Rectal Irritation in Cats

Long-haired cats should have a "sanitary clip" to keep their anal area clean.
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If your pussycat has a sore butt, you're probably wondering why and, more importantly, how to make it all better. There are several causes of rectal irritation in cats. Unfortunately, once Kitty has this problem, it can become chronic—so be sure she eats plenty of fiber.

Rectal Prolapse

The most serious cause of rectal irritation, and the one with the biggest gross-out factor, is rectal prolapse. This is a condition in which the innards become outers, so to speak. The lining of the rectum and/or anus actually protrudes outside the anus, causing irritation. It is caused by straining at stool, worms, digestive and intestinal diseases, labor problems and urinary infections. It is diagnosed through X-rays, and blood and fecal samples. Veterinarians treat protrusion of the rectum by first identifying and treating the initial cause, and then manually putting the lining back where it belongs. This can be done with or without surgery, depending upon the severity of the problem.

Anal Gland Problems

Your precious little ball of fuzz has a deep, dark secret. Well, maybe not such a secret, but it's certainly deep and dark. She has two little pea-sized glands located just inside her rectum that help scent her poo. When she defecates, these glands empty onto the stool as it comes out, and stay nice and healthy, doing their job. However, the substance inside these glands is somewhat doughy and can plug up the tiny holes through which the contents squirt. When that happens, the anal glands become full, causing irritation. Your kitty will lick at them obsessively and try to stop the itching and burning, but in most cases you will have to assist. The anal glands can be squeezed and the contents discharged if the glands are not too inflamed. Seek your vet's counsel, as this can become a serious medical issue.


Scooting is an obvious symptom of anal irritation and one that often sends concerned cat owners running to the vet for help. It's important you get your vet involved because scooting can have a number of causes, most of them requiring prescription medication. When the cat scoots, she is attempting to relieve the itching and irritation caused by internal parasites. Scooting is also the "go-to" act for your cat to attempt to relieve irritation from anal gland impaction or even protrusion, but worms are often the culprit. It's important to get the proper diagnosis and medication. Having your vet read a fecal sample will help do just that.


Certain breeds of cat, such as Persians, ragdolls and Maine coons, have gorgeous long silky coats that are beautiful to behold but problematic to groom. These cats require daily brushing to keep their coat healthy, cut down on hairballs and assist with a certain bodily function. If the area around a long-haired cat's anus is not kept clean and free of hair, the hair can mat and cover the rectum. This, in turn, can cause the cat to have trouble defecating since the anal opening is now obstructed with mats of hair, a condition known to vets as pseudocoprostasis. If your cat is scooting because of rectal irritation caused by hair mats, take the steps necessary to clear the obstruction by cleaning the area with warm water, shaving the fur and then using clippers to finish the job. Do not use scissors, as you could cause serious injury to your cat. You wouldn't want the business end of scissors so close to your sensitive bits!

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.

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