Dogs and cats live in a scent-oriented world that we can never completely understand. As territorial animals, they communicate “I was here” by marking their territory with urine. With their superior sense of smell, a dog or cat can tell days later who or what has traveled through their territory. When Rover marks the local trees while out on his walk, nobody really cares or notices. But when Rover starts marking the walls or the sofa, the humans in the house tend to get quite upset. Unfortunately, many people confuse this type of marking behavior with a house soiling problem. It’s not. Animals tend to mark vertical surfaces and frequently mark if they feel threatened.
Marking problems tend to happen most frequently in households where one or more animals are not spayed or neutered. Even if the dog or cat doing the marking is neutered, the presence of an intact animal may compel the pet to mark territory. Dogs and cats also often mark territory if they have conflicts with other animals in the home or even ones outside the home. For example, if one cat intimidates another cat, the cat being intimidated may express his anxiety by marking territory. Similarly, if a dog has conflicts with another dog he sees wandering through the yard, he may mark the house to prove it’s “his.”
The obvious first step to help with marking problems is to get your pets spayed or neutered. Spaying or neutering may solve the problem completely. However, if the animal has been marking for a long time, you may also need to take steps to break the pattern. If you have conflicts among the people or animals in your home, you must find ways to resolve them to reduce the anxiety level. Sometimes this means giving up an animal, having new family members work with an animal, or consulting a behaviorist. Also clean any soiled areas completely using an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle. Try to make favorite marking spots inaccessible or if that’s impossible change the area somehow, so it no longer seems like a prime marking spot. For example, one trick is to move the feeding area to a marking spot because animals won’t soil an area where they eat. Remember that pets aren’t people. A little understand on your part can go a long way toward working through problems.