Cat owners often wonder about many parts of their pet’s anatomy. They may have thought about the reasons why a particular breed has certain physical characteristics or the genetic process that has led to their cat being a particular color or pattern. They might also have wondered about the noises they make and certain aspects of their behavior. One aspect of their cat’s biology that most cat owners will not have wasted any time thinking about is their anal glands. Despite the lack of interest most cat owners have in this particular part of a cat’s anatomy, they are actually an interesting part of their body. Here is what you need to know about cat anal glands.
The first thing to note is that despite their name, they are not actually glands at all; they are actually sacs. These sacs are then lined with glands that secrete a stinky and oily substance. If you are willing to have a look at your cat’s anus, you will see that there are outlets of the sac at the four and eight o’clock positions on their anus.
In wild cats, the anal glands have an additional purpose. They use them to secrete a substance to mark their territory. They squeeze the glands together so that some of the smelly substance is expelled. They use this to mark the borders of what they consider as their territory. It is rare for domestic cats to go to this extreme to mark the boundaries of their territory.
Domestic cats tend to use their anal glands in a more social way. If you have ever seen cats smelling each other’s bottoms, it is because they are sniffing the other cats’ anal glands. This is a form of greeting amongst domestic cats and is often how they identify each other.
Just like any bodily part, there are some health conditions by which they are affected. The most common of these is impacted anal glands. This is when the secretions build up inside and can lead to pain and discomfort. Usually, an anal gland is a similar size to a pine nut but can double in size when it is impacted. It can be difficult to identify when your cat has impacted anal glands as they do not display the same symptoms as dogs. When a dog has impacted anal glands, they will drag their bottom along the floor and lick their rear ends excessively. This is not something that cats do, so it makes it difficult to tell when there is a problem with their anal gland.
Although there is not always a clear reason why a cat’s anal glands become impacted, it is believed that obesity can increase the risk of this happening. It is not definitely known why this is, but vets have many theories. The first is that overweight cats cannot bend round properly to thoroughly clean their bottoms. This is something that a cat of a healthy weight can easily do on a regular basis.
The second theory relates to constipation and a lack of exercise. Cats who do not get enough exercise are often overweight. Once they are overweight, they have further difficulties in exercising and this becomes a cycle. If a cat is not getting enough activity, it slows down their digestive systems and this can lead to constipation. This is a condition where an animal is not passing bowel movements regularly. In turn, this can lead to the gland secretions plugging the opening of the glands and the anal glands then becoming impacted.
If your cat has impacted glands, then it is essential that you visit the vet with them to have the problem assessed and for the vet to give them the appropriate treatment. If impacted glands are left untreated, it can lead to them developing an abscess and then rupturing. This is extremely painful for a cat and more difficult to treat than a simple impacted anal gland. The cat will need to wear a cone collar for at least a week to prevent them from aggravating the area. It is even more inconvenient for the owner who must rinse out the affected gland daily. Developing such abscesses that rupture is rare as a healthy cat will usually experience no problems with their anal glands.