Cats, like most animals, strut about without shame. For pet parents, this often means we get a view of parts of our pets we’d rather not see. However, an uninhibited view can sometimes alert us to potential problems or causes for concern.
If you have a front-and-center view of your cat’s butt and notice it’s inflamed and red (as opposed to the normal pink) or swollen, they could be suffering from one of several intestinal and/or anal problems.1 Inflammation, injury, infection, constipation, and anal gland impaction are some of the problems your cat could be experiencing, and all of them require veterinary attention.
If your cat has a red butt and is having problems peeing or pooping, lethargic, not eating, vomiting, bleeding from their butt, straining, or in pain or discomfort, they must be taken to the vet immediately! For more information, read on to find out exactly what a red butt means for your cat and how to get them the best help. Here are ten common reasons your cat might have a red butt.
The 10 Reasons Why My Cat’s Butt is Red
Diarrhea is very common in cats and especially kittens,2 and the stools can range from soft to watery.3 While the cause of the diarrhea is usually short-lived, it can lead to a painful anus that can make going to the toilet very uncomfortable. As the anal area becomes painful and often stained with watery and sticky feces, cats will lick it excessively in order to clean it, and this can also lead to further redness and inflammation that you may see as a red butt. Keep in mind that it is not common for cats to lick the anus after defecating if the stools are normal and the anal area is not inflamed.4 So if your cat is suddenly very interested in their butt, there might be a good reason for it.
Although straining is most often seen with constipation, many cats will strain after having diarrhea as well, and this is important to differentiate. Straining due to diarrhea usually occurs at the end of defecation, and cats can strain for a few minutes at a time, as their anus is sore and they still feel the urge to defecate due to all this inflammation.
There are many possible causes of diarrhea.
Gastroenteritis means that there is an inflammation of the digestive tract. Gastroenteritis in cats can be caused by disorders related to the digestive tract itself (stomach and intestines), or secondary to other illnesses outside of the digestive tract. Gastroenteritis commonly leads to vomiting and reduced appetite and can cause profuse diarrhea.
Gastroenteritis can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the stomach (gastritis) to the large intestine (colitis). Sometimes, especially if the large intestine is inflamed, diarrhea can lead to the presence of blood and mucus in the stool, which can be seen on the anus and around the anal area. If you notice any soreness or redness around the butt alongside diarrhea, it’s best to take your cat to the vet to ascertain the cause and treat the problem.
3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Feline inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a syndrome or group of gastrointestinal diseases, rather than one specific illness, in which a cat’s stomach, small and/or large intestines become chronically irritated and inflamed, causing diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, excess gas, rumbling and gurgling noise from the belly and decreased appetite. While the exact cause of IBD is unknown, current evidence suggests that it arises from a complex abnormal interaction between the immune system, food allergies and diet, bacterial and/or parasitic populations in the intestines, and other environmental or genetic factors.
IBD leads to chronic diarrhea, often with the presence of fresh blood, mucus, and straining, which can then cause the anal area to become inflamed, appearing red and sore.
4. Parasitic Infestation
Cats can pick up parasites that will usually live in their small intestine, from many sources. The most common way cats get internal parasites is by eating fleas or prey (like mice) that carry a form of the parasite or food contaminated with other animal’s feces, containing parasite eggs and larvae (developmental stage). Roundworms are the most common internal parasites in cats and they can lead to signs of an upset stomach, especially in kittens or unwell older cats. Tapeworms can be seen moving on the hairs around the anus causing the cat to scoot their butt, or on the surface of feces. Roundworms and tapeworms can lead to diarrhea in cats with irritation and redness of the anus.
Hookworms are one of the parasites that get transferred to cats via the ingestion of larvae from the environment or if the parasite is actually digging into the cat’s skin, usually on the paws and then migrating through the body. They cause damage to the intestines, making them bleed. Blood can make the cat’s butt appear red, and blood can often be seen in the cat’s poop. Contact your vet in order to establish if your cat has parasites and what treatment they will require.
5. Straining to defecate
There are several reasons why cats will strain to pass feces, and all of them lead to pain and inflammation of the anal area. Some of them include:
Constipation is defined as infrequent or difficult defecation, with the cat straining for longer periods while attempting to pass feces. Cats will often be in and out of their litter tray, sometimes crying in pain. Stools can be small or large, but are usually very hard, making it uncomfortable for the cat to evacuate them successfully. Constipation has several causes, including dehydration, underlying kidney disease, reduced drinking, ingestion of foreign bodies or hairballs, functional disease of the large intestine, and many others.
Obstipation, on the other hand, is the complete inability to defecate. Both conditions require urgent veterinary attention. If you are not sure if your cat is straining to defecate or to actually pass urine, as sometimes these can look very similar, it is again crucial that they get checked by your vet immediately, as these are true emergencies! The reason for this is that sometimes signs of straining can be attributed to constipation, while actually the problem is a urinary blockage, and this is a life-threatening condition!
6. Foreign Bodies
Young cats and kittens are curious and will often play with various objects and toys in the house, one of which is any string-like material. If swallowed, this can be a common cause of an upset stomach and constipation-like signs, but often also leads to severe gut issues, called intussusception, when part of the intestine folds into itself, compromising its own blood supply. This is a life-threatening condition and needs immediate treatment. But sometimes these foreign materials can get stuck on the way out, and end up poking from the anus causing the cat to be distressed and annoyed with the area, trying to lick and chew, making it red and sore. If you see a piece of a strange material or string sticking out of your cat’s butt, never attempt to remove it by pulling, as it’s often much longer than you’d expect and you can damage the intestine this way. Contact your vet straight away and they will be able to remove this foreign material from your cat’s butt safely.
