A cat cleans itself by licking its fur.

Licking of Genital Area in Cats

Cats are fastidious and spend a significant amount of time on personal hygiene. In addition to cleaning their legs and body, cats will also lick their genital areas in an attempt to remove dirt, discharge, and debris as a part of their normal behavior. According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, behaviorist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, “cats spend approximately 8 to 15% of their waking time grooming themselves. This important maintenance behavior can serve as a barometer of a cat’s well-being.”

Grooming excessively, also referred to as overgrooming, can be caused by a variety of behavioral, parasitic, or allergic medical disorders. On the other hand, undergrooming (grooming less than normal) can indicate that a cat doesn’t feel well and can be the first obvious sign of an underlying systemic disease.

While some licking is normal, excessive licking in the genital area may indicate a medical problem. Because of the close proximity of the genital and rectal areas, one issue many cat owners have is accurately determining where exactly on the body a cat is licking. Licking of the anal area can be caused by parasites or anal gland problems, and licking near the genitals can be triggered by pain, bite wounds, fleas, skin infections, and various other issues.

Possible Causes of Excessive Genital Licking in Cats

Causes for licking of the genital area in cats include pain, inflammation, problems with the urinary or reproductive tracts, and abnormal discharge.

The presence of genital discharge most often suggests an underlying problem, ranging from a mild, relatively benign disorder, to a severe, even life-threatening, disease. The causes of discharge can be different in male and female cats, and are as follows:

Conditions that cause excessive licking of the genital area include:


Abscesses are common in cats secondary to bite wounds. They occur on the rear of the cat near the base of the tail, over the hips, or near the genital area.

Anal gland problems

The anal glands are roughly the size of a pea and located on each side of the rectum. They function to mark territory, but can become impacted or infected. Common symptoms of anal gland disease include a foul odor, swelling near or just below and lateral to the rectum, pain, and/or licking or attempts to lick near the area.

Bladder stones

Also known as urolithiasis, bladder stones can develop anywhere in the urinary tract including the kidneys, ureter, or bladder. They can become lodged as they try to exit the urinary tract, causing pain. The pressure of the stone, pain, or secondary infections can all cause excessive licking of the genital area.


Inflammation or infections of the skin can cause lesions anywhere on the body, including near the genital area.

Disorders affecting the prepuce

Disorders like neoplasia (cancer), trauma, foreign bodies, or balanoposthitis (inflammation of the penis/prepuce) can cause problems in male cats.

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)

FIC affects 1% of all cats. Also known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), feline urologic syndrome (FUS), and painful bladder syndrome (PBS), this disorder results in inflammation of the lower urinary tract. The end result includes accumulation of debris and crystals that may aggregate, causing discomfort and sometimes a painful plug that leads to blockage.

Feline urinary obstruction

Urinary obstruction is a life-threatening condition that involves a blockage in the urinary tract. It commonly develops in the urethra (the tube that takes urine from the bladder) in male cats. Untreated, most cats will die in 72 hours. A feline urinary obstruction is the most common and serious cause of excessive licking of the genital area. The blockage can be caused by stones or as part of the syndrome known as feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC).


Excessive grooming occurs when a cat habitually licks for a variety of reasons, including behavioral problems.


The medical term for itching, this condition can occur in any area of the body for a variety of reasons. Common causes include allergic skin problems and fleas.


This infection of the uterus causes pain and may lead to pus draining from the vagina. It can be life-threatening and requires surgical removal of the uterus.

Retained placenta

Although fairly uncommon in cats, the organ that unites the fetus with the lining of the uterus can be retained and eventually cause pain, discomfort, and discharge.

Urinary incontinence

This is the inability to hold urine and can occur secondary to an ectopic (abnormally placed) ureter or problem with the sphincter (the tissue that acts like a door, controlling the release of urine). Excessive discharge can lead to licking.

Urinary tract infections

Also known as cystitis, these infections cause inflammation, discharge, and licking.

Urinary tract tumors

Urinary tract tumors can develop anywhere, including the urinary tract, urethra, and bladder. Symptoms may include recurrent urinary tract infections, blood in the urine, straining to urinate, and frequent urination.

Vaginal neoplasia (cancer)

Although uncommon in cats, this condition can cause excessive licking.


Inflammation of the vagina is sometimes seen in cats less than one year of age and can resolve after the first heat cycle.

What to Watch For

A cat may demonstrate the following abnormal signs:

Diagnosis of Excessive Licking of the Genital Area in Cats

It is important for your veterinarian to perform a complete physical examination, including a thorough genital examination and abdominal palpation. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend the following diagnostic tests:

Treatment of Excessive Genital Licking in Cats

The exact treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Recommendations may include:

Home Care

The following are home-care recommendations: