Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) is the most common health-care-associated infection worldwide. Although not all cases of bacteriuria result in clinical infection, several hundred thousand episodes of CAUTI occur each year in the USA alone. The milieu in which the catheter is placed is highly conducive to bacterial colonization, biofilm formation on the catheter surface, and inevitable catheter-associated bacteriuria. A multitude of novel methods of CAUTI prevention have been described, including established approaches that are routinely recommended, such as the use of a secured, closed, silicone urinary catheter drainage system that mimics normal voiding, and newer strategies focusing on biocompatible catheter materials that cause minimal host inflammatory response and retard biofilm formation. Much recent research has focused on modification of the catheter surface by either coating or impregnation with antimicrobials or antiseptics. However, clinical trials that analyse cost-effectiveness and rates of antimicrobial resistance are awaited. More recently, innovative use of iontophoresis, vibroacoustic stimulation, bacterial interference and bacteriophage cocktails has been reported.