Nerve Damage Causing Loss of Bladder Control in Cats

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Loss of bladder tone and urinary control in cats is common after pelvic or spinal injury, if there's damage to nerve networks. Cats may seem to dribble urine or be unable to pass urine. Owners should seek immediate veterinary help, as this is a medical emergency.

Key Issues

Inability to control the passage of urine can be confused with a behavioral issue, so it's critical that a veterinarian examine your kitty immediately. Urinary incontinence, urinary blockage and loss of bladder muscle control can all have serious medical consequences for cats.

A cat who dribbles urine has possibly suffered a spinal injury.
A cat who dribbles urine has possibly suffered a spinal injury. (Image: the cat image by Andrzej Dziedzic from


Traumatic spinal injury, often caused by car trauma or falling from heights, is often to blame for nerve-damage urinary incontinence. Veterinarian Mike Richards says in his online article "Urinary Problems in Cats," that “trauma is the most common cause of inability to empty the bladder in cats. This is most commonly associated with spinal cord injury, often due to a condition referred to as ‘tail jerk’ in which the tail is pulled or held still while the cat continues to move (such as when it is caught under a rocking chair).” Spinal degeneration or cancer may be a rarer cause.

Everyday furniture can paralyze your cat.
Everyday furniture can paralyze your cat. (Image: rocking chair and flag image by Jeffrey Zalesny from

Accompanying Symptoms

Besides the symptoms of involuntary urine dribbling or inability to urinate, a cat may display muscle weakness or paralysis of its hind legs. The tail may be limp, or the cat may have a strange, unsteady walk. These are likely to indicate spinal injury. Serious injury may also mean the cat is quiet, hides away, is drowsy, lacks appetite or is unresponsive. Seizures may also occur. There may also be loss of bowel control or inability to pass feces, and a constant dribble of diarrhea is also a common related issue.


Your veterinarian will explore all possible causes of incontinence, performing full diagnostic tests. These may include collecting urine for analysis, taking blood tests to examine kidney function, x-rays with or without contrast agents and ultrasound to examine the urinary tract. CT and MRI scans of the brain and spine are a possibility too. Your pet may need referral to a specialist neurological treatment center since suitable equipment may be unavailable locally.

A full range of diagnostic tests is necessary.
A full range of diagnostic tests is necessary. (Image: stethoscope image by dinostock from

Treatment and Prognosis

Often, seriously spine-injured cats cannot fully recover--time is the critical factor. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs might be given as ongoing treatment, and surgery might also be an option. A cat may remain partially paralyzed and not regain full bladder function. Speak with your veterinarian about the chances for bladder function recovery. There are cases where cats maintain quality of life and owners can be taught to empty a cat’s bladder, although this needs to be carried out at least three times daily to prevent infection.

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