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What do we know about continence in animals? In particular, what do we know about the development of continence in animals?

By "continence", I'm referring specifically to whether or not a wild animal, free from human influences, appears to exhibit discrimination in when and where it relieves itself, and to what extent. For example, rats are allegedly incontinent, at least by this definition. (The article would seem to imply they are physically unable to control themselves, but other sources state that rodents can learn continence, which would imply that they normally just don't bother, which is what I want to know about.) Conversely, cats can be quite fastidious, and kittens are reportedly "unable" to void themselves without their mother's assistance. In fiction, we have an example of a species which is said to uncontrollably void when they eat.

Based on what we know from studying real animals, is it plausible that an animal would be unable to control its voiding out of a habit of not trying to do so (I'm ignoring physical problems, here), or is the cited source, if you'll excuse the highly apropos expression, full of sh--? If it is plausible, what types of animals, generally speaking, would exhibit this, and to what extent? Also, how does this change from birth to maturity?

Ultimately, what I am looking for is a set of guidelines that would allow me to predict an animal's voiding habits and the extent to which the animal is able to control the same given the animal's age/maturity and other general information (e.g. dietary tendencies). I am not worried about outliers, unless the answer is that it is not possible to make a prediction with any reasonably accuracy, in which case I would still like to know what range of variation I might expect.


Edit: I'm increasingly suspect of the cited source on rats. If that's bunk, I would still like to know; are there any examples of animals (perhaps excluding humans, because that can turn into quite the argument) who, at any life stage, do not exhibit continence and/or exhibit feline-like "hyper-continence" (i.e. inability, or at least instinctive disinclination, to void on their own) absent physiological abnormalities? (Alternatively, am I also wrong about cats?)

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    $\begingroup$ Please don't disrespect what folks on another SE forum have offered to you in the way of criticism, whether you "buy" it or not. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 7 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas, to be fair, you're saying that the question, even as I have posed it here, cannot be answered because no one knows? No one has done any studies in this area? Because I really do find that hard to believe. (Conversely, I'd readily believe that the WB question has failed to attract anyone with the requisite knowledge, which is what I'm hoping to rectify by asking here instead.) FWIW, I attempted to reword that statement. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 7 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ The (limited) answers there are somewhat light on details (especially with respect to how things change during maturation) and examples. To wit, so far the examples cited in the question (baby cat, adult rat) are the only "hard" facts I have. Surely someone must know more? Most of what I've gotten is instead "this is a bad question, we can't answer". BTW, feel free to suggest edits. I've tried very hard to be clear about what I'm asking. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 7 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ You likely can't have it both ways: you want a general answer but you also want it to be specific enough to cover multiple life stages? It does seem like you've gotten good worldbuilding-style answers over there. Have you also tried simple searches such as: scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=rat+continence to better inform your question? $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Apr 7 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ (elemtilas) Eh, fair enough. Done. (Bryan) Well, what I'm looking for may not be a short answer. My guess would be something like "rats are the only species that are actually incontinent, and den-residing animals need a parent's help until they're old enough to move around"... but I don't know if that's accurate? (I suspect "only rats" isn't; I'm using that as an example of where I could use help!) Also, most of my attempts to do research (including your suggestion) keep running into incontinence due to physiological problems, which is not what I'm after. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 7 at 21:11

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