Ask a Vet: Can Cats Get Hemorrhoids?


An editor at Catster recently asked me a very simple question. Can cats get hemorrhoids? My first response was to wonder what inspired the question. But, although the question is a bit unsavory, it actually is a good one.

Hemorrhoids apparently are common in people. Based upon the fact that hemorrhoid creams are heavily advertised on national news broadcasts, it is evident that older people especially are predisposed to them.

True hemorrhoids are bulging veins

The veins most frequently bulge as a consequence of straining to defecate, which causes increased pressure in the area of the anus. Hemorrhoids also commonly occur as a complication of pregnancy. The bulging veins are painful and, I imagine, unsightly. (But who’s looking?) I’m told they’re fleshy and purple.

Photo of Dr. Eric Barchas by Liz Acosta
Photo of Dr. Eric Barchas by Liz Acosta

Cats often get constipated, and if they aren’t spayed they’re nearly certain to get pregnant. But I’ve never seen a cat with a hemorrhoid. The simple answer to the editor’s question is no. However, that doesn’t mean cats never suffer from painful problems in the area of their most sensitive orifice.

In fact, cats are highly predisposed to an uncomfortable phenomenon that causes them to develop fleshy purple swellings right next to the anus. I’m referring to anal gland abscesses.

The anal glands, as the name implies, are glands that are located near the anus. They are relatively simple as far as glands go (in fact, they’re not true glands, but let’s not get too technical). They consist of a sac and a duct. The sacs are located on either side of the anus, and the ducts open into the anus itself.

In skunks, the anal glands are used for defense (skunk glands are modified anal glands). In hyenas, anal glands are used to mark territory and signal dominance. There is some debate about the purpose of anal glands in cats, but they appear to be used for scent marking feces and staking territory.

A vet takes a cat’s temperature by Shutterstock

The concept of scent-marking feces might have caught your attention. Feces has a pretty strong odor on its own, so one might imagine that anal gland juice is pretty ripe. In fact, it smells like a combination of fish and feces. If you smell it once you will never forget its unique bouquet.

Normally when a cat defecates the sacs contract and express their contents through the ducts and onto the feces. However, if a cat has diarrhea or constipation the gland may not express itself normally. The glands also may not empty normally if, for whatever reason, the anal gland secretions are thicker than usual, or if the duct becomes clogged by a piece of grit or debris. Such glands become distended.

Animals with distended anal glands may “scoot” or exhibit mild discomfort in the area of their anus.

But wait, it gets worse

The anal glands are located directly adjacent to the body’s number one source of bacteria. When the glands don’t empty properly bacteria may migrate up the duct and into the sac. An infection results.

A cat at the vet by Shutterstock

In the early stages, anal gland abscesses show up as painful red or purple swollen areas near the anus. In other words, they look (and evidently feel) a lot like hemorrhoids.

Later on, infected anal glands burst, leading to a bloody stoma (opening) near the anus. The dramatic appearance of ruptured anal glands causes many people to panic, thinking that someone or something has “ripped their cat a new one.”

In fact, the rupturing of the anal gland abscess generally reduces the pain associated with the phenomenon. Anal gland abscesses are quite amenable to treatment. I have had good success rates with conservative management — I generally clean the area up and send the cat home on antibiotics and pain killers.

Another problem in cats that can resemble a hemorrhoid is severe inflammation of the skin in the anal area. This happens most commonly in longhaired cats who are unfortunate enough to have feces get caught in their coat. If feces is in contact with the skin for any significant period of time, the skin will become very angry and painful.

Treatment involves trimming the hair, and it should be performed only by a professional. Antibiotics — in the form of oral medications or ointments — and painkillers generally are prescribed.

A veterinarian holds a cat by Shutterstock

Finally, there is one very serious problem that can resemble hemorrhoids in cats. I am referring to rectal prolapse. Rectal prolapse occurs when a portion of the gastrointestinal tract — the rectum — passes out of the anus.

Rectal prolapses are dangerous

They most often occur as a result of constipation with heavy straining. Rectal tissue that is chronically prolapsed can become devitalized, leading to life threatening complications. Cats with rectal prolapses require immediate emergency care.

If your cat has a problem with his most sensitive and private spot, don’t ignore it. Take him to the vet.

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Got a question for Dr. Barchas? Ask our vet in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Note that if you have an emergency situation, please see your own vet immediately!)

10 thoughts on “Ask a Vet: Can Cats Get Hemorrhoids?”

  1. Hi there, before I start, I am taking my cat to the vet this week. Shes around 8 yrs old, and has been having some issues with bleeding when pooping, the last time I took her in the vet said it was most likely and intestinal infection of some sort but this time I found a rather large clot of blood next to her litter box along with another spot of blood that also had mucus with it. I’m just wondering what all can cause something like that to happen? Her belly has been very tight for a week or so now as well and she no longer lets me pick her up and that was always her favorite thing to do when I got home from work. Any extra info I can get is much appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Take your cat to a good vet clinic for a CT scan. This is the only way you will know. Ultra sound in cats only shows in max 35% of cases and problem. Any other tests are for complementary answers but not not for the cause of the problems. By running such tests you just waste time and money.

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  6. My 4 year old cat eats only dry cat food and treats, he is very picky, even though he is in good health would that cause any health problem.

  7. My male cat is almost twelve. The other night he went poop and it was the worst smell ever. I went to scoop it out and there was fresh blood in it and it was a soft stool. Any idea what it would be? He doesn’t seem like he is in pain.

    Thank you


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