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Urine marking is essentially a communication tool for dogs and cats, and has no connection to toilet training. Urine marking is most commonly seen in males, however some females will also mark their territory with urine. Some pets will also mark out important perimeters with strategically placed faeces. It is important to discuss this behaviour with your Veterinarian to ensure there is not an underlying condition such as a urinary tract infection causing the behaviour.

Urine marking is often seen as a ‘dominant’ gesture – a leave behind message from a bossy pet saying ‘This is my territory! Look how big I am’. Although this is true, the opposite is also true. Some pets feel anxiety and insecurity, so the pet feels a need to mark important items (resources) as their own. Many pets also mark to be social and to leave a ‘status update’ or ‘comment’ similar to the social media we use. Not because they are bossy or anxious, but just to say ‘I was here too’.

Embarrassingly, some pets do this in their own homes – not just when outdoors. Marking in the home is equally important for communication purposes. In multi-pet households it can be due to conflict between animals, and is similar to us leaving a post-it-note on things to say - ‘Don’t touch this – it’s mine’.

Cats and dogs will also mark things that are unfamiliar to them where they perceive this could be threatening and in times of stress. Simple things such as bags and shoes with unfamiliar smells can trigger pets to mark them, as well as some of the bigger life events such as a new baby, new pet or unfamiliar person sharing the home.

The key to solving pet marking is to first work out the cause. Unfortunately there are no quick fixes. Although desexing can help and is highly recommended, it will not solve the problem entirely. For multi-pet households, ensure you have more than enough resources to make all pets comfortable and reduce the need to mark the scarce resources they have – extra beds, bowls, toys, litter trays and so on. Limit access to the ‘social hubs’ which could be particular rooms, doorways etc. that are commonly marked. Keep the doors closed and use baby gates to make these areas less accessible.

Make sure you ‘delete and clear all previous messages’ that may encourage them to come back to that spot. Remove the odours by using biological odour neutralisers and cleaning products that do not contain ammonia, as this will attract animals back to the same spot. Remember, dogs and cats have a very acute sense of smell, so being thorough is critical. 

If you suspect inter-pet conflict or anxiety, then professional help from your Veterinarian or Veterinary behavioural specialist is the best course of action.

Article written by Bayer Animal Health