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Ever wonder why cats are so particular about where they poop? Like dogs, cats are highly territorial. And while we don’t usually think of them as being particularly scent-oriented, they are! They use scent as a place marker, a communication device, and a personal ID card. A well-placed pile of poop lets other cats know exactly who's in charge of a given space and who was just passing through.
While we’d just as soon not sniff a cat’s calling card, it delivers loads of information to other cats. The stool gets its distinctive odor from fluid produced by pea-size anal sacs, or glands. As the cat defecates, the muscles of the anal sphincter push the anal sacs toward the stool, causing them to squeeze out their contents. If you were to imagine the anus as a clock face, the fluid travels out through ducts located at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions.
The anal glands are one of the anatomical areas where cats have it all over dogs. It’s unusual for a cat’s anal glands to become impacted, inflamed or infected, although some cats have overactive anal glands. If your cat gives off an unpleasant odor, that may be the reason why.
In the rare instance that a cat develops anal gland issues, it’s usually because something is preventing the sacs from emptying normally. For instance, inflammation can cause the opening to the anal gland duct to swell and close off the exit route for the secretions.
Sometimes the stools don’t exert enough pressure on the glands to allow them to release the fluid. This can be a problem in cats with chronic soft stools. Ask your veterinarian about adding some plain canned pumpkin to your cat’s food to increase his fiber intake. Just don’t be surprised when he poops out orange stools.
A food allergy can also cause soft stools. A switch to a hypoallergenic diet may solve the problem.
If the anal glands are inflamed or infected, they become swollen and tender. Your cat may try to relieve the irritation by scooting his rear on the ground or frequently biting or licking at it. Your veterinarian can express, or empty, the contents of the anal glands and treat for infection, if needed. Infected anal glands are treated with medication, usually liquid antibiotics that are infused into the anal gland.
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