity) are exhibiting a normal, instinctive behavior more prevalent among males than females. Often, marking is a sign that the dog is staking out its territory, and noting, to any other dog, that anything within this territory is under his protection. Dogs actually get a lot of information from the smell of urine, including whether the dog who did the marking is male or female, in heat, and is sick or healthy. Humans will never know everything a dog detects, but we know enough to develop methods that can combat a behavior that a dog thinks is normal, but that humans donʼt want exhibited inside the house.

The first thing you should do is to make sure your dog doesnʼt have a urinary infection or other medical problem that causes excessive urination. If a health check reveals nothing out of the ordinary, itʼs possible that the dog is exhibiting feelings of insecurity or a perceived threat, and is marking objects in order to feel more secure. Punishing your dog wonʼt achieve what you want. Punishing is inhumane, and will only make an insecure dog more insecure. Neutering or spaying helps.

notes that dogs who are neutered or spayed at an early age donʼt mark the house. Other tips from the forum include:

• Catch your dog in the act with close supervision. Intense supervision might stop the problem quickly, even within a day or two. Confine your dog to one area of the house, and the moment the dog lifts his leg, interrupt what he is doing with a loud noise (using, for example, an empty bottle or can with coins in it that you can shake) and give him the stern command “NO PEE.” Be consistent and diligent in this training behavior.

  • Praise your dog when he/she pees in the right place. Dogs learn quickly from positive responses to their behavior.
  • Leave an item of your clothing with your dog when you go out. This might prevent marking behavior caused be separation anxiety.
  • If necessary, confine your dog to one section of your home when you go out. Close doors to rooms where your dog canʼt be trusted when youʼre not there to supervise.

If these basic steps donʼt fix the problem, consult your veterinarian or an experienced dog trainer.


Urine marking is a notorious feline problem, especially in households with more than one cat. According to the


, if the problem isnʼt a litter box issue (some cats have strong preferences about cleanliness, litter type, and sharing litter boxes), your cat could be marking as a form of indirect communication. You can tell because urine marks are usually smaller than litter box eliminations, and are deposited on vertical surfaces after the cat backs up to the surface with its tail extended straight in the air. Unfortunately, urine marks also tend to have a more noticeable smell.

Cats are naturally solitary creatures, and when they are forced to share territory within one abode, they sometimes send each other messages through urine marking. They might be letting other cats know of their presence, or what piece of property they consider their own, or they might simply feel more secure once

they mark a territory. Conflicts between cats are the most common causes of urine marking, and they are usually based on anxiety rather than intolerance. A cat also might want to advertise availability for mating, so just as with dogs, spaying or neutering (by 5 months of age for cats, or as soon as possible if you adopt an adult cat) can help eliminate the problem.

The Humane Society of the United States

notes that resolving a catʼs source of stress is critical to combating spraying behavior, and advises these steps to help:

  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly (read about effective cleaning methods


    ). Avoid strong-smelling cleaners that might cause your cat to simply “over-mark” the spot.
  • Make areas that have been soiled inaccessible or unattractive, or feed, treat, and play with your cat in the area so that he interprets the meaning of the spot differently.
  • If stress due to contact with outdoor animals is a problem (through a window or screen, for example) restrict your catʼs access to doors and windows, or discourage the presence of other animals near your home in a humane manner (if feral cats are a problem, consider getting involved with a humane Trap-Neuter-Release program through a non-profit organization in your community – contact

    Alley Cat Allies

    for more information).
  • User a product such as


    to inhibit your cat’s spraying.

Just as with dogs, when cat marking is a problem, itʼs always a good idea to contact a veterinarian first to be sure there are no health problems, and a behaviorist if basic steps donʼt work. And even if marking is under control, COIT recommends that pet friendly households schedule a professional

carpets and upholstery cleaning

every six months to keep homes clean and fresh.

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