how to tell if cat needs glands expressed

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By Brook

Ever noticed your feline friend scooting their rear end across the carpet like a furry Zamboni? Or maybe you’ve caught a whiff of a less-than-pleasant odor emanating from their backside. These could be signs your cat needs their anal glands expressed.

But how can you be sure? And what exactly are these mysterious glands anyway? Don’t worry, cat parent, we’ve got you covered. This comprehensive guide will delve into the fascinating world of feline anal glands, equipping you with the knowledge to identify potential issues and determine the best course of action.

What are Anal Glands?

Think of anal glands as tiny scent factories located on either side of your cat’s rectum, at about 4 and 8 o’clock if you picture their rear end as a clock face. These glands naturally produce a strong-smelling fluid that helps cats mark their territory and communicate with other felines.

In a healthy cat, these fluids are expressed naturally during bowel movements. As the stool passes through the rectum, it puts pressure on the glands, releasing the scent and letting other cats know, “This is my domain!”

When Do Anal Glands Become a Problem?

Sometimes, however, things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Here are some reasons why your cat might experience anal gland trouble:

Diet: Soft stools or diarrhea might not put enough pressure on the glands to express them naturally.

Breed: Certain breeds, like Beagles and Bulldogs, are more prone to anal gland problems due to the anatomy of their tail pockets. While less common, some cat breeds might also have a predisposition.


Infection: If the anal gland becomes impacted or infected, it can become swollen and painful.

Full Glands: Even without infection, full glands can cause discomfort, prompting your cat to try and relieve the pressure themselves.

Signs Your Cat Needs Help

If your feline friend is experiencing anal gland issues, they might exhibit some of these telltale signs:

The Scoot: This is the most common giveaway. Your cat will scoot their rear end on the floor in an attempt to relieve the discomfort caused by full or impacted glands.

Excessive Licking: Pay attention to where your cat grooms themselves. Obsessive licking around the rectal area can indicate irritation or pain.

Foul Odor: While anal gland fluid has a distinct scent, a particularly strong or fishy odor could indicate an infection.

Pain During Bowel Movements: Difficulty passing stool, straining, or crying while using the litter box can be signs of a painful anal gland problem.

Redness or Swelling: In severe cases, you might even notice visible redness or swelling around the anus.

Important Note: While these signs often point to anal gland issues, they can also indicate other health problems. If you suspect your cat might be struggling, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Should You Express Your Cat’s Glands Yourself?

While expressing anal glands is a relatively simple procedure, it’s generally recommended to leave it to the professionals. Here’s why:

Improper technique: There’s a risk of rupturing the glands or causing further irritation if not done correctly.

Underlying issues: As mentioned earlier, these signs can sometimes indicate other health problems. A vet can diagnose the root cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Stressful experience: For most cats, anal gland expression is an unpleasant experience. A vet can perform the procedure quickly and minimize stress for your feline friend.


When to See the Vet

If you notice any of the signs listed above, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Don’t attempt to express the glands yourself unless a vet specifically instructs you to do so. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further discomfort and potential complications for your cat.

What to Expect at the Vet

During the appointment, your veterinarian will likely perform a physical examination to assess your cat’s anal glands. They might also express the glands if necessary. This is a quick procedure that usually doesn’t require sedation.

The vet will also discuss potential underlying causes and recommend the best course of action for your cat’s specific situation. This might include dietary changes, medication, or expressing the glands on a regular basis.

Preventing Future Problems

While anal gland issues can’t always be prevented, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk:

Diet: Ensure your cat receives a high-quality diet with sufficient fiber to promote firm stools.

Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent anal gland problems in some cats.

Anal Gland Expression: A Delicate Dance (For Vets Only)

While we advise leaving anal gland expression to the professionals, understanding the process can be helpful. Here’s a brief overview (remember, this is for informational purposes only):

Preparation: The vet will likely restrain your cat gently and position them for the procedure.

Expressing the Glands: The vet will insert a gloved finger into the rectum and locate the anal glands. By applying gentle pressure, they’ll express the fluid.

Cleaning: The vet will clean the area around the anus to remove any remaining fluid.

Remember: This is a simplified explanation. Vets have the training and experience to perform this procedure safely and effectively. Never attempt this at home without proper guidance from a veterinarian.

Living with a Cat Who Needs Regular Expressions

If your veterinarian determines your cat needs regular anal gland expression, don’t despair! Here are some tips for making the process smoother:

Discuss Frequency: Talk to your vet about how often your cat likely needs expression. This could vary depending on the underlying cause.

Develop a Routine: Schedule regular appointments with your vet for expressions. Consistency can help prevent future problems.


Dietary Adjustments: Your vet might recommend dietary changes to promote firmer stools, potentially reducing the need for frequent expressions.

Open Communication: Maintain open communication with your vet about any changes in your cat’s behavior or litter box habits.

The Bottom Line (Pun Intended)

Anal gland issues, while not the most pleasant topic, are a common feline concern. By understanding the signs, seeking professional help when needed, and potentially implementing preventative measures, you can ensure your cat’s comfort and well-being. Remember, a healthy and happy cat is a purring cuddle machine, and that’s what every cat parent wants!

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and shouldn’t be construed as veterinary advice. Always consult your veterinarian for any concerns about your cat’s health.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cat Anal Gland Issues

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding cat anal gland problems:

Q: My cat scoots occasionally, but doesn’t show any other signs. Does that mean they need their glands expressed?

A: Occasional scooting might not necessarily indicate a problem. However, if it becomes frequent or accompanied by other signs like excessive licking, foul odor, or difficulty using the litter box, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

Q: I noticed a red bump near my cat’s anus. Could that be an anal gland issue?

A: Potentially. A red bump could be a sign of an impacted or infected anal gland. It’s crucial to see your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Q: Can expressing my cat’s glands too often hurt them?

A: Frequent expression without a genuine need can irritate the glands. If your vet isn’t recommending regular expression, it’s best to avoid it.

Q: Are there any home remedies for anal gland problems?

A: There aren’t any safe and effective home remedies for expressing anal glands. While dietary changes or adding fiber supplements might be recommended by your vet, don’t attempt expression yourself.

Q: How much does it cost to have my cat’s glands expressed?

A: The cost can vary depending on your location and veterinarian. It’s usually included in a routine vet visit fee or might be a separate charge. Contact your veterinarian’s office for a specific quote.

Q: Is there a way to prevent my cat from needing anal gland expression altogether?

A: Not always, but certain measures can help. Maintaining a healthy weight, feeding a high-fiber diet, and regular vet checkups can minimize the risk.

Remember: When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian. They are the best resource for diagnosing and treating any anal gland issues your cat might be experiencing.

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