My cat has waxy debris just in front of his tail head… what is it?

Our question this week was:

My second question I think might be a little more serious, one day I was brushing my pure black 11-year-old (Pepper) and when I would get close to his butt right where the tail starts we would have a reaction and start biting on one of his front paws, to the point I noticed a couple days later that he had a bare spot on his paw.

He has always had a problem with dandruff; we checked when we first noticed it years ago and a vet told us it was only dandruff, probably from his diet. Sometimes we would take him in the shower with us if it got real bad. So I thought maybe this issue with the brushing near his tail was something to do with that. But I then noticed that the same thing happened when brushing his 11-year-old brother (Chili) who looks like a tabby, but not as bad, he reacted but did not bite himself as much. Chili just jerks his head and kind of bites at the air. This has been going on for a couple of weeks but my other three cats are not having any similar problems.When I get done brushing Pepper I would look at the hair I got off in a magnifying glass and only saw the dandruff and it didn’t move. Today I found black spots in his hair when using the magnifying glass but still no movement. But I also noticed something weird about his tail. I can just pull the hair on his tail out with my fingers and I can only describe it as stickiness on his tail. Right now my husband has been in the hospital since August 6th and will not be home until after Christmas and he was not working at the time of his being admitted to the hospital, so there is no money to take Pepper to a vet to see what the problem is. I hope you can help me figure out what is wrong with my two 11-year-old boys, cause that is what they are to me.Sincerely

Shelly Covert


Hi – thanks for your email. You described that your cat has dandruff and dark specks of non-moving debris that is worst near the base of the tail. In addition, they are loosing some hair in that area and react when you brush them in that same location (base of the tail).

Speaking from experience, many cats react when scratched near the base of the tail. Some love it, some hate it. I know of a few cats that meow with such pleasure. I think this is because it feels good as it is not an area they can groom or easily scratch. Because it is a difficult area to groom, dandruff is often more evident in that location. I’d worry that the black flakes may be ‘flea dirt” which is the bowl movement of the flea. I’d check all the cats carefully for fleas – using a flea comb. Sometimes they can be elusive and hard to find. If fleas are present, I’d talk to your vet about flea control options and treat all of your cats. See article below for more information.

Another consideration is a condition called stud tail. Stud tail is a condition where glands just in front of the tail base are over active producing excessive accumulations of sebaceous secretions. This causes matting of hair, scales, crusting and hair that can fall out. It is common in intact male cats, therefore it is called “Stud tail” but it can also occur in castrated male cats and female cats. This condition is generally not harmful.

To determine the exact cause of your cat’s problems, you should make an appointment to see your veterinarian.

A couple articles that might be helpful to you are Flea Infestation in Cats, Seborrhea in Cats and Stud Tail in Cats (Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia)

I hope the above information helps!

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra