If your cat scoots on his behind or is always licking under his tail, chances are he either has worms or problems with his anal sacs. If the anal area looks irritated, the problem is most likely with his anal sacs, paired structures located at about 4 oclock and 8 oclock on the sides of the anus. Much like a skunks scent glands, these sacs produce and store a smelly brownish fluid. But while a skunk can release his stink at will, cats usually express the sacs contents as they defecate.
In fact, it is the scent from the anal sacs that allows cats and dogs to leave their scented calling cards. You may get a whiff of your cats personal pungent scent if he has dragged his behind on the carpeting or upholstered furniture.
Any breed cat, male or female but especially obese cats, can develop anal sac problems. Cat lovers cant do much to prevent the problem other than make sure their cat is on a high quality diet (the label should indicate it meets the basic minimum standards established by the National Research Council) and that he doesnt become overweight. Occasionally, cats are born with anal canals that do not close effectively and may leave smelly drops of fluid.
Although anal sac disease is quite common in dogs, it is actually much rarer in cats, says Christine Bellezza, DVM, a consultant at the Cornell Feline Health Center. She says that for reasons veterinarians still dont understand, these sacs occasionally plug up and dont empty normally. The cat will likely lick or chew the area or scoot on the floor in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. If hes unsuccessful, the sacs could become impacted and could lead to an abscess. That could be serious. If the area is red or swollen or your cats behavior conveys something is amiss in the anal area, you should get the cat checked out, says Bellezza.
Emptying the sacs
To relieve the swelling, your veterinarian will manually express the sacs by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the anus and squeezing the sacs to empty them. Whereas owners sometimes learn to express a dogs anal sacs, the task is much more difficult in cats where the anus and sacs are usually much smaller and the animal more self-protective.
On occasion, if the sacs continue to swell, they may need to be expressed several times, and if the problem is ignored, the swelling could develop into an abscess. Treatment requires that the sacs be emptied and if an infection has taken hold, administering antiseptics (sometimes under sedation), antibiotics, and occasionally anti-inflammatories to control swelling and pain. If an abscess has formed, the veterinarian also may need to lance and drain it.
Most cats never develop an anal sac problem. A last resort for a persistent problem, however, is to remove the anal sacs surgically, says Bellezza. The risk here is that the surgery occasionally damages the anal sphincter, which can lead to fecal incontinence.
Fortunately, if your cat is scooting or biting under her tail, shes much more likely to have tapeworms that itch and look like white, rice-like grains sticking to the anal area, says Bellezza. Dried feces caught in the hair or itchy skin diseases may also cause irritation.
In any event, scooting by a cat needs to get checked by a veterinarian. Sometimes its just the cats way of successfully relieving the anal sacs, but it could also be an indication of infection, of a tapeworm infestation, or of an itchy allergy.