Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Why is my cat dragging his bum across the floor?
Siouxsie: There are three main reasons why a cat might drag his bottom across the floor. Let us reassure you that it’s not because it feels good to do so!
Thomas: If our stools are soft or we get diarrhea, we might drag our bottom across the floor to clean off the “cling-ons.” We don’t mind washing our bottoms–we do that every time we use the litterbox, after all–but when there’s a lot of mess there, it’s pretty gross.
Dahlia: Cling-ons tend to be more of a problem for long-haired cats, because there’s just more hair to catch the waste. This is one reason why long-haired cats require more grooming than those of us with short hair.
Siouxsie: If you notice that your cat has feces clinging to his bottom, you can give him a hand by taking a napkin and cleaning some of it off. That will make it easier for him to clean himself the rest of the way.
Thomas: And if your cat does have diarrhea, you should investigate why. Cats get diarrhea from eating dairy products (milk and cheese made of cow milk) or from eating people-food that’s too rich and spicy. So don’t feed your cat people-food if you notice he’s getting diarrhea after he consumes it.
Dahlia: Cats also get diarrhea if they have worms. Particularly if your cat goes outside, you should get your cat dewormed (with a medicine for tapeworms and roundworms) twice a year.
Siouxsie: Speaking of worms, some worms–such as pinworms (a type of roundworm) or tapeworm segments that move around for a while after they come out–make kitty bottoms pretty itchy, and a cat might drag his bottom on the floor because of the itch.
Thomas: Another more serious reason for bottom-dragging is clogged anal sacs. If you ever looked at your cat’s bottom, you might notice a little dark-colored dot at about the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions on either side of your cat’s anus. These are the openings for the anal sacs.
Dahlia: Thick fluid collects in these glands and is normally expelled when the rectal muscles contract as the cat poops. This fluid adds a scent that identifies the poop as belonging to that particular cat.
Siouxsie: Sometimes, though, the thick fluid clogs the opening of the anal sacs, which causes impaction and discomfort. Think of a pimple that gets clogged and just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This feels similar to what we cats experience with clogged anal sacs.
Thomas: A cat with clogged anal sacs may drag his bottom across the floor in an attempt to ease the discomfort and unclog those sacs.
Dahlia: Your vet can manually expel the clog from your cat’s anal sacs and even show you how to do the job at home if this becomes a regular problem.
Siouxsie: Be warned, the fluid from the anal sacs is very smelly! Most humans find the odor nauseating. But trust us, getting those sacs unclogged is quite a relief.
Thomas: If your cat does have clogged anal sacs, failure to clear that clog can lead to infection or even an abscess in the anal sac, a serious medical condition.
Dahlia: So if your cat continues to scoot his bottom across the floor for more than a day or so, and you don’t see any evidence of diarrhea, call your vet and see if they want you to bring him in for a checkup. He may need to have his anal sacs emptied.
Siouxsie: If it turns out that your cat does have anal sac problems, it would be a good idea to investigate an underlying cause. Diarrhea or unduly soft stools can mean that the rectal muscles don’t have to contract enough to expel the anal sacs naturally. Constipation also may cause clogged anal sacs because when the cat doesn’t defecate normally, the rectum doesn’t contract often enough to expel the fluid.
Thomas: Either way, if your cat has regular problems with constipation or diarrhea, this is also something you should discuss with your vet. Both of these problems are just as uncomfortable and annoying for your cat as they would be for you.
Dahlia: Good luck, Jowanna, and we hope you find out what’s causing your kitty’s discomfort.