Incontinence & Hormones in Cats

"Since I've been taking medication, no more wet spots!"
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If your female cat starts leaking urine, there's hope. Some cases of feline incontinence respond to hormone therapy. Take her to the vet for an examination and diagnosis. Fastidious Fluffy doesn't want to leave wet spots around the house, and you don't want your house smelling like cat pee.


Feline incontinence results from various causes, while hormone therapy only helps certain types. Your cat might suffer from a bladder infection, or cystitis. Incontinent cats often have urinary tract or kidney disease. You and your vet also must distinguish whether the cat is truly incontinent, not able to control her bladder, or if it's a behavioral problem. If Fluffy pees in her sleep, waking up with wet fur, she's probably lost bladder control. If she's spraying the dog's bed, that's a pretty blunt feline message to Fido.


To rule out infection, your vet needs a urine sample from Fluffy to perform a urinalysis. If it's an infection, antibiotics usually clear it up. If there's no sign of infection, the next step is a cystometry, a test measuring bladder pressure. Your vet might also use electromyography, a method of recording muscle contraction. This lets your vet know which muscles aren't working properly during urination. Both of these tests are somewhat invasive, but should get to the bottom of your cat's problem. Depending on the results, your vet might prescribe hormones for Fluffy.

Diethylstilbestrol and Testosterone

The majority of truly incontinent cats consist of older, spayed females. If your cat fills that bill, your vet might prescribe the hormone diethylstilbestrol, also known as DES, to control the problem. This synthetic estrogen increases the muscle tone of your cat's urethra, so she's less likely to sprinkle pee.

While incontinence occurs much less often in male cats, your vet might prescribe testosterone if your boy is affected.

Side Effects

Although cats receive small doses of DES that are generally safe and effective, the drug can cause some serious side effects. In a worst-case scenario, DES administration results in suppression of the bone marrow, which could be fatal. It can also result in lesions in a cat's heart, liver and pancreas. Less serious side effects include vomiting and diarrhea, vaginal discharge, lethargy and increased drinking and urinating. For male cats, testosterone can result in aggressive behavior. For either hormone, it's important that your cat receive the lowest possible effective dose.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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