Does Your Cat Need Diapers?

Serenah McKay
Shorthair kitten in diapers

Sick or elderly cats, or those with special needs, often can't get to the litter box in time when nature calls, and there may be situations where these cats need diapers. Understand why you may need to diaper your cat and how you can make this process tolerable for both of you.

Why You Might Diaper a Cat

When a cat's inability to use the litter box is temporary, such as after minor surgery, it's best to confine him to a small area like the bathroom. However, for cats with serious impairments, diapers give cats the freedom to roam around the house without the risk of damaging rugs, flooring, or furniture with urine or feces. Many medical problems can cause cats to have difficulty using the litter box.

Health Issues

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, these problems usually involve aging or impaired mobility. Issues can include:

Spraying or Marking

Sometimes you may diaper a cat if he is spraying or marking, and other behavior modification measures haven't worked.

Choosing a Brand

Just like diapers for babies, diapers for animals come in different styles including washable and disposable. Most pet diapers can be worn by either cats or dogs, and of course, the diapers come in a variety of sizes.

Washable Diapers

Machine-washable diapers are reusable, which may appeal to the environmentally conscious pet owner. The washable styles require disposable pads that are inserted into the diaper lining. While washable diapers cost more initially than disposables, they are a better value long-term.

  • Joybies Piddle Pants are made of a stretchy fabric and come in red, navy blue or Christmas. They are meant to be used with disposable Joybies Pads for Piddlers, found on the same page. To determine the right size for the Piddle Pants, measure your cat from the collar to the base of its tail. Reviewers on Amazon note that the Piddle pants stay on, and cats don't seem to be too bothered by wearing them. Some reviewers also note that instead of the piddle pads, they use a feminine hygiene pad due to price. The pants retail for under $30 on Joybies, and you can pick up pads for less than $13.
  • Stud Pants and Queen Panties by Castle Paws Designs are handmade by the company owner and come in many prints. To figure out what size diapers to get for your cat, you'll need to measure his waist. (To measure a cat's waist, place a measuring tape around its midsection just in front of the hind legs.) These are only sold through the website, so there are no ratings available but plenty of testimonials from happy customers. Prices start at $25 for the small standard (no suspenders) style.

Disposable Diapers

Kitten in diapers

Disposable diapers have absorbent padding built into the diaper and do not require an extra pad.

  • Peepers, which are sized by the pet's weight, have elastic gathers and adjustable tabs that won't pull fur. A package of 10 small diapers costs less than $14.
  • Planet Urine Disposable Pet Diapers, which are sized by the pet's weight and waist measurement, also have elastic gathers and adjustable, non-sticky tabs. A package of 10 small diapers retails for around $14.
  • Simple Solution disposable dog diapers, which can be used for cats, are also sized by weight and waist circumference. Features include gathered edges and repositionable tabs. A package of 12 small diapers sells for less than $13. Reviewers note that the diapers are absorbent and fit well, but many suggest that baby diapers may be more absorbent.

Modifying Baby Diapers

You can also try regular baby diaper brands. These often cost less than pet diapers. However, finding the right size for your cat and making modifications so the diaper fits well may take some trial and error.

  1. For an average-size cat, start with a newborn size.
  2. Stand your cat on all fours and place the diaper flat over its hindquarters.
  3. Use a pen to mark the spot where the tail will come out.
  4. Cut a small hole at the spot you marked. It's better to cut smaller at first as you can always enlarge the hole if necessary.

How to Diaper Your Cat

These are general instructions for putting the diaper on your cat, though each brand may require a slightly different approach.

Putting It On

  • Gently insert the cat's tail into the tail opening and pull the diaper close to its body with the long end of the diaper under its belly.
  • Pull the short end over the cat's back and bring the long end up to meet it, wrapping the diaper snugly around the cat's midsection.
  • Attach the tabs to hold the diaper in place and adjust if necessary.

How to Keep a Diaper on Your Cat

While you may have found the perfect brand for your cat, keeping the diaper on your cat may prove to be challenging. Some brands, like the Piddle Pants, Stud Pants and Queen Panties, are styled to fit over the whole cat, so keeping the diaper on is not an issue. However, if you choose a disposable diaper, there are a few options:

  • Sta-On Diaper Harness - This device fits over your whole cat to secure the diaper in place.
  • Baby Onesies - Your standard baby onesie will fit over your cat and can help keep your cat's diaper from going askew.

Diaper Hygiene and Tips

Cats who wear diapers need much the same care that babies do.

  • Diapers should be changed every few hours, or when the diaper is full of urine.
  • Change a poopy diaper immediately.
  • Use unscented, non-alcohol baby wipes to clean your cat after removing a soiled diaper. The cat's skin and fur must be kept clean to prevent skin irritation and urinary tract infections.
  • Shaving the diaper area makes cleaning easier.
  • Watch for leaks, which can happen if the tail hole is cut too large or the diaper doesn't absorb quickly enough.
  • If your cat develops a rash, use an antibiotic ointment that is formulated for cats.

Labor of Love

Fitting a cat with diapers and caring for him properly takes patience, diligence and commitment. However, it's a loving, humane way to deal with a problem that distresses both cats and their humans. It can restore your cat's freedom and dignity, and free you from worry so you can more fully enjoy the companionship of your pet.

Does Your Cat Need Diapers?