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What is Scooting?

Scooting in cats refers to a physical action in which your cat will appear to scoot, or drag their rear end, across a surface, typically a carpet or roughened area. This behavior will appear as if your cat is sitting upright in a human posture or as if they are attempting to scratch their rear anatomy. Scooting refers to a symptom of a number of underlying anal, skin, and other rear-end conditions. Although this is not typically an urgent health concern, scooting can mean your cat is in discomfort and the behavior can also have serious hygiene impacts on your home.

Symptoms of Scooting in Cats

Scooting in cats typically appears in the form of your cat sitting and dragging their rear end across your carpet, grass or any other surface. At times, this may be accompanied by a foul odor or residue left behind. Cats who scoot will sometimes also experience diarrhea or other litter box issues such as painful or difficult defecation. Cats may also scratch at their hind end or rub their rear against other objects instead of scooting.

Causes of Scooting in Cats

Your cat scoots as an attempt to alleviate some form of discomfort in their anal area. This can include pain, itchiness, or general swelling or discomfort. Scooting in cats is typically a symptom of an underlying condition impacting your cat’s digestive system. The most common of these conditions deal with the anal glands, small pouches of foul-smelling fluid and oil that are normally secreted when your cat defecates. Common causes of scooting related to anal glands and other issues include:

  • Impacted or infected anal glands
  • Parasite infections, such as internal worms
  • Allergies
  • Fleas causing itchy skin

Diagnosis of Scooting in Cats

Diagnosing your cat’s scooting will begin with a thorough physical exam at your veterinarian’s office. Your vet will ask for a medical history of your cat, including if they have had any issues with scooting before. If your cat has been experiencing diarrhea, blood in the stool, difficulty defecating, or other litter box issues, these are all helpful facts that your vet should be made aware of. Additionally, you should let your vet know if your cat is currently on any parasite prevention and the approximate date of their last de-wormer treatment. 

Your vet will examine your cat’s hind legs, spine and neck to confirm that the scooting does not have a neurological element and is not the result of an injury. Your vet will also examine your cat’s anus. Here they are particularly looking for redness, swelling or any discharge that may indicate impacted anal glands.

Your vet will also collect a stool sample from your cat. Since this may be difficult to time, bringing along a sample from your cats most recent litter box trip may be helpful. Using this sample, your vet will test for parasites such as hookworms and roundworms. This is done by placing a small amount of stool in a special liquid and then examining it under the microscope for eggs, larvae, or other signs of worms.

Treatment of Scooting in Cats

Treatment for your cat’s scooting condition will depend on the underlying cause. In the most common case of impacted anal glands, your vet will be able to alleviate your cat’s symptoms by expressing the glands manually. This is done by the vet gently pinching your cat’s anus on either side of the opening, causing the excess impacted fluid to empty. 

If worms or parasites are determined to be the cause of the scooting, your vet will administer an in office de-worming medication. This is typically a liquid that is squirted directly into your cat’s mouth. Some cats experience mild diarrhea for several days after treatment. This will be followed up with a take-home prescription for regular parasite control. Most traditional heartworm medications also control a variety of intestinal parasites that cause scooting. 

For itchiness, allergies, or other conditions that are causing scooting-like scratching symptoms, your vet will be able to prescribe topical medications or dietary changes to address your pet’s discomfort.

Recovery of Scooting in Cats

In the majority of cats, the prognosis for recovery from scooting is very good. In most cases of impacted anal glands, the original cause of the condition is unknown. There is some connection between a primarily wet or canned food diet and scooting, suggesting that cats that have recurring bouts of scooting may need a higher content of dry food or food that contains more fiber or bone meal elements to aid in proper bowel expression. Prognosis for recovery from an infection of intestinal parasites is also good, with most cats being completely cured within several weeks of treatment.