Question from Shellie Masters

My cat seems to have white spots on her bottom and is licking her bum alot more than usual, also she is pooing outside of her box, any ideas? She is about 11 years old. Thanks

Answer from Shanika our Online Vet

Hi Shellie,

Thanks for your question regarding your cat licking her bottom more, white spots that you have noticed on her bottom and the change to her toileting habits.

All the points that you have mentioned can be individual issues or linked as will hopefully become clear as I go into answering your question.

What are the white spots on my cat’s bottom?

The exact location of the spots will help us to work out what the spots are, the bottom itself is made up of skin which has one large opening through which the poo is passed and then two smaller openings( at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions) which are where the anal sacs open via their ducts ( tube). Anal sacs are lined by glands which produce a rather smelly substance that is normally passed in small amounts every time your pet does a poo, this anal sac liquid forms part of the scent that shows cats who has been around the territory. Anal sacs can get blocked or infected, this can sometimes appear as white spots on the bottom and also lead to increased licking due to the resulting irritation.

Your vet can empty the anal sacs by applying gentle pressure which may relieve the problem, if there is infection antibiotic treatment may be needed.

Tape worm segments are another possibility for the presence of white spots around a cats bottom, tape worms are a parasite that live inside the gut and release small segments as part of their means of spreading. These small segments of tape worm when dry can appear like a small grain of white rice, when fresh they look more like a small piece of flattened pasta ( can be seen to move when looked at closely).

Tape worms and other parasites can be treated using appropriate medication form your vet.

Parasitic infections can cause irritation around the bottom which can lead to increased cleaning/licking. A less obvious cause for such licking is flea allergic dermatitis (FAD). FAD can often be seen as increased grooming and areas of hair loss along the back and inside of the hind legs.

Polyps and or growths on or around the bottom can appear as white spots and may also lead to increased licking of the affected area.

What other reasons may be causing my cat to lick its bottom and poo outside of its litter box?

Changes to the poo itself either softer or harder than usual can cause irritation and increased licking along with toileting outside of the litter box. Loose or soft faeces may be related to diet changes, stress and or internal disease of organs and or the gut itself.

Another possible cause of toileting disturbances including passing poo outside of the litter box is stress.

So what could be causing your cat to feel stressed?

Changes to the home environment can cause an increase in stress levels to your cat, such changes include moving home, new member to the family ( human and or furry), diet changes, cat litter type change, moving the litter box or changing it altogether and pain such as arthritis.

Cats are creatures of habit and changes to their routine/home can be very difficult for them to deal with and sadly this may often show up as toileting problems. It is really important to watch closely what exactly your cat is doing and discuss this in detail with your vet who will try to come up with a plan to help your cat. Simply returning things to how they were is not always enough sometimes medications and or pheromone treatments may be of use.

Pain should be taken into consideration when a cat has toileting problems. Cats are masters at hiding their pain until it becomes quite severe. Arthritis can make it difficult for cats to get in and out of their litter box or get into a position in which they can go to the toilet which may result in poo being passed outside of the box.

So as you can see your question has raised many very interesting points as regards your cat’s behavioural and physical changes. I hope that my answer has gone some way to help you and your cat and that with the assistance of a visit to your vet your cat is soon feeling much better.

Shanika Winters MRCVS