WHY did he pee on my favorite carpet?! Or throw up. Or poop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people (wonderful, loving, pet owners) yell or hit their pets for making messes on their favorite fabrics. As a pet owner myself, I can easily say how infuriating it is. I will have my fresh-out-of-the-wash, clean blanket thrown on my bed and my cat will choose to poop there instead of in his litter box. It’s hard not to be angry. But I can say, he actually cowers with wide fearful eyes every time he does this. And yelling will only make the situation worse, for everyone involved. I can hear you asking: But if we don’t show them it was wrong, they will do it again! Yes and no. First, it’s very important to consider the age of your pet. If you are potty training them, it’s a very different situation. They do need to learn to go outside or in the litter box. But for the purpose of this article, I’m going to stick to the population who are having accidents even though they are already potty trained.
So, before you become angry with them, consider your role in this: Did you take them outside recently to relieve themselves? Is their litter box clean for them to go in? Did they ask to go outside but you didn’t notice because you were busy? Just because they are animals doesn’t mean they like to relieve themselves in gross places. You know how much we hate to use porta-potties at concerts? That awful smell of everyone else’s shit that we much relieve ourselves on top of? Now, remember animals have a much stronger sense of smell. Expecting them to use a dirty litter box or to poop in a backyard that hasn’t been picked in days is like asking them to use a porta-potty. Of course, they will relieve themselves indoors!
Litterboxes and outdoor options are clean and useable? Consider the next most likely option: stress/anxiety. This is the number one way animals can show us they are feeling stressed and/or having anxiety. Remember the article before about trauma? Animals who are adjusting to a new home environment are stressed and often pee in places that we don’t like. Reacting by yelling or getting angry is the worst thing you can do!
When I first adopted my cat, he was 10 years old and potty trained. However, he made it a regular habit of pooping on the bed. It was infuriating! I tried everything from changing the litter brand to buying different boxes… it was getting expensive! But ultimately, it went away as soon as he started to settle into his new home with me. However, he will still do it occasionally. And I can directly trace each accident to either not having cleaned out his litter box in several days (oops!) or I was away from home for too long on a trip or working long hours giving him anxiety for being alone so often.
So what is the solution? Take a deep breath, remember they are in a new home with new people and new sounds, and carefully try to solve the puzzle of why they are peeing or pooping in a place they shouldn’t. Remember, the more they settle in with you, the less this should be happening. Returning your new pet to the shelter (as many families actually do) for this reason is not a good idea as it is very likely the next pet you pick out will do the same thing, for the same reason. If it continues past a month or two, then you should consider that something else is at play here.
**Note: Please do not confuse my urge to empathize with them as an opportunity to comfort them. When they pee on your favorite rug, while you can sympathize with the fear or stress that likely leads them to this reaction, you should by no means comfort them or reward them at this moment. It is best to remain as neutral as possible, while mentally screaming of course!