Tag Archives: urine marking

Why dogs mark and what to do about it

What can cause a dog to start marking in the house? That was the question I got from a reader, and I teamed up with my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to answer.

Q: Last year I adopted a 9-year-old chocolate Lab who was badly neglected and has permanent limited mobility. He joined my pack of two female Jack Russell terriers and my 13-year-old catahoula hound. Both males are neutered. After about two months, both males started marking the furniture. Now I think it may be only my old dog marking.

When I find urine, I’ve done everything from yelling to speaking calmly to not saying anything when cleaning the area. I have used every kind of cleaner I can find, have given my hound extra attention to make him feel loved and put diapers on him. Do you have any other recommendations? 

A: It may seem as if the behavior is related to the new dog, but there’s a good chance it may not be. Our No. 1 piece of advice is to take the dogs to your veterinarian to rule out health problems that may be causing the behavior.

Often, dogs appear healthy, but if they don’t feel good, breaking housetraining or marking objects may be the only way they have to get their message across. Also, both of your males are seniors; problems with arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, kidney disease or other health issues could be contributing to their behavior.

If your dogs get a clean bill of health, the first thing to do is to make sure you know which dog is marking. Consider setting up an inexpensive video camera in the area where marking occurs to identify who’s doing what and when.

“Try to create opportunities for them to not soil in the house,” says Kathryn Primm, DVM, who often sees behavior issues in her practice. That may mean taking them out more often, rewarding them at the moment you see them potty outdoors and restarting the housetraining process as if they were puppies.

Read more, including the challenges of caring for pets when you’re ill, in this week’s Pet Connection!

Why cats spray and mark in the house

Cats who mark the house with urine present a huge problem to even the most loving owners. When a reader recently wrote asking me about this behavior, I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to help explain.

Q: My cat is spraying in the house. It feels like he’s trying to protect us from the other cats, and occasionally coyotes, that come into our yard. If we keep him inside all the time, he gets antsy and will spray. When we let him out, he does fine much of the time, but then cats come into the yard and they fight. He is 9 or 10 years old and is neutered. Any advice?

A: Spraying, or territorial marking, is a feline form of communication. It’s most common in unneutered cats, but any cat is capable of spraying, including neutered males. Cats deliver messages to each other with their stinky pee; your cat may be attempting to ward off other cats and coyotes from his territory — your yard and home.

Your cat may also be marking space inside the home to help himself feel more secure. Making your home smell more like himself helps to relieve stress that may occur when he sees, hears or smells other cats or predators, such as coyotes in his yard. If your cat is spraying items that carry your scent, such as clothing or bedding, or items where you spend a lot of time, such as a favorite chair or sofa, he’s doubling down on that feeling of security. Combining his scent with yours is a way of increasing his feeling of comfort.

Ways to improve the situation include changing the environment, instituting a behavior modification plan or administering pheromones or medications to help decrease anxiety. Try blocking your cat’s view of the animals outdoors. Eliminate odor from previous marking episodes by thoroughly cleaning the area with an enzymatic product. Feline pheromone diffusers or sprays can increase his comfort level as well. A Fear Free-certified veterinarian can help you with a behavior modification or medication plan.

Read more in this week’s Pet Connection!