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Cat Scooting: Why It Happens and How to Stop It

Cat dragging butt on carpet
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Cat scooting is kind of funny—your cat places their butt directly on the ground, stretches out those back legs and uses his front legs to propel him around, dragging his hind end. But it turns pretty gross when his scooting leaves poop on your floor. 

Some cats do this occasionally, and others frequently—perhaps every day. Is that frequency normal? What can you do to decrease scooting? And is it a sign of discomfort or a health problem? Read to find out.

Why Is My Cat Scooting?

Cat scooting is a natural behavior, and it is normal to see it on occasion—perhaps a couple times per week at the most and for a short amount of time during each scoot. 

The most common reasons cats scoot are either to clean poop from their butts, or to stimulate their anal glands. Anal glands are right on the anus, the opening from the rectum (large intestine inside) to the outside. The glands are full of stinky liquid that serves to mark territory each time your cat poops.

But if your cat scoots every day (or maybe several times a day), or the scooting starts to increase, there could be several medical reasons why:

  • Dermatitis (skin inflammation) in the area of the butt
  • Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina in female cats)
  • Proctitis (inflammation of the end of the large intestine a.k.a. the rectum)
  • Anal gland disease
  • Tapeworm infection
  • Bladder or urethral inflammation (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD)

Obesity often leads to dermatitis around the butt, since your cat cannot properly groom the area. Allergies cause inflammation in a variety of places on your cat including the inside of the rectum. You may notice diarrhea if your cat has proctitis. Flea infestation can result in tapeworm infection. Tapeworm segments can be seen in poop or on the butt itself and are off-white and rice-sized. If you notice your cat is urinating outside of the litter box or there is a change in the urine such as having a red color, your cat could be experiencing FLUTD.

Anal gland disease in dogs is relatively common, it is fairly uncommon in cats and likely not the cause of scooting. 

What Should You Do If You See Your Cat Scooting?      

Obese cat on bed

If your cat is scooting, allow him to finish. But if you see your cat scooting, and wish for him to stop, do not yell or “punish” him negatively in any way. Since scooting is a natural behavior, this will frighten your cat and lead to other issues. Try to distract him with his favorite toys or treats instead.

After your cat is finished scooting, lift his tail and look closely around the butt. Is there any poop or debris in the fur? Does the skin around the butt look red or crusty at all? Is there any fur missing? If so, you should schedule a veterinary examination. 

Using a warm washcloth or unscented pet wipes, you may gently try to wipe away debris. However, if your cat reacts strongly, or you would have to press a bit to get something off there, do not attempt to clean any further and call your veterinarian.

Do not attempt to express your cat’s anal glands at home! Most cats will not allow this and a person trying to do so could cause more harm than good.

If your cat begins to increase how often he scoots, you should schedule a veterinary examination even if the skin around the butt looks normal. Most of the causes are not apparent to us. Other clues as to what might be causing the scooting include a history of allergies or itchy skin, changes in urination such as red urine or peeing outside the litter box, diarrhea, and rice-sized off-white granules in the poop.

Cat Scooting Treatment

Veterinarian examining orange cat

The first way to treat cat scooting is to keep your cat’s butt clean. If any poop is stuck to the fur, your cat will often scoot. If this does not resolve the issue, veterinarians will often try a variety of remedies that may help your cat with symptoms. 

Examples of treatments for cat scooting include:

  • Steroids such as prednisolone. These decrease inflammation and are especially useful in cats with allergies.
  • New diet that is protein restricted. Beef, chicken, and fish are the most common causes of food allergies in cats. Prescription diets are created to avoid these common allergens and decrease inflammation.
  • Antibiotics. If there is anal sac disease, a skin infection, or your veterinarian suspects an infection of the bladder, urethra or vagina, she may prescribe antibiotics to combat most common bacterial infections.
  • Anal gland expression. Not all cats allow examination of anal glands, which requires your veterinarian to put a gloved finger into your cat’s butt. Expressing them can help your veterinarian discern if the glands are infected or not. Expressing the liquid content of the glands may help relieve symptoms, although it is unlikely. 
  • Topical ointments, mousse, or shampoos. For any areas of the skin that are inflamed, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription shampoo to combat infection and inflammation.
  • Tapeworm medication. The most common medication is praziquantel, and one dose would be enough to kill tapeworms.
  • Pain medications. Sometimes, just to rule out pain or discomfort from the bladder or other places, your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications to see if they help your kitty feel better.

Home Remedies for Cat Scooting

Black and white cat on shelf

There are many things you can do at home to try and help your cat’s scooting issue:

Wipes intended for humans with hemorrhoids. Gently wiping your cat’s butt keeps it clean, but these wipes are medicated to provide relief from inflammation and discomfort. Ask your veterinarian before using a human wipe on your cat. 

Feed a high-quality canned diet. Increased water intake may help if your cat has urinary (bladder) issues. Canned cat food diets have less carbohydrates than dry food diets, and this may help decrease diarrhea in some cats.

Increase fiber intake. Psyllium fiber can help “bulk up” your cat’s poop, allowing the anal glands to express more frequently. Start with ¼ teaspoon twice daily and monitor for a response over a couple weeks. Fiber supplements for cats may also be beneficial.

Apply monthly flea preventive. This will prevent fleas and thus tapeworms!

Control how much your cat eats every day. If your cat becomes overweight or obese, he will not be able to groom properly, and this may lead to dermatitis and scooting. If your cat is currently overweight, speak with your veterinarian about the amount of food your cat should eat to lose weight.

Cat Scooting: The Bottom Line

Cat scooting is a normal behavior but can be a sign of discomfort if it is frequent. Most of the time we cannot see the reason why our cat is scooting, and you will need your veterinarian’s help. 

Keep a close eye on your cat’s weight, and ensure your cat is keeping his butt clean. Monitor your cat for any other concerns such as changes to his poop or urine habits.

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