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A Final (But Not Fatal) Solution to Pet Urine in the House

Brett Freeman

An accident-prone pet--that is, one that "accidentally" pees all over your house--can make you wonder what made you an animal lover in the first place.

This may be hard to believe if you have a pet treating your home like its very own luxury commode, but cats and dogs are actually very particular about where they urinate. It's why dogs can be housebroken and cats can be litter-trained. But you and your pet may not always be on the same page about what constitutes a good place to go. Fortunately, there's a three-step method to keeping Fido and Fluffy from leaving their marks permanently on your home.

Identify/Modify the Behavior
The first step in getting cats or dogs to stop peeing in the house is to have them spayed or neutered. The methods used to housebreak pets take advantage of their natural tendencies, but with animals, as with people, there are certain biological urges that can readily make them ignore what they know they're supposed to do. Avoid this problem by nipping it in the bud.

Dogs are pack animals, meaning they are eager to please the alpha (that would be you), so if they are urinating inside, this can usually be remedied by training. Methods vary, but all involve praising and rewarding your dog when he is urinating in the right place (outside, or even in a designated part of your yard). Rubbing his nose in urine stains indoors doesn't teach your dog anything unless you actually catch him in the act. Dogs that are nervous and pee when startled or scared are generally insecure because they don't know what to expect from you, nor what behavior is expected of them, which can also be remedied through training. If training is ineffective, have your vet examine the dog to make sure the problem isn't health-related.

Cats aren't necessarily eager to please, but they are deeply interested in self-preservation, which leads them to instinctively bury their waste as a way of thwarting would-be predators. To accomplish this they try only to pass waste in areas with sandy or loose soil, which in your house is the litter box. When cats start ignoring this instinct and spraying around the house, this is often the result of health problems such as kidney disease or urinary tract infections. Have your vet check your cat to see if this is indeed the case. Cats have also been known to editorialize more than dogs, so their spraying might be a response to a litter box that needs cleaning, a new type of litter, or some change such as a move to a new home or the introduction of a baby or a new pet. (It's also an indication that you no longer scare them). Keeping a new and consistently-clean litter box is easy enough: undoing a new baby is less so, but your cat should adjust in a week or two.

Manage the Problem
Until you've gotten your pet to change its behavior, your goal in dealing with urine on carpets and furniture is preventing stains and covering odors. As soon as you realize your pet has "done it again," cover the entire area with water (at least as much water as there is urine), let it sit for about 20 seconds, then blot up all of the liquid with an old towel. Next use a carpet or upholstery cleaner according to instructions, and finally use a deodorizing spray designed to combat pet odors.

Deep Clean
Once you've retrained your pet, it's time to completely eliminate the stains and odors that remain. This is best accomplished by renting a wet vac or extractor from a local hardware store. These machines will force water deep into your carpet and carpet pad (which is where the odor often lingers), and then extract it and any remaining pet urine. Do not use a steam cleaner, as the heat will actually bond the urine to your carpet! Wet vacs and extractors work fine with just water, so carpet cleaning chemicals are not necessary. Finally pick up a top-shelf pet odor neutralizer from your local pet supply store. The best of these products--the ones that actually work--can cost more than a good bottle of wine, but they are worth the investment. And if you've done a good job of retraining your pet, it's money you will only have to spend once.

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


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