Loss of Bladder Control in Cats

Loss of bladder control in cats is sometimes referred to as incontinence. Incontinence can be a symptom of several different problems, mostly involving the lower urinary tract. The lower urinary tract essentially includes all parts of the urinary system, except the kidneys. The ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, the bladder stores the urine, and the urethra is the tube which carries the urine out of the body. When any one of these portions of the system fail, loss of bladder control may result.

Additionally, some conditions may cause a cat to eliminate in unusual places, outside of the litter box. This may be confused with incontinence, but still usually indicates an underlying problem that must be addressed.

Urinary Incontinence

Loss of bladder control is directly caused by a malfunction of any part of the muscles or nerves involved in the urinary process. This causes a cat to experience the inability to effectively hold urine, and therefore release it at inappropriate times or places. This can include urine dribbling without the cat being aware of it—unintentional release of urine on furniture or carpets, urination around or near the litter box, and increased frequency in urination. All can indicate any number of problems, and it will be beneficial to note any additional symptoms, if present. There are several causes for loss of bladder control in cats.

Causes of Incontinence

Loss of bladder control can be caused by a weakening of the urethral muscle due to:

Incontinence may also be a problem from birth, due to congenital defects, most commonly a condition called "ectopic ureter". If a kitten experiences loss of bladder control, it's very likely due to a problem present at birth. Incontinence is not common for cats, but most frequently occurs in female cats that have been spayed and are older in age, and medium to large sized.

Signs to Watch For

There are several ways in which a cat can experience loss of bladder control. Dribbling of urine in tiny amounts at a time may not be noticeable to the cat or to yourself, but after a period of time, the area around the body opening will become irritated and the cat may experience infection and burns, due to the acidic nature of urine.

Likewise, if a wet spot is discovered near the area where a cat was recently sleeping, this may be a sign. Often, a cat will urinate in unexpected places, outside of the litter box. This may be due to loss of bladder control, but can also be related to other causes. Increased thirst and urination, brought about by diseases like diabetes, can produce too much urine and the cat may not be able to make it to the litter box in time. Occasionally, when certain types of infection are present, a cat will refuse to eliminate in the litter box and will prefer a cold surface, such as the bathroom floor. In these cases, incontinence may not be indicated, but an underlying problems still likely exists.