8 Reasons for Cat Incontinence and Out-of-Litter Box Messes Getting To the Cause of Kitty Bathroom Problems

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When a cat uses the bathroom outside of the litter box, there's often a cause behind this behavior that can be corrected. Whether it's a medical issue like incontinence or a lack of training, read about the solution here.

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.


Feline Diabetes

    •  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.

Urinary Tract Infection

    • 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.

Scarred Bladder

    • 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 become urgent.

    • 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.

Kidney Stones

    • Symptoms: Strain during urination, frequent urination, blood in urine, paired with a tender abdomen.

    • 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.

Bacterial Bladder Infection

    • 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 your veterinarian.

Old Age

    • 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 senility.

    • 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 it doesn’t.

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 condition.

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.

More on Kitty Boxes and Training

How To Choose a Cat Litter Box and Kitty Litter
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.

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