Anal Glands in Cats: Potential Issues & Treatment

Anal Glands in Cats: Potential Issues & Treatment

Author WCF Staff


Anal glands, or sacs, are found surrounding the rectum of several mammals, including cats. Unless a cat owner smells the secretions of the glands or notices an issue with them, most cat owners are unaware that their cat has these glands. If you know what these glands do and what problems they can cause, you can better care for your cat's wellbeing.

Anatomy of the cat's anal gland

Two pea-sized anal glands surround the rectal apertures of both male and female cats. The anal opening has two tiny sacs on either side, visible from the outside. Each anal gland would be located between 5 and 7 on a clock face if the cat's rectum were a clock face.

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They are tiny balloon-like sacs that can be seen through these apparent openings. When a cat defecates, a foul-smelling substance is released from these sacs. If the epithelial fluid is left in the sacs for an extended period or if there is an underlying problem, it might thicken and become gritty or chunky.

cat on couch

Why do cats have them?

Cats have a variety of methods to mark their territory in the wild, and anal gland fluid is just one of them. Feces naturally push on the anal gland's internal portion, causing it to be squeezed and release the anal gland fluid along with the defecation. If a cat is startled or frightened, it can also expel its anal glands, similar to a skunk. This is common when a scared cat is taken to the vet or groomer. Spraying or dripping of the anal gland fluid produces a foul smell.

How can I know if my cat has anal gland issues?

It's possible that your cat's anal glands are bothering them, as evidenced by the various symptoms your cat will exhibit.

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They are more inclined to scoot or drag their hind end on the ground if their anal glands are inflamed.

If a cat's anal sacs are completely full, this could be an attempt to alleviate the pressure and discomfort that the cat is now experiencing. After your cat has done this, you may also smell or see a foul-smelling fluid. An issue with the glands might also be indicated by a cat's tendency to lick their anal area excessively or cry out while defecating. Seeing blood in your cat's excrement or on the carpet after it scoots its back end could also be a symptom of an anal gland problem, as could seeing blood in your cat's feces.

Health issues connected with anal glands

Anal glands are usually not an issue for most cats, but occasionally they require a little more help expressing themselves.

tabby cat

Expressing your cat's anal glands by hand isn't fun for you or your cat. Nevertheless, it may be necessary if the cat's feces don't drain them normally. Discomfort, illness, impaction, and painful ruptures are all possible outcomes if these glands aren't expressed properly, whether naturally or manually. Cat anal glands not expressing on their own can be due to a variety of factors.

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There are many reasons why the anal gland may become inflamed, including a blockage in the duct that permits fluid to exit the gland.


Growth or tumors in the anal gland or the surrounding area may be obstructing the anal duct, preventing fluid from flowing out of it.

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The cat's anal sacs may become infected with bacteria if you don't frequently remove the fluid from them. Therefore, the fluid within the anal glands will thicken and become infected as bacteria multiply in the gland and eventually create a severe problem.

Fiber deficiency

When cats don't frequently expel their anal sacs on their own, they may be lacking in fiber in their diet.

yellow cat looking down


As the cat defecates, the cat's anal glands will come under additional pressure due to the increased mass and stiffness of the stool. It's considered a severe issue when anal glands can't function properly due to extra fat and the big cat's anatomy. For overweight cats with anal gland problems, losing a few pounds is the recommended line of therapy.

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How are anal sac issues in cats treated?

If your cat needs its anal glands to be expressed by hand, it is likely that the glands are not spontaneously expressing for whatever reason.

When these glands are inflamed, they might get infected. Antibiotics will be given to a cat with an infection, and the glands themselves may need "cleaning." However, if the fluid becomes too hardened and has compromised the anal glands, surgery might be required to remove the contents within. A ruptured gland will require cleaning under general anesthesia. At the same time, the vet will prescribe your cat pain medications and drugs that can control the infection. Any tumor identified will require surgery to be removed.

In case of obesity-caused anal gland issues, the cat's weight and diet may need to be adapted and changed.

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Anal gland expression by hand

Manual anal sac expression might be simple to learn, but cats loathe the experience. Veterinarians can advise you on how to restrain your cat, distract it, and express anal glands safely at home. As a result, glandular pressure is exerted by pressing on the little, balloon-like gland located on the rectum's edge. This results in the release of anal gland fluids.

Preventing anal gland problems

Preventing anal gland problems in cats is as simple as feeding them high-quality food. The second thing cat owners need to control is their cat's weight.

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If you notice your cat scooting or see signs of inflammation around the cat's rectum, and you're still concerned about your cat's anal gland health, call your vet. You should keep an eye on your cat's bowel movements for signs of diarrhea, and don't try to expel the anal glands if they don't need it. It's preferable to leave anal glands alone until there's a good reason they need expressing, so don't do it unless it's absolutely necessary.

World Cat Finder Team

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