Cat Scooting — Why It Happens and What to Do

An orange ginger tabby cat looking backward at his butt.
An orange ginger tabby cat looking backward at his butt. Photography © GlobalP | iStock.

Scooting, which is the polite term for a pet dragging his butt along the ground, is seen more often in dogs, but cat scooting happens sometimes, too. Usually, this means a cat’s rear is itchy or irritated. A little detective work can help you get to the bottom of the cause behind all that cat scooting.

A cat looking backwards at his butt.
There are a variety of reasons for cat scooting. Photography © GlobalP | iStock.

1. Cat Scooting Happens Because of Worms

One of the more common reasons for cat scooting is intestinal parasites. “Tapeworms is the one that I usually think of,” says Cynthia Karsten, DVM, outreach veterinarian for the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Companion Animal Health. Other parasites may also cause itching and scooting. With tapeworms, you might see evidence in your cat’s poop (tapeworms look like grains of white rice), but some parasites can’t be seen with the naked eye. Other signs of a parasite infestation include diarrhea or constipation, weight loss and a potbelly.

2. Allergies

If your cat has allergies that cause itchy skin, the itchiness could extend to all the areas of the body, including her rear end. Although it’s possible for cat allergies to be caused by an intolerance to certain proteins in food, environmental allergies are more frequently seen in cats. “With dogs we think about diet,” Dr. Karsten says. “Cats just don’t seem to have the same food allergies that dogs do, so it’s not as common.” Environmental allergies in cats can be caused by dust, pollen, mold, mites and even fleas.

3. Anal Gland Issues

Cats seem to have fewer anal gland issues than dogs. That said, cat scooting might indicate issues with your cat’s anal glands. The anal glands are two small internal sacs positioned on either side of the anus. The glands produce a pungent liquid that is probably a mechanism for marking territory. “They should, if they’re fine, express every time the animal poops,” Dr. Karsten says.

Sometimes, inflammation prevents this liquid from being expelled when the cat poops. Instead, it builds up inside the two sacs, where it can become very thick, like a paste. “When they become uncomfortable, we see the pet scooting because the animal can’t reach back there, so the best they can do is try to scoot their bum,” Dr. Karsten explains. “Bacteria from feces can travel up into the sac, but is normally flushed out when the sacs are expelled. If they’re impacted and that bacteria gets in there, then they can get an infection and then possibly even an abscess.”

What to Do About Cat Scooting

If your cat is scooting, it’s time for a visit to the veterinarian to find out what’s causing it. Your vet will do a complete physical exam, looking for signs of parasites, itchy skin or problems with the anal glands. “The vet will likely want to do a fecal test and possibly a good deworming, especially if there’s diarrhea involved,” Dr. Karsten advises. “He or she will also check for any sort of perianal or vulvar inflammation infection. Yeast can be really itchy. Your vet might want to get a cytology of that area.”

Treating cat scooting depends on the cause. Deworming should take care of any irritating parasites. If the anal glands appear impacted or infected, your vet will express them and possibly treat them with medication. Allergies can be trickier to address, but once the cause of the allergies is identified, your vet will be able to prescribe appropriate treatment to soothe the itch and put a stop to your cat’s scooting for good.

Tell us: Have you ever witnessed cat scooting? What turned out to be the cause?

Thumbnail: Photography © GlobalP | iStock.

This piece was originally published on January 4, 2018.

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44 thoughts on “Cat Scooting — Why It Happens and What to Do”

  1. My cat scoots and none of these reasons apply. She has been to the vet and does not have parasites or infection or clogged glands. her glands were expressed anyway but the vet said there was not much in there. she is not constipated and does not have diarrhea and does not have poo stuck to her and is not leaving stripes or mess. She was given a shot of something that is supposed to help with itching in case her behind is just itchy but it didn't stop. I know it is rare for cats to mark their territory this way but I believe that is what she is doing. she smells the carpet then scoots on it, then smells it again to make sure it stinks like her. I have told her it is not very lady like but she will not stop.

  2. My cat deliberately holds onto the last piece of poop so she can drag it on the carpet. I caught her in the act and scolded her, so she now knows I don't like it. Next time I saw her get in position I said "NO!" and she let that last piece fall off her butt and ran away. I looked at her butt and couldn't see anything unusual. She has been seen for this by her vet, had anal glands checked, had parasite stool testing, gets Revolution Plus flea, tick, and de-worm treatment monthly, eats grain-free wet food at night, grain-free hairball kibble in the morning. She is 11 and also is taking gabapentin twice daily for arthritic pain. Still she scoots. I'm about to pull my hair out, as my carpet is too disgusting for words after cleaning up countless stripes and chunks from her scootings.

    1. How can you tell it's deliberate? It happens to my otherwise healthy cat once or twice a year. It just gets stuck and she's trying to get rid of it.

  3. Babies don’t lick their butts (at least not any I’ve ever seen) which is why their wipes shouldn’t be used for cats.
    You don’t have to use special cat wipes if you’d rather not, you can just use warm water on some toilet paper, that’s what I do.

