Big cat having a hard time grooming her bottom

Our question this week was:

My cat weighs 15 pounds and has a hard time cleaning her anus after she goes to the bathroom. Today, it looked like she had sat in the litter box right where she went to the bathroom. Her rectal area was extremely red and she became agitated when I tried to inspect it. What is going on with her?

Katherine Coffey


Hi – thanks for your email. Grooming can be a problem in “obese” cats. I’ve had a similar problem with my own cat.

Cats that are “heavy” have a hard time reaching near their rectum often allowing the area to be dirty and ungroomed. It can become a bit of a snowball affect in that they can’t groom, stay dirty and moist and then the soiled area stays soiled and can cause local skin irritation. The problem gets much worse if they have loose stools or diarrhea.

The local area can become red, irritated and painful, similar to “diaper rash”. Cats commonly don’t want you to examine that area when it is normal, so you can imagine their objections when it is abnormal.

The rectal area can also become irritated due to anal gland problems. If she is having problems, make sure she is eating well, drinking well, and having normal urine and bowel movements. You can try to give her a little “fanny bath” with a mild soap and water after which you can rinse and dry her well.

If the area is swollen, she is not eating, not urinating, having diarrhea, I’d recommend taking her to your veterinarian for evaluation.

Sometimes it is just impossible to try to treat and examine your own cat at home and easy for your veterinarian and veterinary staff (that is what they are trained to do!).

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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