Why your cat may be leaking urine and what to do about it.
Urinary incontinence is when a house-trained or a litter box-trained cat loses control of its bladder and is extremely unpleasant for both you and your cat! It can affect cats of any gender, age, or breed, but has a number of common causes and, most importantly for your sanity and the cleanliness of your house, there are treatment options.
Tom Farrington MRCVS., MVB., VetMFHom, gives an overview of the possible causes of incontinence in your cat and your treatment options.
Symptoms of incontinence in cats
- Involuntary urine leakage
- Wet hair on the lower abdominal area, or between the rear legs
- Wet spots or puddles in the bedding or sleeping area
- Urinary tract infections
- Inflammation of the skin around the genitals
- A smell of ammonia from the stale urine
- Staining on the hair on the lower abdominal area, or between the rear legs
- Wet spots left as the cat rises
- Constant licking of the area between the hind legs or behind them in females and in males constant cleaning of the penis due to what one would assume is a trickling sensation
What causes incontinence in cats?
There are several possible causes of urinary incontinence in cats, the six most common of which include:
- Infections – Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are one of the biggest causes of incontinence in felines. If your cat is affected, she will feel an increasing need to eliminate urine more frequently than usual and the whole urination process can become very difficult for her. This, in turn, can cause anxiety and stress which further amplifies the problem as anxiety and stress can indeed lead to bladder symptoms in cats. Bladder infections can also be included in this category where a prolonged bladder infection can actually scar the bladder and deter it from holding urine normally.
- Spinal cord injury or disease – Cats generally live a very exploratory lifestyle where the world offers so many opportunities for adventure! Unfortunately, however, getting into car engines for heat, climbing trees or even furniture, or crossing traffic can cause incidents that lead to spinal issues and this is a very important cause of incontinence in cats. Problems of the spine, including the deficient alignment of the vertebrae or other disc issues, can cause neurological problems which interfere with the proper functions of the urinary tract and the intestines.
- Old age is another common cause of incontinence in cats, not only from probable urethral sphincter weakness but also possibly from the onset of senility.
- The presence of other diseases that cause excessive water consumption, such as diabetes, kidney disease, hyperadrenocorticism, or a high salt or sugar intake. Cancer at the neck of the bladder is another possible cause as it can prevent the sphincter closing.
- Obesity – Can be a risk factor for incontinence in cats, influencing incontinence in two ways. First, it’s a determining factor for diseases like diabetes, kidney failure and kidney stones which cause an increased water intake. Obesity can also mess up the hormone levels in your cat’s body, which act like neurotransmitters and tell the bladder when it’s full. Apart from this, obesity is also correlated with an increased risk of infections that are directly linked to incontinence (see weight management below).
- Hormone imbalance – While skin complaints are the most common symptom of hormone imbalance in cats, in middle-aged to older spayed females a hormonal imbalance can cause incontinence, which usually develops about 3 years after the surgery. It is seen less frequently, but is also possible, in young females and older neutered males where hormonal incontinence is caused by a deficiency of estrogen (in females) or testosterone (in males). Both of these hormones are important in maintaining muscle tone of the urethral sphincter.
What to do if your cat starts leaking urine
The first thing to do if your cat starts to exhibit symptoms of incontinence is to pay a visit to your veterinarian, so he or she can assist in an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Your vet will ask you a lot of questions and perform a complete physical exam and will more than likely order tests on your cat’s urine to check for signs of urinary tract infection and other abnormalities, as well as blood work to rule out conditions such as diabetes. Imaging such as X-rays or an ultrasound may also be needed.
Your vet’s diagnosis will determine the treatment plan put in place for your cat. For example, antibiotics may be prescribed to tackle a causal infection; hormone replacements may be advised if your cat has been neutered or has developed urinary incontinence because of old age; or for serious medical cases, surgery may be performed to remove a bladder or urinary tract obstruction, for reparation of the bladder or urinary tract or to tackle a spinal cord injury.
However, there are several other steps that you can take to help to manage your cat’s incontinence naturally and comfortably.
As with humans, obesity is a very serious health issue for pets and can lead to life-long and life-threatening illnesses, several of which can contribute to or directly cause incontinence issues as the excess fat leaves no space in the abdomen for the bladder to fill normally. Diet is only part of the health equation and in order to maintain (or lose) weight, an increase in activity is also necessary in order to meet any weight loss goals, but be careful in cats who have spinal problems or are obese!
If your geriatric cat has stopped using the litter box, help her out a bit by adding more litter boxes to the environment or moving her bed closer without being on top of the litter tray, as most cats are naturally clean and like some separation between bedroom and toilet areas! She’ll have a shorter distance to travel, which could make it easier for her to go properly. If she’s forgotten where the litter lives, remind her from time to time by taking her there. Pile clean blankets and towels in your cat’s favorite sleeping spots and consider putting waterproof pads under bedding to absorb any moisture and of course some plastic sheeting to protect the surface underneath all the protective measures.
Consider using cat diapers, which are available at many pet stores. Although your pet may not be particularly fond of wearing these at first, we would highly recommend them over the need to clean furniture or carpeting frequently or put an otherwise happy cat to sleep. The good news is your pet will adjust relatively quickly to wearing these and a natural helping hand from Homeopet Feline Anxiety Relief can help him or her get over any anxiety humps during the early days.
There are a number of natural medicines available from your local pet store, or through many good online retailers that can help tackle the issue of incontinence in your cat.
HomeoPet Feline UTI+ provides relief from urinary tract infections in cats by easing burning, supporting kidney function and tackling the anxiety often at the root of the problem. The ingredients in Feline UTI+ have drug monographs covering burning straining, difficult or inappropriate urination; urine with a range of abnormalities from blood through mucous and pus to odor and color changes, either with or without the presence of crystals gravel or stones. Chronic and acute complaints such as cystitis and nephritis are also covered and UTI+ can be used in combination with conventional medications or in less severe cases on its own, helping reduce chemical toxicity and the systemic disturbance caused by medications. Feline UTI+ is easily administered and should be dropped directly on to the mucous membrane of the mouth, including the lips, by raising the head until the mouth opens. Where an animal finds this distressful or you are unable to comply, the medication can be put in the food, water, or as a last resort Lactose-Free milk, as many cats can have a problem with milk.
HomeoPet Leaks No More is a natural medicine that can provide relief for urinary incontinence or leaking that occurs in older pets and spayed females/neutered males. Easily administered in a similar manner to Feline UTI+ above, Leaks No More is a great way to support any other treatments that your veterinarian may recommend for your pet as there are no known adverse effects or contraindications, other than the reversible effect of overdosage. Leaks No More contains a unique combination of homeopathic ingredients which have been used for centuries to support health and wellbeing and can help to support your cat through the challenge of incontinence.
HomeoPet Joint Stress is a natural medicine and might seem an odd addition to an article on Urinary Incontinence. However, those who have had back pain would be able to tell you they do occasionally leave it too long before going to the toilet…and the same is often true for our pets. Such delays can lead to your cat being unable to get to the toilet area in time, which often leads to sudden large spills on the floor. HomeoPet Joint Stress supports joint mobility right across the body and can provide relief in some such cases of “incontinence”.
Urinary incontinence in cats can have many causes and accurate diagnosis by your vet is key to effective treatment. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to help alleviate the situation and improve your cat’s quality of life. Cleaning up the aftermath of a leaky cat can, however, present another challenge! Read on for the best way I have found to clean and de-odorize cat urine, both at home and in practice.