  4. My cat is fat she scoots her butt on carpet after she goes to bath room she dont have worms and her anal glands been checked by vet does she do it because she to fat and cant clean her bottom ?

  5. The only time this happens to our elderly female cat is when she’s having a piece of hard poop stuck on her bum and needs to get it out :D she tends to be constipated…

  6. Does anyone in your house have long hair? My daughter has hair that extends down to her waist and she likes to color it with ‘colors not naturally found in hair.” One morning I came in the kitchen only to see my cat running and scooting as if his butt was on fire and he could’t snuff it out. Well, upon examination, he had some poo that was wrapped up in some long blue hair strands dangling from his hiney. He was scared, I think, because he had these big eyes and he looked at me and pleaded, ‘Please mom, get it off me!’

    If hair is involved, please remember that it is impossible to know how much hair is stuck inside the small intestine/colon and you could cause internal injury by just grabbing and pulling it out. So, consult with your veterinarian about how to handle this. If no vet is available, be gentle and go slowly (as slowly as the animal allows).

  7. I’ve had cats all my life (I am 64) and until my last cat (about 10 years ago) I never saw this problem in any cat I’ve had. But when my cat Leo started to run around the room and then do the scooting, I knew something was up. Sure enough, it was his anal glands. I ended up having to take him into the vets twice, about 4 years apart.

  8. January 28, 2020
    I’m short on money I have a the Vet and my sister has checked his anal glands (she’s a vet tech) – they’re always clear….
    I’m new to this area – I found a DVM grad from UC Davis that I like – he seems honest not test pushy…..
    My question is what should I ask be tested first? His glands seem to be fine he’s on grain free food he’s our only pet – he’ll be 12 in August – I’d call him a short hair – have had him since he was 3-5 weeks old and always kept up on general care, shots, etc. We didn’t have fleas where we lived – we do here – he’s completely indoor – (gonna try him on the leash again LOL) Planning to treat him anyway – he was found in dumpster – I’m his only owner. I know this is a lot to ask but I really have invery little money.. he’ll most likely be my last pet because of the cost – Thank you!

  9. I’ve had my kitty since I was 12 and she started scooting last year. I took her to the vet and they said nothing is wrong. My parents don’t want to find out what’s wrong they just want to get rid of her. I don’t know what to do I need help please anybody

    1. My cat 15 years old, just started doing the scooting thing once in a great while. Same food, same vitamins, she has a bad hip, but all good. So I got Burt’s Bees Cat Wipes. I wipe her bum like a baby. Gentle of course, sometimes they can’t clean as well as they use to when they get older. They get arthritis also. Takes me 1min to clean her. I stand over her, she is between my legs, I put my hand on her belly and I just gently wipe. She meows a little, them is fine. NO, I don’t dive in with my fingers, I just make sure she is clean. Just be careful, we are gentle in that area. No I’m not a vet, just a loving cat mom.

  10. Pingback: 4 Ways the Cat Butt Can Give You a Bigger Picture of Your Kitty’s Health – Info Body

  11. Pingback: Four Methods the Cat Butt Can Give You a Greater Image of Your Kitty’s Well being – Cute funny cat kitten pictures videos

  12. My cat has been back and forth from the vet and we’ve tried a lot but she is still missing the box and scooting! We get her glands expressed every month or so, we feed her a diet with as few chemical ingredients as possible to minimize allergens, and we add fiber to every meal. Still her poop happens outside the box and she scoots almost every day. Should I mention her stool is often soft and dropped in two places per movement. Sometimes she even leaves a little nugget as she’s walking away. What is happening!! Please help!!

    1. Hi there,

      We suggest contacting your vet again. These articles might provide some insight, too. Hope your kitty feels better!

    2. have you tried a product called “Cat Attract” you should be able to pick it up at the vet. You shake it in the litter box and it looks like cat nip but it attracts the cat to the litter box. Always keep the box clean even if you have to get a deodorizer for the litter box too. I have had to do both of these along with cleaning the litter box three times a day.

  13. There is another reason cats will scoot. Generally it means they have something in back, (dangling or not), that you Don’t want mashed into your carpets.

      1. A burts bees cat wipe?? Really? What about a regular baby wipe? It’s good enough for a baby’s bottom and a heck of a lot cheaper… People get sucked in with all this natural crap that just sucks on your wallet.. common sense people.

  14. My cat used to get UTIs quite often, and when he had one he would scoot after using the toilet.
    Not sure if it was just from the irritation, or from stress, but he hasn’t done it in quite some time now.
    It was pretty funny to watch, and luckily he only did it in the kitchen, but he’d often pee in other places like the bed…

    1. Good cat pees on bed!!! That’s urinary tract infection. Our house has lots of experience with this! Get him to the vet soon or spend $1000 if you don’t! If he’s just starting this behavior or it’s not very frequent, start him on Purina ONE Urinary Tract formula. They really like it and we’ve used it on cats for years. They can have their regular food occasionally also, if the 2 foods don’t cause diaria. Best of luck to you.

