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What are the treatments for feline incontinence?

Updated July 19, 2017

Two similar conditions in cats can have somewhat related symptoms, but very different origins. They are "feline urinary incontinence" and "feline inappropriate urination." Feline incontinence is physiological in nature, while inappropriate urination is a result of behaviour problems. If the cat is urinating outside of its litter box, have it checked by a veterinarian before you perhaps fault the cat for something beyond its control.

Common Causes

Normal urination in cats requires that the bladder interacts appropriately with its associated nerves and muscles. Problems in the "primary sphincter mechanism" are commonly caused by weakness of the urethral muscle. It is most prevalent in older medium- to large-sized spayed female cats.

However, feline urinary incontinence can have other neurogenic (nerve-related) and non-neurogenic causes, too, according to petplace.com. Neurogenic incontinence arises from anomalies in the nervous system regulates urine retention and release. Non-neurogenic causes might include congenital problems of a physiological or hormonal nature.

Finally, feline urinary incontinence may be diagnosed as responsive incontinence (if you have ever changed the diaper of a baby boy, you have likely encountered responsive incontinence at some point), or incontinence associated with a urinary tract infection.

Symptoms of Feline Urinary Incontinence

The symptoms of incontinence include the dribbling of urine when the cat is not attempting to urinate; wet spots on the cat's hindquarters or wet spots where it has been resting or sleeping, and skin irritation from frequent contact with dribbled urine.

Symptoms Suggesting Other Conditions

Just discovering wet spots around the house may be an indication of behaviour problems, UTIs, or even drinking too much water and then not making it to the cat box in time, according to petplace.com. If the cat strains while attempting to urinate, or there is blood present, see the veterinarian right away. These are signs of cystitis and/or bladder stones, which, if not treated swiftly can bring on death.

Diagnostic Tests to Rule out Other Causes

The vet will want to get a complete physical history and perform a basic physiologic examination to start, according to petplace.com. Then he or she will move on to performing a urinalysis to rule out questionable white or red blood cell counts. The vet will also likely perform a urine culture to check for the presence of urinary tract bacteria, as well as for the sensitivity of the urinary tract itself. These studies may be followed by serum biochemistry tests. Their purpose is to evaluate the cat's general health and the levels of functioning present in other body systems. Perhaps both standard and contrast dye Xray studies will be ordered and, if necessary, a urethral pressure profile cystometrogram (study of the tube leading out of the bladder) may be recommended, requiring referral to a specialist.

Treatment of the Condition -- Now What?

The prognosis may call for the surgical elimination of an underlying cause if the problem is related to a physical defect in the cat's urinary system, or removal of a neurologic lesion, or even the surgical removal of a blockage of any origin, according to petplace.com.

If none of these possibilities proves to be the cause, the veterinarian can treat the symptoms with a medication named phenylpropanolamine, a drug that treats urinary incontinence arising from a weakness of the urethral muscle--the condition known as "sphincter mechanism incontinence."

Post Treatment Long Term Care

If medications have been prescribed, adhere to the dosing schedule as closely as possible. Fresh water and clean cat boxes will help ensure recovery.

Check your cat's bedding and hindquarters for any new incontinence problems, and be watchful for signs of a UTI setting in. If old problems remain unresolved, or new problems have emerged, contact your vet for further instruction.

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About the Author

Deb Lindstrom has 20-plus years experience writing tech manuals, Humane Society pieces, business certificates, essays and manuscripts, and is now a freelance writer for eHow and other publications. She holds a B.S., magna cum laude, holds an M.L.I.S. degree, and almost has her M.S.I.T. and M.P.W. degrees.