Since I'm not getting a lot of biology-based details here, I asked over here instead.
(Original question follows...)
Here's a somewhat odd question that got me thinking lately... would an alien be continent (able to control their voiding), and would this be innate or learned?
Why does it matter? Well, debates about how continence works in humans aside, this is definitely something that can vary! Pierson's Puppeteers are stated to be naturally incontinent, and there are terrestrial species such as rats that are incontinent. At least one story (sorry, don't recall the title offhand) has postulated that humans, under the right circumstances, would not learn continence. (I would guess that most marine animals are also incontinent, because why would they need to be otherwise?) On the opposite end, some carnivore species such as cats are born "hyper-continent"; they need help from their mothers to void at all.
Ignoring societal factors (i.e. focusing on a species' pre-sapience starting point and/or what we might expect would happen to an individual "raised by wolves"), what factors would influence an organism's level of continence, both at birth, and learned as the organism matures? Again, I'm looking for whether they would be 'naturally' continent (e.g. most predators) absent the pressures of 'civilization' as opposed to not caring, rather than whether they are capable of learning continence. I'm also looking particularly at what change, if any, would occur as the organism matures from an infant to adult.
Note 1: I'm looking for a general answer rather than one for a specific species, both because that will be more useful to others, and because I do not have a single species for which I would like to know. However, if additional focus is required, feel free to restrict answers to land-based vertebrates. I'm also looking for non-opinion answers backed up by trends seen in terrestrial animals, hence the use of
science-based. (So, for example, my "knee-jerk" answer would be that carnivores are born hyper-continent and learn what we would consider "human-typical" continence, while herbivores are born and would remain, absent "artificial" influences, incontinent. However, is this actually justified by terrestrial biology, or is it, if you'll pardon a more-appropriate-than-usual expression, a load of manure?)
Note 2: To clarify, what I mean by "continence" is the typical ability of an organism to consciously control when and where the it voids — "psychological" continence, if you will, as opposed to "physiological" continence, which would be whether or not the organism is physiologically capable of such control (which most animals are, barring health issues or other physical abnormalities). Using Puppeteers as an example again, they possess the physiological capability (as evidenced by Nessus and others that interact directly with humans), but most lack conscious control, and so by my definition are (psychologically) incontinent.
Note 3: As far as trying to answer this question, I should note that humans training an animal would constitute "societal factors", which I'm asking to ignore. (In short, if I add a societal desire for continence, then physiological continence will almost surely result in psychological continence as well. Again, my objective is investigating continence before — hence my focus on how continence is affected by maturation — or in the absence of such factors.) That said, AlexP makes a pertinent point, which is that we can't really know whether a non-sophont is physiologically continent. However, I believe an educated guess can be made based on whether individuals are observed to "be discriminating" in where, when or how they choose to do their business. Cats are an excellent example of animals which do exhibit such behavior, while rats are a good example of animals which do not. I would expect that comparing the behavior of infants to adults would also be informative. (I would also argue that this is what makes this a world-building question as opposed to a straight biology question. For real animals, it may well be impossible to say, but for aliens created by a writer, obviously said writer can make a decision. The goal of this question is to obtain evidence from the real world in order for such a decision to be informed rather than just "whatever the author feels like".)