Fecal Incontinence in Cats

Fecal incontinence develops when the cat loses control over defecation. Due to this reason, cats may often defecate in places around the house or out of the litter box. Several pet owners confuse fecal incontinence with behavior issues and consider training the cat to use the litter box. However, since fecal incontinence is an indicator of gastrointestinal and rectal disorders, pet owners should conduct a vet check to diagnose the underlying problem and initiate early treatment. The cause of fecal incontinence varies. Pets that are older, may take longer to reach the litter box and hence defecate in unusual places. Other pets may suffer from intestinal tumors, parasite infections and diseases of the lower urinary tract.

Neurogenic Sphincter Incontinence

This condition develops when the cat suffers from spinal cord injury, autonomic dysfunction or myopathy. Pets suffering from neurogenic sphincter incontinence exhibit symptoms of fecal incontinence. Due to this condition, the cat is unable to retain feces in the body and suffers from involuntary defecation. Cats may also involuntary dribble fecal matter when excited, stressed or suffering from cough. Cats that develop neurogenic sphincter incontinence require comprehensive neurological tests to determine the type and severity of spinal injury present. If the spinal injury is reversed or treated with surgery, the symptoms of fecal intolerance subside.

Diagnosis of Fecal Incontinence in Cats

In order to treat fecal incontinence, the vet will determine if the problem originates from internal body abnormalities or behavior issues. Cats in particular develop behavior issues due to unclean litter boxes or change in their surroundings. Since behavior issues are addressed differently, an accurate diagnosis is essential. The vet will examine the cat and palpate the abdomen to check for swelling or fluid accumulation. A urine analysis is performed to rule out bacterial infections in the urinary tract.

To obtain a pure sample of urine the vet may perform cystoscentesis and extract urine directly from the cat’s body. Since fecal incontinence is sometimes associated with neurogenic sphincter incontinence, diagnostic tests such as MRI scan and CT scan are performed to look for spinal cord lesions. A procedure known as myelography also effectively detects lesions within the pet’s spinal cord. During examination of the spinal cord, the vet will look for any signs of inter-vertebral disc extrusion, spina bifida and spinal trauma.

Other Diagnostic Tests Include:

  • Fecal flotation exam for parasite infections
  • Epidurography
  • Biopsy
  • Radiographs
  • Ultrasound

Treatment of Fecal Incontinence in Cats

The vet will prescribe medication suited to treat the primary cause of fecal intolerance. If parasite infections are present, the vet will prescribe drugs to eliminate parasites from the body. Since cats are sensitive to adulticides, it’s best to work with the vet to determine the ideal treatment option for severe parasite infection. The vet may also suggest diet modification to decrease fecal volume. Prescription diets may be useful for this purpose. Spinal lesions require surgical intervention and post-operative care. If fecal incontinence is associated with old age, pet owners will have to adopt new techniques to adjust to the situation at home.

The prognosis is good if the underlying problem is treated promptly. Since the true cause of fecal intolerance is unknown in certain cases, pet owners should discuss with the vet, supportive care or herbal remedies for a long term solution to the problem.