Anal Scooting in Cats

Key Takeaways

Scooting is a behavior where the pet sits, lifts its rear legs into the air and uses its front legs to drag the anal area across the floor. 

• This is a normal behavior in response to itchiness, but becomes a medical concern if it is excessive or accompanied by other symptoms, especially around the perineal area

• Scooting can be caused by a variety of irritants and conditions around the anal, rectal, and perineal area

• Related conditions include anal gland discomfort, food allergies, injuries, tumors, parasites, infections, and urinary tract infections

• The underlying cause is diagnosed using physical examination, blood and fecal analysis, and diagnostic imaging

• Treatment depends on the diagnosis, but can include surgery, medication, dietary adjustments, palliative care, and infection control

A Closer Look: What is Anal Scooting in Cats?

Scooting is often completely harmless and no cause for medical concern. When other symptoms such as changes in the appearance of the skin around the perineal area are present, it may be related to an underlying medical condition.

Anal scooting varies in frequency. The frequency of scooting events is not a reflection of the severity of the underlying condition, if there is one present at all.

Possible Causes

The causes of anal scooting vary immensely in cats as this behavior is caused by anything which irritates the anal, perineal, or rectal area. On common cause is anal gland discomfort. Anal glands act to secrete scent-marking liquid with bowel movements. In some cases, anal glands can become too full, causing discomfort.

Other common causes include

• Impacted, infected, abscessed glands

Food allergies

• Injuries

• Tumors/cancer 

• Parasites

• Infections

• Passing something rough or abrasive (bones, hair, fabric, etc.)

• Urinary tract infections

• Dirt or an irritant in the hair around the anus

• Perineal hernia

• Perianal fistula

• Rectal prolapse

• Vaginal prolapse

• Vaginitis

Risk Factors

Anal scooting on its own is not always a cause for concern,  as it may indicate an itch. If the scooting is excessive or is accompanied by additional symptoms, then it is best to seek prompt veterinary advice to resolve the discomfort causing the cat to scoot.

Testing and Diagnosis

Diagnosis begins with a physical examination and a medical history. In addition, a number of tests can be ordered to determine the root cause, including

• Blood work

• Fecal examination and culture

• Urinalysis

• Imaging (x ray, ultrasound)

Treatment varies depending on the root cause of the scooting, but may include:

• Expression of the anal glands

• Allergy medication

• Antibiotics

• Antifungals

• Diet change

• Surgery

• Parasite control

• Palliative care

Similar symptoms

Anal scooting is self-evident, and difficult to mistake for other symptoms.

Associated Symptoms

• Excessive licking at the perianal area

• Skin inflammation (Dermatitis)

• Swelling in the perineal area

• Draining sores

• Frequent urination

• Straining to urinate

Straining to defecate

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