Anal Sac Problems in Cats

Your cat has two anal sacs in his bottom. Similar to a skunk’s scent glands, they help mark his territory. They produce a dark, smelly liquid. That liquid is usually squeezed out when he poops.

Your cat doesn’t actually need these sacs, but it’s best to leave them alone as long as they’re healthy. Sometimes problems develop, though, and need treatment.

Common Problems

Your cat’s glands may become clogged, infected, or abscessed. It’s much more common in dogs, but it happens to cats, too.

1. Impaction

The most common problem happens when the duct or tube used to empty out the anal sac gets clogged.

Pressure builds up and it becomes painful for your cat to poop. He may also be constipated.

2. Infection

When bacteria build up in the anal sacs, it can cause an infection. It can become so painful and itchy that your cat may show signs of fear or anger.

It’s important to treat an infection right away or it may turn into an abscess.

3. Abscess

An abscess is a swollen, tender mass of pus. It’s the most painful of the three and needs to be cut and drained before it ruptures.


Look for changes in your cat’s behavior. Common signs are:

  • Scooting. Your cat might drag his bottom along the ground.
  • Tail chasing. He may reach around for his tail more than usual.
  • A lot of licking or biting. Your cat may repeatedly lick or bite near his tail.
  • Pain. Your cat may have pain near his tail. He may strain when he poops. He may also find it painful to sit.
  • Swelling. The areas on the side of his anus may be swollen. You may be able to feel impacted, hard masses in this area.

If you see these signs, bring your cat to the vet. The doctor will do a rectal exam. He may also run tests if he thinks your cat may have an infection or tumor.


Anal Sac Expression

Your vet can usually squeeze out your cat’s impacted anal sacs by hand.

If the contents are hard or dry, he may try to soften them up. He may also give your cat extra fiber, which bulks up his poop, making it easier to pass.

If your cat seems to be in pain, your vet may give him pain relief drugs. He may also use a tranquilizer or sedative to keep him calm.

Your vet may also rinse out his anal sacs.

Expression Plus Antibiotics

If your cat has an infection, your vet will express (empty) his anal sacs and then give him an antibiotic to treat the bacteria.

Surgical Removal of Sacs

If these treatments don’t work and problems continue, your vet may surgically remove your cat’s anal sacs. This is reserved as a last resort, though, as it may result in complications like fecal incontinence where your cat leaks poop unexpectedly.

WebMD Veterinary Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on November 08, 2018



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine: “Don’t Ignore Your Pet’s Pain in the Butt!”

Cat Health Guide: “Cat Anal Glands.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Get Fetch in your inbox

Veterinarian-approved information to keep your pet healthy and happy.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.