Cats are meticulously clean animals, so any health problem that leaves them feeling wet or dirty is particularly distressing. Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the bladder due to age, illness, or obstruction. The impairment results in the cat leaking urine involuntarily.
Incontinence is not to be confused with behaviorally inappropriate urination in which cats intentionally pee outside their litter box.
What causes cats to leak urine?
Urinary incontinence can affect cats of any age, gender, or breed. However, it is more common in middle-aged, senior, and large-breed cats. Additionally, the following risk factors may cause urine leaking in cats:
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Birth Defects
- Hormone Imbalance
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Nerve Damage
- Bladder Masses
- Decreased Mobility
- Overactive Bladder Syndrome
- Chronic Inflammatory Disease
What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence in cats?
Holistic veterinarian Tom Farrington lists the following as common signs of feline incontinence:
- Involuntary urine leakage
- Wetness or staining of the hair on the lower abdomen or between the rear legs
- Wetness or staining on bedding or sleeping area
- Inflammation of the skin around the urinary opening
- Odor of ammonia from stale urine
- Excessive licking of the urinary area, lower abdomen, and between the legs
What to do if your cat is leaking urine:
1. See your vet as soon as possible.
As soon as you notice any of the above symptoms, schedule a visit with your vet. He or she will perform a thorough physical exam and will likely recommend diagnostic tests such as bloodwork, X-rays, and/or ultrasound.
2. Start treatment.
Depending on the diagnosis, your vet will determine a treatment plan that may or may not include medications. For example, if your cat is leaking urine due to a urinary tract infection, he or she will prescribe antibiotics. Older cats and those suffering urinary incontinence due to a hormone imbalance may require hormone replacement therapy.
In more serious cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a spinal cord injury or remove a urinary tract obstruction.
3. If your cat is obese, begin a weight loss program.
Obesity often contributes to feline incontinence by applying excess pressure on the bladder. It is also a risk factor for diabetes, kidney failure, and kidney stones, all of which cause cats to drink more water and urinate more frequently.
Additional tips for caring for an incontinent cat:
- Place extra litter boxes for senior cats and those with decreased mobility.
- Use pet diapers at bedtime.
- Clean your cat’s urinary area with cat-safe soap or wipes to prevent urine scald.
- Ask your vet or groomer to give your cat a “potty patch” or hygienic cut to reduce mess.