Monday, May 24, 2010

Your Cat's Anal Sacs

"My cat's WHAT???? Why are you talking about sex???"

Ok, calm down. I did not say anal sex. I am not talking about sex (true story - more than one client over the years has responded to this subject in that exact way - this is almost certainly why most vets more savvy than me call them anal "glands", albeit erroneously).

Dogs have them, and unfortunately so do cats. All I can say is, thank heavens that humans don't. These two pea-sized little structures adjacent to the anus at the 4- and 8-o'clock positions can cause a great deal of discomfort for some cats, but rarely do they cause the sort of mess they can in dogs that necessitates their surgical removal.

Anal sacs serve no discernable useful purpose, but they are analogous to a skunk's scent glands and so they may serve as a sort of scent marking device for reinforcing territorial boundaries. Whatever the case is, cats aren't talking. And most cats never have the slightest problem with them.

When anal sacs get impacted (plugged up and full of the stinky stuff they produce which is NOT feces) most cats will exhibit some sort of abnormal behavior but which varies tremendously from cat to cat. We don't usually see cats dragging their rear end across the carpet with hind feet in the air like dogs usually do. But excessive grooming is a common symptom, as is some degree of visible discomfort around the hind end.

People will probably now be asking, "How do I know if my cat has impacted or infected anal sacs?" The truth is, you probably won't. But just like any other time you think your cat doesn't look or act normal, you should get it in for an exam. Trust me - you don't want to go poking around your cat's butt too enthusiastically - anal sac "juice" has a propensity for squirting out at the most inopportune times, and it is one of the foulest substances known to man. Ask me how I know.