Cat incontinence is a medical issue, usually requiring medical
treatment. A cat may go outside the litter box for other
reasons too, including a lack of
training or acting out because
they’re unhappy about some change in their world. These
issues are behavioral or psychological, and can be resolved
through attention and training.
Inappropriate urination that needs to be resolved medically is
defined as incontinence. In these cases, some underlying issue
has developed to the point where loss of bladder control has
become a symptom or indication of the condition. Learn about
the different conditions that can lead to incontinence in cats,
and how to treat it.
SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT OF URINARY INCONTINENCE IN CATS
- Symptoms: Your cat may rush to
the litter box, but fail to make it there on time. They’ll
likely be drinking more water than usual.
Treatment of Incontinence: Treatment of
the diabetes will resolve the incontinence.
Symptoms: If your cat is straining to
urinate, but little or no urine comes out, get them to a
veterinarian quickly. A UTI is easily treated with
antibiotics, but the infection can spread quickly into
the bladder, which is harder to treat.
Treatment of Incontinence: Antibiotics
will resolve the infection, which should in turn
eliminate any incontinence issues.
Symptoms: If a UTI (see above) has
spread to the bladder, some scarring may occur. Scarring
takes up room in the bladder, which means there’s less
room for reserves of urine. The need to urinate may
Treatment of Incontinence: In this case,
prevention is the best treatment. Get UTIs treated as
early as possible to prevent the spread of the infection,
which will prevent scarring.
Symptoms: Strain during urination,
frequent urination, blood in urine, paired with a tender
Treatment of Incontinence: The two most
common options for relief of kidney stones are surgery
and diet change. Surgery is highly invasive and can be
expensive, but it is typically quick and effective at
relieving pain and discomfort. Changing the cat’s diet to
dissolve the stones is less invasive, and less expensive.
However, it’s not always effective, and when it is, it
can take several weeks to work.
Symptoms: Otherwise known as cystitis, this condition is rare
in cats who do not have diabetes or kidney disease. It’s
also more common in cats over 10 years of age.
Indications of this condition include straining to
urinate, more frequent urination, excessive genital
cleaning, a sudden stop in litter box use, and urine
that’s smellier than usual.
Treatment of Incontinence: Cystitis can
be successfully treated with over-the-counter or
prescription supplements or pills. Cranberry extract is
one such successful treatment, but discuss options with
Symptoms: If your geriatric cat has
stopped using the litter box, and other underlying medical issues have
been ruled out, they could be exhibiting signs of
Treatment of Incontinence: Help them out
a bit by adding more litter boxes to the environment.
They’ll have a shorter distance to travel, which could
make it easier for them to go properly. If they’ve
forgotten where the litter lives, remind them from time
to time by taking them there.
What About Fecal Incontinence?
Fecal incontinence, rarer than urinary incontinence in cats,
may take a few forms. A simple bout of diarrhea could be causing the accidents.
Just wait to see if the issue resolves, and talk to your vet if
If you’re finding droppings around the house, your cat could be
dealing with something as serious as a tumor, or nerve damage
to the spinal cord. Get them checked out to rule out a serious
Most Elimination Issues Are Behavioral
Consider whether a change in your environment has caused your
cat stress. Also, be sure to clean the litter box frequently.
No one likes a dirty bathroom.
Litter Box Training for Your Cat
New and prospective cat owners are often surprised to learn
that they'll need to train their new pet to use
the litter box. Since cats
have digging instincts, many people assume that their pet will
just figure it out on their own, or that kittens are shown the
ropes by their mother in the weeks after birth. Alas neither of
these are the case, and it's up to a cat's owner to teach their
pet the proper way to use the litter box.
Luckily, training can be a fast and painless process if done
correctly. Here we'll walk you through the steps that will get
your cat walking to the litter box.
- The sooner you can begin the litter box training process,
the easier it will be. The best way to get started is to get
prepared. Purchase your cat's litter box and set it up in your
home before the arrival of your new cat. Litter boxes should be
placed in an area of the home that is free of clutter, loud
noises, or other distractions. Learn more about choosing and setting up a litter box.
- Place your cat or kitten in the litter box after meals,
naps, play sessions, or any other time they appear ready to
eliminate (sniffing and looking around are two good signs).
After they go, offer lots of
praise. Cats like praise, and if it's directly linked to
the litter box your cat will form a positive association with
- Whenever you cannot directly supervise your cat during the
training process, confine your cat to a cat-proofed room with
the litter box.
- Never reprimand your cat if they make a mistake. If you
happen to catch your cat in the process of eliminating outside
of the litter box, pick up the cat and place them in the litter
box to finish. Never scold your cat as you do this – it will
only create a negative association with the litter box. If you
find an accident after the fact, clean it up with a non-ammonia
cleaner (ammonia smells like urine, and if the location smells
like urine your cat may think it's an acceptable place to
urinate again). Never carry your cat to the accident spot for a
reprimanding or rub your cat's face in the accident. Your cat
will not connect the discipline with the accident and will only
- One way to expedite the litter box training process is to
leave a small amount of urine or feces in the litter box
between cleanings. Your cat will recognize the smell and be
reminded that the litter box is where such business takes
place. Once your cat is using the litter box regularly, begin
cleaning the box in its entirety, leaving behind no urine or
Litter box training can be accomplished anywhere from a couple
of days to several weeks – every cat is different. Follow the
above instructions until your cat is using the litter box
If you have followed the above instructions and your cat is
still not using the litter box, talk to your veterinarian. Your
cat may have a medical problem that is preventing litter box
use and you'll want to find out what next steps you can take.
More on Kitty Boxes and Training
How To Choose a Cat Litter Box and
5 Ways To Take the
Ewww out of Litter Boxes
Litter Box Training for Your Cat
This information is for informational
purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the
professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your
veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been
verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.