Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Cats

By  //  October 15, 2020

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Most cats have no trouble at all understanding litter box training. Unfortunately, even previously litter box-trained cats can wind up experiencing urinary incontinence. This condition causes the affected animal to lose control of his or her bladder, which can result in small leaks or unintentional voiding of large amounts of urine.

Larger breeds of cats are more prone to urinary incontinence than small breeds. This condition is also more likely to affect senior cats. The causes of urinary incontinence in senior cats vary, but most of them are not as serious as pet owners think, and they’re often treatable. Read on to find out about the top causes of urinary incontinence in cats to get an idea of what might be wrong.

Bladder Infections

Bladder infections are not uncommon in cats. They can cause either temporary or permanent urinary incontinence. Bladder infections must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. In the meantime, pet owners can do some damage control by looking for cat diapers.

Never allow bladder infections to go untreated. If the infection persists, it can cause scarring that alters the integrity of the cat’s bladder wall. This permanently changes the amount of urine the animal’s bladder can hold, resulting in an increased frequency of urination that may result in accidents.

Feline Diabetes

Feline diabetes increases thirst, which can lead cats to drink excessive amounts of water. This, in turn, leads to increased urination. If cats can’t make it to the litter box in time, they may wind up voiding their urine in inappropriate places. Properly managing feline diabetes can all but eliminate problems with this form of feline incontinence.

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones are more common in male cats. They occur when the minerals in a cat’s bladder form large crystals, irritating the lining of the bladder and sometimes creating blockages in the urethra. This can leave affected cats straining to urinate in the litter box. It can also lead to problems with urine leakage. Bladder stones should be treated by a veterinarian.

Kidney Stones

As with bladder stones, kidney stones can cause problems with urination. Kidney stones often cause bloody urine, as well. It’s important to take the affected cat to a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. The vet may also recommend switching the animal over to a specialized diet.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is not common in cats, but it isn’t unheard of. Cats with bladder cancer have tumors that build up on the inner linings of their bladders, placing extra pressure on this organ and potentially causing blockages.

Feline incontinence is a common symptom of bladder cancer but it is typically accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy or straining to urinate or defecate. Pet owners who believe their cats may have bladder cancer should schedule an exam with the animals’ veterinarians immediately, as treatment outcomes are better when the condition is diagnosed early.

Birth Defects

Not all cats who struggle with incontinence are old. Some cats are born with underdeveloped bladders or other birth defects that make holding urine more difficult. Cat diapers provide a perfect solution for congenital conditions that cannot be surgically corrected.

Senior Incontinence

As with their human counterparts, some aging cats struggle with senility. This can cause them to lose the ability to sense when they need to urinate. Senior cats may wait too long, then dribble urine on the way to the litter box. They may also forget where the litter box is and wind up voiding large amounts of urine in desperation when they can’t find it.

As cats age, it is often easier to place a litter box on each floor of multi-story homes and to keep these litter boxes in the same familiar places. The more easily a senior cat can find and reach the litter box, the lower the chances are of owners having to deal with unpleasant messes.

Pregnant Cats

Urinary incontinence is common in pregnant cats. Not only do pregnant cats have the pressure of their litters pressing up against their bladders, but in the later stages of pregnancy, they can also have a harder time getting to the litter box in time. Pregnant cats who struggle with urinary incontinence may also be more prone to problems with fecal incontinence due to the combination of pressure from the cat’s uterus and her bladder.

Overactive Bladder Syndrome

Veterinarians diagnose overactive bladder syndrome in cats by first ruling out other health and behavioral issues that could be contributing to incontinence. The best ways to deal with overactive bladder syndrome are to give the affected animal access to multiple litter boxes or to start using cat diapers. The condition isn’t painful, but it can lead to smelly messes around the home.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is actually an umbrella term for a variety of conditions that affect cats’ bladders and urethrae. The condition is more common in overweight cats, older cats, and cats placed under emotional or environmental stress.

Cats with FLUTD also show other symptoms such as prolonged attempts to urinate, straining to urinate, excessive licking of the genital area, and bloody urine. FLUTD must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian, but pet owners can also take some steps to prevent its recurrence at home. They include:

Keeping litter boxes clean

Reducing stress

Feeding smaller meals more frequently

Changing the cat’s diet

Ensuring round-the-clock access to clean water

Keeping litter boxes in quiet places

Minimizing environmental changes

The Bottom Line

Feline urinary incontinence is a health condition, so pet owners shouldn’t get mad at their cats. The animals are not urinating outside the litter box on purpose. Cats will only do this if their litter boxes are allowed to get too dirty.

If cat owners have been ensuring that the litter box is clean, the next step is to head to the vet. Some conditions that cause urinary incontinence can be treated, while others can only be managed. Pet owners can reduce stress for themselves and their cats by purchasing cat diapers to reduce unwanted messes.

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