Can Kittens Have Anal Gland Problems?

Kitten anal gland problems can occur as early as 4 months old.
i Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

It borders between comical and crass when your kitty drags his rear end across the carpet -- more on the crass side if it happens when you have guests. It's not just your kitten's way of entertaining the troops, it's possible that he may have an anal gland problem.

Not Out of the Question

You probably already know that dogs have anal glands that can become troublesome, but it might come as a surprise that cats have them, too. Some dogs almost routinely have problems with their anal glands, while cats almost never do. The key word there is "almost" -- there are times when cats, even as young as 4 months, can develop an issue with their anal glands.

Wonders of the Anal Gland

If such a small body part can cause such big veterinary bills, you might wonder what purpose anal glands serve. In the days before domestication, cats used them for territory-marking purposes. As they would deposit a "calling card" in the vast wilds, the pressure exerted on the glands would cause them to express a unique-smelling fluid that would let anyone passing by later know that Kilroy was there. Of course, such odiferous identification is no longer needed, but your kitten still carries with him the means with which to mark territory -- and that's on top of his ability to spray -- hooray!

Signs of Anal Gland Problems

If your kitty's anal glands become clogged he'll have problems emptying them in the normal manner when he uses his litter box. In addition to the delightfully amusing behind dragging, you might notice other signs that your kitten is having problems with his anal glands, symptoms like scratching, licking or biting around his hindquarters and an offensively smelly discharge. If the condition isn't dealt with, your kitten's anal glands can become infected, causing further symptoms like an inflamed, red painful area around his bottom, fever and loss of appetite. Clogged and infected glands that rupture will bleed and drain and are very painful.

Medical Care

Your vet can teach you how to express your kitty's anal glands, a skill you might want to learn if it turns out to be an ongoing problem. Unblocking anal glands involves putting pressure on an already uncomfortable area on your kitten and is a two-person job, requiring one to hold the little guy and try to keep him calm while the other person works on the glands. Most people would prefer to seek medical care for a kitten or cat who has anal gland problems, though, and in general that is a good idea. Your vet will be able to detect any presence of infection and prescribe an antibiotic if necessary. He will probably also provide you with a topical ointment to soothe your kitty's irritated behind. The vet may also recommend that you help your kitten keep the area extra-clean and add more fiber to his diet to help keep things in the back room moving along.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest