Q: Our cat is anally incontinent. He is otherwise healthy and happy, and our vet has no idea of the cause. It's a real hygiene problem, especially as we have a baby in the house. What can we do?
A: This is a difficult condition at the best of times but, with a baby in the house, a big problem. If your cat's anal sphincter has lost tone suddenly, then it is probably the result of damage to the complex web of nerves around the back end called a nerve plexus, commonly the result of a 'tail pull' injury. This can occur when a cat is fleeing an attacker and gets their tail caught and pulled. It can also be the result of a road traffic or 'tail caught in a door' accident. Usually the resulting incontinence tends to resolve after a week or two as the inflammation associated with the injury heals, so it looks like this could be a chronic problem. I suggest that you return to your vet to have your cat x-rayed, to determine if there are other conditions playing a part. These might include megacolon (enlargement of the colon due to chronic issues of constipation), or a narrowed pelvis leading to problems with defecation. If these are all ruled out, then your last option (which is not particularly effective) is to use medication to firm up his stools, with the aim of making them easier to pass in full when your cat is outdoors. Obviously, keep your child and your cat apart until this is resolved.
Scott Miller, vet