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Anal Sacs in Cats

Anal sacs help cats mark territory.

Anal sacs sit just inside a cat's rectum, around the 4 and 8 o'clock positions if the rectum was a clock. They are lined with glands that secrete a smelly substance. Anal sacs are sometimes called anal glands, but they aren't actually glands in and of themselves.

What Are Feline Anal Sacs For?

Anal sacs produce scented fluid that allows cats to mark their territory and leave other cats information about themselves.

The fluid that the anal sacs produce is normally secreted onto the stool during defecation, making it extra smelly.

Cats sometimes release their anal sac contents when they are scared or surprised, too. This often happens when someone picks up a cat that doesn't want to be lifted or at the veterinary clinic or groomer when the cat gets nervous.

Anal Sac Problems in Cats

There are times when problems can occur with a cat's anal sacs. If something keeps them from emptying normally, they can become impacted. Eventually, when they aren't able to release their fluid properly, anal sacs can become infected. Infected anal sacs can be painful, and the cat may scoot his rear end along the floor or lick incessantly at the area in an attempt to make them feel better.

Some cats don't show any signs of an anal sac impaction, but the sacs may leak infected fluid. Eventually, an infected anal sac may even burst open, creating a draining tract out of the side of the kitty's rectum.

The most common conditions that cause anal sacs to become impacted include:

  • Soft stool or diarrhea that is not firm enough to express the sacs
  • Inflammation or swelling of the lining of the sacs; this may be from an allergy or other condition
  • Anal sac tumors
  • Overweight cats may have folds that surround the anal sacs, not allowing the stool to squeeze them out

How to Avoid Anal Sac Problems in Cats

If your cat has chronically soft stool, consult with your veterinarian. The cause of the soft stool should be determined and treated to decrease the chances of an anal sac impaction.

Some cats benefit from added fiber, such as pumpkin, to their diet daily, to firm their stools up a bit.

Treatment of Anal Sac Impaction in Cats

The anal sacs can be manually expressed by a veterinarian. Sometimes they need to be flushed out with saline or infused with antibiotics. Your veterinarian may place your cat on oral antibiotics, too, and recommend returning to have the anal sacs rechecked periodically.

If a cat's anal sacs are a chronic problem, regularly abscessing and causing pain and discomfort, your veterinarian may recommend their surgical removal. There are potential complications to this surgery, including the development of fecal incontinence, so your veterinarian will counsel you about the risks and benefits for your specific cat's situation. Surgery will be required if there is a tumor present in your cat's anal sac.

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