By Geoff Williams
If you have ever tried to explain the concept of cat scooting to your friends, you probably quickly realized that there is no graceful way to put it. If your cat is scooting, your cat’s butt is dragging along the carpet or ground.
Scooting or butt dragging is a problem far more common among dog owners, but it does occasionally happen to cats. And while it may look funny or strange, cat scooting could signal a medical problem that needs to be addressed.
Why do Cats Scoot?
“Scooting is normally associated with pruritus of the posterior end,” says Jim Lowe, a technical services veterinarian with Tomlyn, a company that makes pet healthcare products. Pruritus is a medical term for severe itching of the skin.
While it’s fairly rare, this can happen to any cat—there is no particular breed that experiences it more than another. And the reasons your cat’s bottom is itching, Lowe says, might be due to a number of factors, including parasites, impacted anal glands and allergies.
Cat Scooting and Parasites
If your cat is dragging its bottom on the carpet, there’s a chance your cat has worms. Parasitic worms, such as tapeworms, can cause irritation to the posterior area. And while you may check your cat’s stool for worms, you may not be able to see them.
“Just because the owner doesn’t see the worms doesn’t mean that they aren’t there,” says Dr. Carol Osborne, who owns the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Most worms only become visible in the stool after deworming, and sometimes not even then.
And if you do see worms, your cat is likely experiencing discomfort, Osborne says. In other words, get your cat to a vet immediately.
Cat Scooting and Impacted Anal Sacs
All cats have anal sacs located near the opening of the anus. Inside those sacs is a dark, smelly and slightly oily liquid.
“The anal sacs typically release their contents when a cat defecates,” says Laura Pletz, a St. Charles, Missouri-based veterinarian.
But when the sacs get clogged, they are considered impacted. That means the sacs don’t express when your cat goes to the bathroom, and the area becomes irritated, potentially causing your cat to scoot. In severe cases, a cat’s anal sacs can become infected, which is even more painful.
Cat Scooting and Allergies
If you see your cat dragging his or her bottom, there may be something in or around your home affecting the feline.
“Environmental allergies are caused by many things, such as dust mites, grasses, molds or fleas,” Pletz says.
The problem may also be due to whatever you’re feeding your cat. “Food allergies are typically an allergy to a particular protein source, such as chicken or beef,” Pletz says.
Pletz says that there are medical therapies that can help with scooting caused by environmental allergies, but if there is a food allergy contributing, your veterinarian will likely be putting your cat on a new diet.
What You Should Do if You See Your Cat Scooting
Your cat scooting action plan is pretty simple—if you don’t want to rush to the vet, start by taking a close look underneath your cat’s tail. Maybe there are some dried feces or another irritant there that is causing your cat to scoot. If so, simply wash gently underneath your cat’s tail and monitor his or her behavior to watch for scooting.
But if you don’t see an obvious culprit for your cat’s scooting, then contact your vet and get your pet checked out. Your vet may be able to express your cat’s anal sacs, check for problem-causing parasites, recommend a different diet or prescribe antibiotics or anti-itch medications.