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Your Cat’s Butt Is His Health Barometer

The state of your cat’s butt (and what’s coming out of it) is a good way to gauge his health.

Caroline Golon  |  Jun 5th 2017

What do a bunch of cat veterinarians talk about when they’re hanging out at a party together? Cat poop, of course, says Dr. Jean Hofve, holistic veterinarian, author, and founder of the site Little Big Cat. Why? Because the state of a cat’s poop is one of the fastest ways to help determine what might be wrong with an ailing kitty. Poop is important to your cat’s health, so it stands to reason that the place where it exits would be too. Here are four important things you should know about caring for your cat’s butt.

A cat's butt on a toilet.

1. Got dingleberries?

If you have a longhaired cat like my Romeo, you’ve probably seen little pieces of poop clinging to his “pants” now and then. It’s especially awesome when you discover this right after your cat has jumped up on your pillow and your face is two inches from the offending clump.

Dingleberries can occur if your cat’s poop is soft and is especially prevalent in cats with diarrhea. If your cat has the runs, it’s a good idea to take him to the vet right away to get him checked out.

A cat with matted fur licking himself.

The best thing to do to keep the berries at bay is to keep the area trimmed of excess fur. You can carefully do this yourself or take your cat to the vet or groomer for a “sanitary trim.”

2. Should you wipe your cat’s butt?

Well, it depends. Does it need wiping? Technically, your cat should be able to handle that himself, says Hofve. However, she adds, there are circumstances when he’s going to need some assistance.

  • Soft poop: If your cat’s poop is softer than normal, it could stick to his bottom. Typically your cat can get to this himself, but he might not get it all so a little help may be required.
  • Overweight cats: If your cat’s overweight, it might be hard for him to reach all the way behind him to clean up, explains Hofve. That’s good incentive to get your chubby kitty on a diet, yes?
  • Arthritic cats: If an older cat suffers from arthritis, he might also have trouble bending that far to get to his poop chute.

A cat cleaning his butt.

Warm water on a soft washcloth is the best way to get your kitty clean, Hofve advises. You can also use baby wipes or pet cleansing wipes like Earth Bath All Natural Cat Wipes, which I sometimes use.

Wipes are fine if your cat can’t reach down there himself at all. But if your cat can reach but simply hasn’t done such a bang-up job, just use plain water. You don’t want your cat licking himself and then ingesting chemicals, however mild, from the wipes.

3. Cat “Scooting”

We’ve all been there. The cat hops out of the box and immediately plops down onto the floor and appears to be wiping his butt with your carpet. Or sometimes it may happen out of the blue. Regardless, no one wants to have to clean up skid marks from her light-colored Berber rug.

A cat surrounded by unrolled toilet paper.

The “scoot,” though, is actually a good thing, because it indicates there’s an issue at hand. From diarrhea to allergies to worms, something’s going on back there and your cat’s scooting should tell you that he’s not feeling comfortable. If he’s dragging his bottom on the floor, take him for a visit with the vet.

4. Common issues with your cat’s butt

Paying attention to what’s going on in your cat’s bottom is a good idea. By knowing what’s coming out, you’ll be attuned to health issues. But also pay attention to the bum area itself. If there’s anything weird going on down there, get your kitty to the vet right away.

One common problem you might experience with your cat is swollen anal glands. The anal glands, located on either side of the anal opening, secrete an important scent that coats the poop and is used for marking. A normal poop coming through the rectum puts just enough pressure on the glands to release the scent. But if a poop is too hard or too soft, it won’t prompt that release. Over time, the glands back up and become swollen and uncomfortable.

A sick cat on the table at the vet.

You probably won’t be able to see the impacted glands because “they swell to the inside,” says Hofve. But, she says, “scooting is one of the signs that anal glands are impacted. Or your cat might be licking a lot at the area or doing strange yoga positions to try and get at it.”

If your cat is exhibiting any of these behaviors, take him to the vet to get him checked out. If the issue is impacted anal glands, your vet will manually empty them. And, cautions Hofve, don’t try to express the glands yourself. Improper technique can create quite a mess.

You also might periodically see little wiggling things (gag) in your cat’s poop or hanging out of the opening. If you do, get your cat to the vet right away. These are likely worms, and if they’re hanging out in the exit area, the problem is already advanced. In fact, if anything odd is hanging out of your cat’s butt or in his poop (like string, for example) take him to the vet. Even if the string appears to have come out completely, there may still be a piece inside your cat’s body. Your vet will do an X-ray or ultrasound to be sure no string is left, tangled up in your kitty’s organs.

Who knew the back door was such an important area? Staying up in your cat’s business will keep you aware and informed about the state of his health.