If you are not sure what "scooting" means, it's just a polite term for a cat dragging his bottom along the ground. This behaviour is more common in dogs, but occasionally, you may see it in cats too. It usually happens when the animal's rear is itchy or irritated. The question is, what causes scooting, and is it a cause for concern?
Why do cats scoot?
The cat has an anal gland on either side of the anus. These sacs release (expressed) a slightly oily liquid when your cat poops. When the sacs get clogged, they don’t express when your cat goes to the bathroom. The area then becomes swollen, irritated, and itchy, potentially causing your cat to scoot.
Anal sac problems occur less frequently in cats than in dogs. As such, scooting in cats is rare but it can happen. A cat's anal glands can become clogged, leading to inflammation. When the anal sac is inflamed, you may see your cat scooting on the floor to relieve the itch. Other signs of anal glands problem include:
Excessively licking the affected area
Vocalizing while using the litter box
Swollen anal area
Anal sac problems can be due to several factors including parasite infection, allergies, or simply the case that your cat has stool stuck to their anus or within the fur back there. The next time your cat starts dragging his butt across the carpet, take a closer look.
Contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat exhibits signs of anal gland problems. In severe cases, a cat’s anal sacs can become infected, swollen, and painful. A swollen sac can rupture and this condition can be extremely painful and require immediate vet attention.
Cat Scooting and Parasites
Parasitic worms, such as tapeworms, can cause irritation to the posterior area and cause your cat to drag his bottom. If you noticed your feline companion dragging his bottom frequently but there are no signs of other anal gland problems, you may want to check your cat's stool for worms. Do take note that sometimes, these parasites are not visible, but if you do see worms, you should take kitty to a vet immediately. Your vet will be able to prescribe a cat dewormer medicine.
Another parasite that can cause your cat to have an itchy bottom and scoot is the pesky flea! Fleas like to live over the cat’s (or dog’s) bottom and between their back legs. Flea bites are very itchy and if your cat is allergic to flea bites, they will itch even more profoundly. If you see little black specks that look like black pepper around your cat’s bottom, these could be flea droppings and a sign that your cat may have fleas. There are some over-the-counter anti-tick/flea solutions that may help to kill adult fleas, eggs, and larvae, like this Frontline Plus For Cats but it is best to discuss with your vet before giving anything to your cat. Other more natural solutions like the WashBar Smell Fresh Natural Daily Spritzers for Dogs & Cats will help to repel fleas and keep your cat smelling fresh.
Cat Scooting and Allergies
Scooting in cats because of food allergies is very rare. The usual culprit is environmental allergies caused by things like dust, mites, grass, mold, or fleas. However, if you and your vet have ruled out every possible environmental cause, do not discount the fact that the cat may be reacting to his food. Food allergies in cats are typically an allergy to a particular protein source, such as chicken or beef.
Feeding a single protein, limited ingredient cat food, completely free of grains, glutens, carrageenan, or guar gum, can help to minimise the risk of food allergies. Here’s a single protein, limited ingredients wet cat food - FirstMate Free Run Turkey Formula Grain Free Wet Cat Food that is a great option for cats prone to food sensitivities or allergies.
Cat Scooting from Stuck Stool
This can happen after your cat has diarrhoea or it can be from poor grooming. Longhaired cats can also get stool stuck in the hair near their rear end and scooting is a way to wipe the stool off. The best thing to do is to keep that cat’s rear trimmed of excess fur. You can carefully do this yourself or take your cat to the groomer for a “sanitary trim.”
Using a damp, soft washcloth is the best way to clean kitty’s bottom. You can also use pet cleansing wipes like this Woosh's Pet Wipes For Cats & Dogs. Please use proper pet wipes, especially ones that are free from alcohol and lanolin. You don’t want your cat licking himself and then ingesting chemicals, however mild, from the wipes.
Finally, do not disregard the size of the litter box. A litter box that is one-size-too-small can make it challenging for your cat to eliminate properly. Depending on the size of your cat, you may want to consider getting a wider litter box like the Unicharm Deo Toilet Cat Litter Box, and keep the litter clean!
When you see your cat scooting across the floor, remember that he's only trying to relieve some of the discomforts. Though the behaviour can be unsightly, do not discipline him as it could be a medical issue. Take a closer look beneath his tail. If there’s no obvious culprit and he continues to scoot, contact your vet, and get him checked out.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.