Q: My cat keeps scooting his butt across the floor. We have had him for almost two years now and he has been doing it the entire time, off and on. We keep taking him to the vet and they tell me his anal gland is plugged so they “express” it. But then a few weeks later he’s back to doing it again. We have switched to a more high fiber food, as recommended by our vet. He is now on his second bag of the new food and he is still continuing to scoot. I was just wondering what your solution would be and if this is a common problem. I’ve seen dogs do this but never cats until now.
A: The most common cause of scooting the rear end on the floor is indeed an anal gland problem. Cats have two glands just inside the anus. Normally, the small amount of material that accumulates in the glands will be secreted when cats defecate. Sometimes, however, the anal gland secretion becomes thick and pasty. As the material builds up, it causes the gland to become distended and uncomfortable. Cats try to relieve the distension of the gland by scooting their rear ends on the floor in an attempt to put pressure on the gland. This rarely works, and the glands need to be expressed manually, by your veterinarian. Owners can be taught to do this at home, but it can be tricky to learn, and many cat owners do not feel comfortable expressing the anal gland.
High fiber diets are recommended in cases like this. They add bulk to the stool, and the large piece of stool may put enough pressure on the gland so that the glands stay relatively empty. It doesn’t seem to be working for your cat, however. I think you have three options: continue to take your cat to the vet for this procedure; learn to do it yourself; or consider surgical removal of the anal glands. Surgery should be a last option, however. Anal gland removal in cats is uncommonly done in practice (I myself have never done this surgery, in 21 years of practice). It should be done by a board-certified, experienced surgeon, if the need ever arises.