  15. My cat Buddy rarely scoots, but the only time I saw him scooting, he had poop coming out. Said poop had fur in it (both his and the dogs) and some human hair (likely my younger brothers). He was having a hard time getting it out, so my mom and I had to pin him down and pull it out.

  16. I had a cat that used to scoot whenever he would have poop stuck to his backside. He didn’t have diarrhea, he just had softer poop because he was on a paté diet only. There were a few times that he really made a huge mess. Thank God I don’t have carpeting.

    I’d take him and his scooting back in a heartbeat though. I miss him.

  17. My girlfriend and i rescued a kitten from my back yard and took him (or her not sure yet) in and his name is Cash! No vet yet and is scheduled to be neutured in less than 2 weeks. My girfriend noticed round worms in his stool one day so we immediatly sanitized everything and went out and bought de wormer. The Petco employee recommended a denwormer called “homeopet” which is a pain because for a kitten its 5 drops a day, THREE times a day, for 2 weeks. We also purchased viramins and he isnt a picky eater at all. Up until last night he showed no signs of having worms, super playful and sweet. However last night he started “scooting” and dhiarria was involved and you could actually see a worm left behind. It was really gross and needless tonsay everything was washed. Me my girlfriend and the kitten all share a room believe it or not. Is this a healthy sign as a result of the de worming that he is infact expelling the worms, or is it a bad sign? The de wormer is actually a natural one that doesnt kill the works but helps the kittens immune system effectively fight them off. I didnt know this at the time as the Petco employee simply reccomended that one as working better than the other options. We have spent so much money for Cash as he is now family, and we cant afford to rush him to the vet right now unless its an absolute emergency. We are paying to get him/her (almost positive its a bot) spayed or neutered, some shots, and his nails trimmed soon so needless to say money is tight. Any advice would sincerely help us and im wondering if him expelling the worms is a good sign! I just want the best for Cash, hes the best and i love him so much. Thanks !

    1. I hope you have gotten him to the vet by now. Whenever you bring home a stray kitty, getting them to the vet should always be a priority.

      Btw, I’m not judging you because I’m in the same situation. If either of my cats needed a vet right now I would not be able to take them. It’s a shame that vets won’t accept payments.

  18. My cat meows a lot and then scoots on the carpet but I have only seen her do this a couple times. Her bowels seem to be a bit like lava, and she uses the bathroom more than my older cats. She does have a belly on her and I have wondered if it’s attributed to worms but she doesn’t seem lethergic at times. She seems to rest and play quite energetically like the other cats. Should I limit her intake more closely or does this sound like a vet visit is in order? How does one obtain pet insurance?

  19. I recently found a small kitten and brought home. After feeding it a product called pate cat food by bcuz I didn’t have anything else at the time; it began to butt drag. Please tell me what to do for it. I haven’t fed anything else water ever since. Thank you for your time and consideration.

  20. My cat sometimes growl like shes about to vomit but then she goes crazy attacks the dog, and even growl at me with her hair standing up on her back and it’s scary, but I let her know who’s the boss. Then I give her time to herself and then shes back to begin my sweety again. what can cause that ? I caught her dragging for the first time .

    1. Hi Kevin,
      Sorry to hear that you’re experiencing this! We hope your kitty feels better. You may want to consult with your vet. These articles might help shed some insight, too:

  21. My cat scoots only for me and only on my bed (!) and she looks straight at me when she does it too. My kitty is short haired 17 months old and rescued and exhibits some strange behaviour. I wonder if anybody else’s cat does this..

    1. Mary-Lou Mayfield

      Sometimes a cat will learn a behavior because it gets attention. Also, another commenter mentioned a cat who had learned to “ask” someone to wipe him because he was too heavy to do it himself.

    2. I believe that your cat is sending you the message that it is unhappy. Only you and your cat know about your interactions so only you can puzzle out what your cat is unhappy about. It has to do specifically with you. My kitten gets angry when she can’t go outside so she will attack her brother (he’s an old man), in an effort to get me to let her out. When she brings critters in I put them out so she attacks my legs to let me know she thinks I’m a jerk for doing that. (Now I just put her outside along with them. That problem is solved.) Good Luck!

  22. My youngest cat had to have her anal glands removed because they continually were impacted. The surgeon said she was the only the second cat he had done that surgery for since mostly dogs have that problem. She scoots once in awhile but the vet says she is ok

  23. My previous kitty did it because, well, she was overweight and after going to the litter box, she wasn’t always clean back there. She became very smart to this and usually came to a human first and would sit and stare at you as if to say ‘I went potty. Could you wash my bottom?’. If you paid attention, she wouldn’t scoot. But, if you ignored her, she would use the carpet as her toilet paper. Wasn’t pleseant to say the least. But, as long as you were attuned to the sound of her in the litter and her ‘state’s afterwards, she was fine.

    1. Mine does the same, but she’s far from overweight. She’s the tiny-boned one compared to her monster of a full sister. Her sister never scoots and she does. I’m wondering if they digest the food differently, the one who scoots sometimes also has softer poop.

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