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The anal sacs are commonly called ‘anal glands’. They are present in both male and female cats. They are two small pouches located on either side of the anus at approximately the four o’clock and eight o’clock positions.

The walls of the sac are lined with a large number of sebaceous (sweat) glands that produce a foul smelling fluid. The fluid is stored in the anal sacs and is released through a small duct or canal that opens just inside the anus.

If your cat is licking their rear end and scooting their butt across the carpet, they could have an anal sac problem.

The original purpose of the anal sacs was to allow the feline to mark his/her territory and ward off predators. However, due to the domestication of our felines today, most do not find a need to mark territory and go unthreatened by predators.

Therefore, underuse of the glands can lead to an over accumulation of the oily fluids, which impacts the gland. Obese felines are at a high risk for developing anal sac impaction.

The condition affecting the feline’s anal glands can soon worsen and result in an anal sac abscess or rupture, which requires prompt veterinary attention.

Types of Anal Sac Diseases in Cats

There are several types of anal sac diseases, including impaction, inflammation, and abscessation.


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. They may also be constipated.


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 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.

Causes of Anal Sac Disease in Cats

Cat anal gland problems can occur for a few reasons.


Soft stools or diarrhea don’t provide the pressure needed to squeeze the glands. When glands aren’t emptied, the fluid becomes thicker and harder to disburse. 


If a cat is obese, the ducts from the anal sacs to the rectal opening may be compressed by fatty tissue and won’t allow secretions to be expressed during defecation.


If a cat has difficulty defecating or is unable to defecate due to various diseases or other issues such as megacolon, the anal sacs will not naturally express and are prone to developing issues.

More rarely, a tumor in the rectum could be the source of the problem.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

Notable clinical Signs are related to;

  • Pain and discomfort associated with sitting or defecation.
  • Scooting, licking, biting at the anal area,
  • Painful defecation may be noted.
  • Induration, abscesses, and fistulous tracts .
  • In impaction, hard masses are palpable in the area of the sacs. The sacs are packed with a thick, pasty, brown secretion, which can be expressed as a thin ribbon only with a large amount of pressure. When the sacs are infected or abscessed, severe pain and often discoloration of the area are present.

Treatment of Anal Sac Diseases in Cats

The treatment for impaction is to express the sacs and clean out the solidified material. For infection, the sacs must be expressed and antibiotics administered to kill the bacteria. If the sacs abscess, the abscess must be surgically drained and antibiotics administered.


It is not very common for cats to have recurrent anal sac disease. But it can happen. To try to prevent reoccurrence, we recommend coming in for anal gland expression (emptying) every 3-4 months.
Some overweight cats will have chronic anal sac problems. The anal sacs of obese cats do not drain well, thus these cats are predisposed to recurrent problems. If a cat has several episodes of anal sac disease, the anal sacs can be removed surgically.


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