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Why Does My Cat Scoot?

Learn why your cat may be scooting across the floor.

Picture this: You're sitting in the living room, curled up watching TV, when your cat scoots across your white carpet, dragging his behind along. You shudder, right? Maybe feel a bit nauseous. Time to get out the carpet cleaner. But in the meantime, what made your cat scoot in the first place? Is something wrong?

What Does Scooting in Cats Mean?

Scooting across a carpet or hard surface means something back there is bothering your cat. Scooting behavior is usually accompanied by a cat doing extra licking of the behind as well.

Here are the main reasons cats scoot:

  • If a cat is too large to reach their back end for regular grooming, they may scoot because of irritation. Fat folds can become moist and then infected, or debris can get caught in the fur around the anus or urethra and trigger scooting to get rid of it.
  • Occasionally, internal parasite infection can cause scooting in cats. This is most common in cases of tapeworms or roundworms, which may crawl on the area around the anus. While this is what many people automatically assume is going on when a cat scoots, it is probably the least likely culprit unless it is a kitten.
  • By far, the biggest cause of scooting is an anal sac problem.
  • Allergies in cats can cause skin inflammation and irritation that can include the anal sacs.

Anal Glands (Sacs) in Cats

Anal sacs are two small pouches that sit just inside a cat's rectum, at around the 4 and 8 o'clock positions. These sacs are lined with glands that secrete a foul-smelling, slightly thick material that is part of a cat's territorial scent system, used for marking territory and leaving information about themselves for other cats.

Normally, the fluid in the anal sacs is expressed by normal stool as it passes the sacs during defecation.

Sometimes, cats release their anal sac contents when they are scared or surprised, resulting in a sudden stinky cloud.

Sometimes, the anal sacs don't express normally and, instead, fill up more and more. As they do, they can become uncomfortable to the pet and cause them to scoot in an effort to relieve the pressure.

As anal sacs spend more time unexpressed, they are at risk of becoming infected and develop into an abscess. When that happens, they are painful. Then, scooting and licking or chewing at the area are even more pronounced behaviors exhibited by the cat. At that time, material may also leak out of the anal sacs.

Eventually, an infected anal sac may burst open, resulting in an extra-foul-smelling material draining from a tract next to the kitty's rectum.

What Causes Anal Sac Problems in Cats?

If a cat's stool is not firm enough, it won't express the anal glands on its way past, and that can cause them to retain fluid.

Inflammation of the lining of the anal sacs can also cause them not to express normally. That can be the result of allergies or other skin conditions.

A tumor in the anal sac will reduce its ability to empty normally.

Being overweight causes extra folds in the flesh around the anal sacs, and that decreases the efficiency of the normal process of stool emptying the sacs.

Occasionally, the way an anal sac is formed, at a tipped angle, can cause a cat to have difficulties with normal expression.

What to Do If Your Cat Scoots

If you see your cat scooting, it's important to see a veterinarian soon. Bring a small fecal sample to rule out intestinal parasites. Your veterinarian will do a thorough exam, likely including an internal digital exam of the anal sacs.

If your cat's anal sac is infected, the veterinarian may flush it, infuse it with antibiotic cream, and possibly put your cat on oral antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatories. The doctor may recommend a diet if weight is impacting the anal sac's ability to drain normally.

The doctor may recommend a different diet, with higher fiber, if a cat's chronically soft stool is leading to the anal sac problems.

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Digestive System Infections in Cats

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