There is a difference between behavior problems at the litter box and incontinence.
Incontinence is a symptom of a physical and health related problem.
Your cat cannot control the situation and probably is not very happy about it.
It is not a behavioral problem and your pet should not be punished.
Feline incontinence will often cause your cat to pass urine or bits of poop while sleeping or resting.
Your cat may dribble urine or you may find little puddles of pee all over the house.
(Cat incontinence should not be confused with cats that are spraying. Cat spraying is a scent marking behavior.)
In simple terms, some possible causes of feline incontinence
There are a number of health problems that can contribute to feline incontinence – both urinary and fecal (poop).
The organs which make up the urinary tract are the:
… kidneys … which aid in filtering the blood and help to monitor water retention
… ureters … two tubes connected from the kidneys to the bladder
… bladder … which stores the urine
… urethra … a tube which carries the urine out of the body.
Lower urinary tract disease (LUTD) involves the bladder and urethra. LUTD may cause your cat to urinate frequently but only in small amounts.
Bladder infections are common among older cats and often respond well to a simple antibiotic treatment.
Other problems include the formation of stones and crystals.
Observe your cat’s behavior at the litter box.
Your cat may be squatting, trying very hard to go, but little or nothing is happening.
He or she will look very uncomfortable, may be in pain, and cry out.
If your cat is dribbling urine, or not able to urinate at all, there may be a partial or full blockage in the urinary tract.
Death can occur within a day.
Diabetes, problems with the kidneys or liver and even prescribed drugs can increase thirst and cause your cat to urinate more often.
Fecal incontinence, often diarrhea is a symptom shared by many diseases or health problems – including the presence of parasites.
If your cat can’t poop at all, the large intestine can become stuffed with feces, resulting in megacolon, which is also a serious condition.
(To complicate matters, if eliminating is painful, your cat may associate using the litter box with pain and will therefore avoid using it.)
Only a veterinarian can provide you with a proper diagnosis. A vet may prescribe medication that can help curb feline incontinence or conduct further tests.
There are some simple fixes that can help your senior or sick cat carry out its bathroom functions in a timely and sanitary manner.
An older cat faces other challenges besides feline incontinence
As your cat ages, his or her senses are not as sharp. Any loss of hearing, sight and even smell must, at the very least, cause anxiety and confusion.
Aging felines can become forgetful and they may not remember where the litter box is. If they do remember … it might take them twice as long to get there.
Does your cat dislike standing in the litter?
Older cats, cats that are not well, in pain or recovering from surgery may be uncomfortable standing in litter … and more so lumpy litter.
Felines who have recently been ‘declawed’ do have problems with some litters sticking to their paws or otherwise causing them pain (which may be the least of their worries).
For cats recovering from surgery vets recommend using Yesterday’s News Cat Litter. You can also line an empty litter box with disposable puppy training pads, which are used for housebreaking dogs.
Equally useful are absorbent underpads that are designed for incontinence. There is a choice between washable and disposable.
Is your litter box physically suitable?
Do you have enough litter boxes?
Older cats and cats with physical problems may find that getting in and out of a litter box is difficult.
Squatting to do their business might be painful.
Make it easier to get in and out of the box. If your box has a rim, remove it.
You can cut an entrance, level or just above the floor, into an ordinary plastic tote.
Provide a ramp.
Litter pans or boxes should always be long and wide enough for your cat to turn around easily.
For cats with these kinds of problems, provide two or more litter boxes. Place them where your cat can reach them easily and quickly, and close to where he or she sleeps.
Pet diapers may be the solution for your troubled cat.
People solve incontinence problems by wearing diapers … and there are cat diapers and dog diapers available for incontinent pets.
Cats should fit the small dog diapers.
According to reviews, they work well for incontinent or otherwise handicapped pets and the diapers do allow pets to participate in family activities again, which is a good thing.