Anal Glands: An Unspoken Truth About Happy Cats

Have you ever noticed your cat expressing her anal glands when she’s happy? Surprisingly, many cat owners have experienced this peculiar behavior, yet it remains a topic shrouded in silence. Today, let’s break the silence and uncover the truth about anal glands and happy cats.

anal glands & happy cats

Unveiling the Anal Glands

Contrary to popular belief, what we commonly refer to as anal glands are actually the anal sacs – small, pea-sized spaces on either side of your cat’s anus, resembling the 5 and 8 o’clock positions on a clock. These sacs contain anal glands that secrete an oily, pungent substance, accumulating within the sacs.

Cats utilize the contents of their anal sacs for marking purposes. When they sniff each other’s rear ends, they are essentially checking the calling cards left by these glands. Additionally, when cats defecate, the anal sacs are squeezed, and the contents are deposited onto their waste. This explains why wild cats leave feces unburied at the perimeters of their territory to mark it with their anal sacs’ unique scent.

siamese cat from behind. image credit: depositphotos/cynoclub

The Importance of Anal Gland Health

Most cat owners remain unaware of their cats’ anal glands until something goes wrong. Occasionally, when a cat has soft stools for an extended period, the sacs aren’t adequately emptied during defecation. As a result, the cat’s body may begin reabsorbing the fluid, causing it to thicken and making emptying more difficult. In severe cases, the sacs can become impacted or infected, necessitating veterinary attention.

See also  The Risks and Benefits of Anesthesia-Free Dental Procedures for Pets

Notably, cats don’t only express their anal sacs while using the litter box. A significant fright can also trigger the spontaneous release of their anal glands, leaving behind an unpleasant smell. Uninformed humans may mistake this as the cat “pooping a little” due to fear, leading to a misinterpretation of their cat’s behavior.

scared kitten. photo credit: depositphotos/Cherry-Merry

The Peculiar Similarity to Skunks

Interestingly, the mechanism by which cats express their anal sacs in fear bears resemblance to the defense mechanism employed by skunks. Fortunately for us, cats lack the accuracy of skunks when aiming their anal secretions!

Happy Cats and Anal Gland Expression

Have you ever noticed your cat rubbing their head against you or objects? This adorable behavior is known as bunting and serves to mark territory through pheromones released from scent glands situated on their cheeks and forehead.

So, why should it come as a surprise that some cats spontaneously express their anal sacs while engaging in other activities to happily mark their territory? It’s merely an extension of this joyous behavior.

tabby cat rubs face on the floor. photo credit: depositphotos/darzyhanna

Breaking the Taboo

Although there is no official study on the prevalence of cats expressing their anal sacs in happiness, an informal poll among cat lovers revealed a surprising number of witnesses. Astonishingly, each cat owner believed their feline companion to be the only one with such tendencies.

This lack of awareness can lead to misunderstandings, with people mistaking anal gland expression for incontinence or misbehavior. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding may result in cats being unnecessarily surrendered to shelters. It’s time to change that by normalizing the conversation. Let’s agree not to feel embarrassed about discussing this any longer – it might just save lives.

See also  Postpartum Low Blood Calcium in Cats

Research and further reading:

  • Alleice Summers, Companion Animals
  • Gary Norsworthy, The Feline Patient, 4th Edition
  • Albone ES, Shirley SG, Mammalian semiochemistry: the investigation of chemical signals between mammals

Photo credits: depositphotos/cynoclub, Cherry-Merry, darzyhanna

Katten TrimSalon