Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?

Many observant foreigners in Spain have been quick to pick up on this bizarre practice. What’s the reason behind bottles of water being left outside buildings and houses here?

Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?
Photos: Julio César Cerletti García, joaopms/Flickr

You may have picked up on this already or, now that you’ve been made aware of it, you’ll notice it on your next visit to Spain. 

Some buildings or houses in Spain have two or even more bottles of water placed at the property’s entrance in the street, usually strategically positioned on either side of the main door on the pavement. It’s also not uncommon to see bottles of water placed outside small shops and businesses.

In case you were wondering, it has nothing to do with Spain being a relatively hot country – it’s no selfless offering of H20 to passers-by or a way to keep the ground cool. 

It’s such a quirky sight that in 2018 a Reddit user posted a photo of a row of 5-litre bottles of water lined up on a residential road, asking “Spain. Why are there water bottles outside all the driveways and entrances?”.

The general consensus among Spanish commentators on the thread and other Spanish sources is that the practice is all about stopping cats and dogs from urinating on people’s doorways. 

Some claim that with cats the habit stops them from doing their business as they don’t want to ‘pollute’ clean water with their urine. 

There are also those that claim it has something to do with dogs and cats seeing their reflection in the water and being put off from the toilet break.

According to local daily La Gaceta de Salamanca, leaving bottles on building corners and entrances replaced the more dangerous tradition of sprinkling lye or sulphur on the walls and ground of homes and businesses in the Castilian city, but this was a huge health hazard that’s now been banned. 

So does the water bottle solution work? Well, some swear by it while others see it more as an old wife’s tale.

“We do not know if it is effective, but it is true that dogs can be scared because they see themselves reflected or because the sun causes a reflection on the water and, just like pigeons, it bothers them and they get frightened”, President of the Salamanca veterinary college Antonio Rubio told La Gaceta.

Others aren’t so convinced: “No scientific study has been carried out to check if it works but we know that it is not effective,” Vigo veterinarian Xiana Costas told her local daily El Faro de Vigo in northwestern Spain. 

Dog urine is the main reason why some Spaniards leave bottles of water outside of their buildings. Photo: Valery HACHE / AFP

“Probably at first a dog is put off peeing by the obstacle of the bottle but a more daring pooch will mark its territory no matter what. But I’ve never seen a dog that’s scared of a bottle.”

It’s not known whether this practice originated in Spain or somewhere else, but leaving bottles of water outside doorways or even tied to trees in communal gardens is also reportedly done in Italy, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and even Japan

In most of these countries street dogs and feral cats are blamed for pee stains left on walls and doorways, but in Spain it’s often dog owners who are held responsible for allowing their pets to mark their territory in the wrong place. 

If you are a dog owner in Spain the recommended thing to do is to spray their pee with water mixed with a bit of washing up liquid or vinegar.

Cleaning up these territorial markings is according to veterinarian Costas also the best way to prevent more pongy pee from appearing on walls and corners of Spanish buildings. 


Member comments

  1. It’s just handy to have a bottle of water by the door to wash the pee off, rather than having to go back indoors to get some. There could also be a faint hope that the dog owner will use the water to clean off his dog’s pee to save you the bother!

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Could Spain ever dethrone King Felipe and become a republic?

After a decade on the Spanish throne, King Felipe VI is steadily growing in popularity. If things were ever to turn sour, could the Spanish public and government actually oust the monarch and turn Spain into a republic?

Could Spain ever dethrone King Felipe and become a republic?

King Felipe VI is set to celebrate a decade on the Spanish throne. He became king on June 19th 2014 following the abdication of his scandal-ridden father, former King Juan Carlos.

This meant that Felipe took over the crown needing to somewhat rehabilitate the public image of la Casa Real. According to polling data released to coincide with his decade as king, it seems he’s done a decent enough job of it so far. In fact, after 10 years on the throne his approval rating has grown.

READ ALSO: What do Spaniards think of their royal family?

Felipe obtained an average score of 6.6 among Spaniards polled, surpassing, for the first time, the 6.5 mark. This is according to a survey carried out by the IMOP Insights Institute for Vanitatis.

In fact, after a decade the majority of Spaniards approve of the King’s performance: 46.4 percent have a positive view of his work, compared to 20.9 percent who are critical or hold a negative view.

Older people generally have more favourable views of Felipe and the monarchy, whereas under 25s are the only group with a negative opinion of him.

In terms of regional breakdown, the most pro-Felipe part of the country was found to be Andalusia and the least, to the surprise of absolutely nobody in Spain, was Catalonia.

Many royal commentators in Spain argue that Felipe, along with his daughter, Princess of Asturias Leonor, have taken big steps to restoring the Spanish crown’s credibility.

That Felipe’s personal approval rating has grown over time is testament to that, and positive ratings, especially after a decade in the public eye, is something most politicians could only dream of.

That is to say, there doesn’t seem to be any danger of Spaniards turning on their king for now. But what if Spanish public opinion changed over time and suddenly Spain did want to become a republic?

Legally, constitutionally speaking, could Spain ever dethrone King Felipe and become a republic?

Spain’s King Felipe VI and Spain’s Queen Letizia attend a ceremony for the Spanish Crown Princess of Asturias. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP.

The steps to a republic

Even if Spaniards themselves wanted it, transitioning from a constitutional monarchy to a republic involves a lot of steps that make it highly unlikely, perhaps even impossible.

The change would require two-thirds support in both chambers of the Spanish Congress, something that is very unlikely in the current political climate. Such consensus across both houses is very, very rare.

But, theoretically speaking, to get rid of the king the Spanish legislature would first need to amend Article 1 of the título preliminar of the Spanish Constitution, which outlines the state structure and clearly says that: “the form of the Spanish state is a parliamentary monarchy”.

To do this, the government or Congress would have to call for a vote on constitutional reform in the Congress of Deputies and it would have to pass with a qualified majority, that is, with a majority of two thirds or more, which is equivalent to 234 or more deputies.

READ ALSO: How much do Spain’s king and royal family make?

It would then have to be ratified in the Senate with the same qualified majority. Of the 265 senators, 177 would have to be in favour.

But it doesn’t end there. If both chambers agree, Congress would be dissolved, a general election would have to be called, and the voting would have to be repeated among the new deputies.

However, there’s still one final hurdle: a general referendum. The people’s referendum is meant to function as a sort of fail-safe or quality control on the actions of the legislature, especially on such a huge constitutional question.

Javier Tajadura, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of the Basque Country, told Spanish website Newtral that “the referendum serves as a form of citizen control of what the Cortes want to carry out, and it must be carried out after the votes [in both houses] have been taken.”

If, after all the votes in Congress pass with suitable majorities, the referendum also results in a yes and it is undeniable that Spaniards want to change from monarchy to republic, Spain would become a republic.

Then the debate would shift to whether Spain would need an entirely new constitution, or it would need to make some (pretty huge) changes to the pre-existing constitution of 1978.

So, yes. Spain could, in theory, become a republic. Clearly, the Spanish system has a lot of checks and balances embedded within it that makes moving from a monarchy to a republic constitutionally complicated, politically unlikely, and, in realistic terms, very improbable to the point of being almost impossible.

As Miguel Ángel Cabellos, Professor of Constitutional law at the University of Girona, puts it: “Beyond the fact that it is a change of an essential and core element of the political system, which would also radically divide society, the truth is that from a legal point of view the difficulties are very notable, one could almost say insurmountable in practice.”

READ ALSO: The one thing to know about each of Spain’s ‘crazy’ kings and queens