Female cat and male cat with ribbon and bowtie. Photography by ©eurobanks | Thinkstock (male cat); ©Azaliya | Thinkstock (female cat).

Cat Private Parts — What’s Normal and What’s Not Down There

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You’re entertaining a guest in your home, when your cat casually strolls into the middle of the room, plops down on the floor, lifts up his back leg and begins grooming his, well, private parts. Why would he do something like that and out in plain sight like he wants an audience? And, by the way, this behavior isn’t limited to the male cat population — female cats do it, too. The vast majority of the time, the leg-in-the-air grooming session is simply that — a grooming session. For the most part, cats of all ages are fastidious about grooming themselves, including their genitals and anus. (Although the jury is still out on why they feel the need to do it in front of everyone.) Let’s learn more about what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to cat private parts.

Kittens and Private Parts

A mama cat and her kitten.
A mama cat will clean the area around her kitten’s butt. Photography ©flibustier | Thinkstock.

Female cats will help clean the rear ends of their young kittens. The mother also wants to stimulate the muscles around the anus to encourage her offspring to have bowel movements. As the kittens continue to grow, they begin to take over the grooming for themselves.

Don’t worry: Your kitten may not take very good care of his private parts at first, particularly if he left the care of his mother at an early age. Help him out by cleaning the area when it needs extra attention.

Be concerned: Sometimes male kittens end up with one or both testicles undescended into the scrotum, a condition called feline cryptorchidism. The testicles should be fully descended by about 2 months of age. If left untreated, cryptorchidism can lead to testicular cancer or a condition called “testicular torsion,” which can be painful. Have your kitten examined by a veterinarian before 6 months of age. Your vet will check for cryptorchidism and, if necessary, will surgically remove the undescended testicle during neuter surgery.

Adult Cats and Private Parts

Sometimes a medical condition can cause adult cats to pay extra attention to their external genitals. In male cats, such parts include the penis, testicles and prepuce (the fold of skin that covers the penis), while a female cat’s external genitals are the vulvar folds.

“There aren’t too many specific ailments involving the external genitals,” says Arnold Plotnick, D.V.M. “Disorders of the prepuce, penis and testicles are rare. Disorders of the female genitalia are uncommon as well.”

With male cats, however, a preoccupation with grooming the penis may indicate a urinary issue. “A urethral plug can form at the tip of the penis, leading to urethral obstruction,” Dr. Plotnick explains. “This is a life-threatening condition in that the obstruction must be relieved so that the cat can be able to urinate.”

Don’t worry: Routine grooming of the genital area is normal for both male and female cats, and sometimes a little extra attention may be necessary.

Be concerned: Repeated, excessive grooming of cat genitals may indicate an obstruction, as Dr. Plotnick notes, or another urinary tract issue in both male and female cats (though feline lower urinary tract disease is more common in male cats). A cat may lick the area to relieve pain, too. Have your cat examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice excessive genital grooming, which may be accompanied by repeated trips to the litter box with little or no output.

Senior Cats and Private Parts

Less active cats, including seniors, may be more susceptible to weight gain and obesity, which can lead to a medical condition of the female genitalia called vulvar fold pyoderma. “Obese female cats will often develop a deep fold of skin along the sides of the vulva,” Dr. Plotnick says. “The cat’s obesity often prevents proper grooming of that area, and bacteria accumulate in the skin fold, leading to a bacterial skin infection (pyoderma).”

Don’t worry: Keeping the skin around the vulva clean can help prevent pyoderma. Helping your cat lose weight can help prevent the condition, too. “Ideally, the cat should be put on a diet, so the skin fold gets smaller, and the cat can groom better,” Dr. Plotnick explains. In the meantime, your vet can prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.

Be concerned: “In rare situations [of vulvar fold pyoderma], surgical removal of the excess skin is required to resolve the problem,” Dr. Plotnick says. Again, helping your cat stay at her healthiest weight will help prevent the situation.

So while your cat’s shameless grooming displays may be embarrassing in front of your guests, they’re usually nothing to cause alarm. If your cat changes his behavior, see your vet as soon as possible. In the meantime, have a good laugh with your entertaining and uninhibited cat.

Thumbnail: Photography by ©eurobanks | Thinkstock (male cat); ©Azaliya | Thinkstock (female cat).

A lifelong cat owner, Stacy N. Hackett writes frequently about cats, cat breeds and a range of pet-related topics. The inspiration for her writing comes from her four cats — Jack, Phillip, Katie and Leroy — and her Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix, Maggie.

Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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9 thoughts on “Cat Private Parts — What’s Normal and What’s Not Down There”

  1. My Male cat that is 7 started pushing my hand to his private area when even I would rub his tummy. He gets mad when I move it away he has been fixed since he was 8 weeks. I got him as a rescue. But only in the past year has he been doing this. It was cute at first but I’m getting worried because when I stop I get this look and his tail starts hitting the bed like I’m mad at you for stopping. But can anyone help with odd behavior.

  2. my cat is licking herself way way to much and she also goes to the box alot and alot of the times isn’t doing anything but she will be there for along time trying she doesn’t seem like she is in any pain but I’m not for sure if she does have a urine Trac infection what can I get to help her I don’t have any money to take her to the vet . I love my cat so much and she loves me very much to. I’ve never had something build a bond with me like she has and I would die if something happens to her please any help ?

    1. Hi jasmine,
      I recently losed my girl who was my everything I understand that love it’s somthing only a few people are lucky enough to experience. in emergency situations any vet will see her you just turn up or call a veterinary practice before leaving n explain. If need be they will set up a payment plan with you after she is OK, this will not be a huge amount it will be what you can afford each payday.
      I understand we’re you are coming from my baby Girl was my everything & I nearly died but for my boy after she reached the end.
      Don’t panic too much, female cats rarely get blocked as there tube is alot wider then male cats.
      Her symptoms sound like my Riggs symptoms (cystitis) he always needs anti inflammatorys (loxicam/metacam) & extra water in his food then after a few days he recovers.
      To see a vet cost 31£ plus cost of loxicam 7£

      It can be caused by stress & cats pick up the slightest of changes, change of food, time of food, bed time, cuddle time. Try & keep as close as possible to a ruteen with themz they don’t like change when they start reaching towards older age semms to effect em alot more then when there younger

  3. My female cat has been rubbing herself with her paw a lot lately and I can’t find anything about this online. She does this even when she isn’t in heat. I don’t know if it something to worry about or not. Does anyone have any information on something like this?

  4. If your tom cat can’t pee, it’s a medical emergency and you must get him to vet straight away. Failure to treat will be fatal.

  5. This cat suddenly started extra grooming of his Anus like it was on fire, with redness as well…one week later and not as much grooming /licking, but still irritated now with an outer brown ring..what could be causing this and what can I do fur him??

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