7. Polyps and Cancers
A rectal polyp is a lump within the rectum that is uncommon in cats. Sometimes they can be seen as a protruding fleshy pink or red structure from the cat’s anus, often inflamed or bleeding easily. Polyps are usually benign (noncancerous) lumps and do not spread, but they cause discomfort and straining to defecate, blood in the feces, and diarrhea. Polyps require veterinary attention, and in the majority of cases, surgical removal is indicated. It can be difficult to differentiate between a benign polyp and anal cancer, so your vet will often send the removed tissue samples off to a lab to get a definitive diagnosis.
Unfortunately, tumors are another reason a cat’s butt can appear red. Cancer can be found on the skin and thin lining of the anus or the anal glands. Some of the cancer types in these body areas include a skin type of lymphoma (cutaneous lymphoma) and anal gland adenocarcinoma (rare), which can cause redness, swelling, bleeding, crusty and other skin lesions, pain, and tissue loss. Sadly, treatment for cutaneous lymphoma is considered challenging and will depend on the size of the tumor and its extent. Some of the treatment options include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, but this might not be possible for all feline patients and the disease is often incurable. Many cats suffering from it will be given palliative care for the rest of their lives.
8. Trauma to the Anal Area
Cats can hurt the delicate skin and fine lining that forms the anus in several ways, the most common being trauma caused by constipation or obstipation. If your cat has trouble pooping, they are likely to strain. This can put too much pressure on the anus and make it inflamed, red, and sore. If they manage to defecate, dry, hard pieces can tear the anal lining and the skin or graze it as they’re being passed.
Anal tears can also possibly occur if your cat has eaten something sharp that has gone undigested and then passed through the anus or gotten stuck on the way out, such as a bone. Persistent straining on its own can also lead to a tear, as the anus is already sore and the fine tissue and skin are fragile. Anal tears will often be an entrance site for bacteria, which may come from the feces, the general environment, or the cat’s mouth, due to excessive licking of the wound, and will lead to an infection. A very sore, red butt results from this, and your cat will be in pain. A visit to the vet for pain relief, antibiotics, and further investigation is required immediately.
Trauma from a bite wound (often inflicted by other cats) in the anal area can also cause a red, swollen butt, but that is less common.
9. Rectal Prolapse
If your cat looks like it has a cherry-red anus or a cylinder-shaped object is poking out from its butt, it could be that they have a rectal prolapse. Rectal prolapse is the term given to a portion of the lower intestine (the rectum) that protrudes from the anus, often leading to difficulty or pain when trying to poop. Rectal prolapse can look less red when it first occurs, but swelling makes most appear bright red. This condition is commonly seen in kittens that have frequent diarrhea due to intestinal parasites. Other causes involve persistent straining, either to defecate or urinate (urinary obstruction is an emergency), or in queens after giving birth.
Rectal prolapse needs urgent veterinary treatment, commonly with manual repositioning and suturing under anesthesia. More advanced or repeated surgery will be needed in some cases. All rectal prolapses are considered emergencies, as in some cases, the bowel tissue can begin to die, so prompt veterinary treatment is required.
10. Infected or Impacted Anal Glands
Impacted anal glands often cause red, sore, and abscessed-looking cat butts. Like dogs, cats have anal glands that sit at the four and eight o’clock position on either side of their anus. Usually, the secretions held by these glands are released when a cat poops.
If the secretions become dry or thickened, they cannot get expressed easily from the anal gland, leading to impaction. Redness and swelling will occur if the glands are impacted (along with a lot of pain and discomfort). Anal glands can also get infected, which often leads to abscesses forming. Signs that your cat is having problems with their anal glands include:
Prompt veterinary treatment is needed as this is a very painful condition!
What Can I Do To Help My Cat if Their Butt Is Red?
If you notice your cat’s butt is red, the first thing to do is look for any other signs, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, straining to poop or urinate, presence of blood or mucus, signs of infection like swelling and oozing, or indications that your cat is in pain. Any one of these signs requires a prompt veterinary appointment to make sure your cat receives appropriate treatment as soon as possible.
Once a diagnosis is given, you can follow your vet’s instructions to help them get better. Make sure you administer all the medications prescribed by your vet, as delaying or skipping doses can impair healing time and cause a relapse in signs.
Your vet might also prescribe an ointment for your cat’s bottom to help it heal, but ask your vet before applying any topical products and make sure your cat does not lick it off. You might be advised to put an Elizabethan collar on your cat for a few days to prevent them from licking the area, but make sure it is safely placed and that your cat is kept exclusively indoors during this time. Above all, following your vet’s instructions and giving your cat a comfortable, cozy, and quiet space is vital. Lots of TLC can go a long way in your cat’s recovery.
There are many reasons why your cat’s butt can be red. The most likely reasons are irritation and inflammation from bouts of diarrhea or constipation and your cat’s attempts to soothe it by licking. However, it’s always important to take your cat to see the vet if you suspect anything could be wrong with its bottom. It’s likely very painful and uncomfortable, and it often indicates that there could be a more severe underlying problem. Some disorders like rectal prolapse or infected anal glands need prompt veterinary treatment.
Featured Image Credit: TheNUshutter, Shutterstock