Do I need to express my cat’s anal glands?

Normally, no. I would doubt that many people have considered expressing their cat’s anal sacs 🙂 . The word ‘expressing ‘ means to remove the material inside the sacs. Rarely, there may be occasions when it should be done.

Dr Bruce Fogle (Complete Cat Care) says that indoor cats are more likely to develop blocked anal sacs than those permitted outdoors. He does not explain why. It may be because of relative inactivity.

The four veterinarians who wrote Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook say that a cat owner may need (my thought: if confident enough) to express the contents for a medical reason. One reason is described as ‘impaction’. This means the thick, light-grey to brown or creamy and yellowish liquid inside the glands has become hardened and stuck. Although it is uncommon.

When a cat is unable to empty their anal sacs naturally they may become infected which is when the problem is first recognised. Under these circumstances, if you are confident enough, you can empty them using the following technique as per both the above books.

First you may need to put a warm compress on the area for 5-10 minutes twice daily to loosen the contents. This, in itself, sounds a very tricky task bearing in mind your cat will object and be uncooperative!

Expressing cat anal sacs
Expressing cat anal sacs. I have taken the extreme liberty of copying an image from Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook and added words. If there is an objection to this please tell me in a comment and I’ll respond promptly.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Dr Bruce Fogle explains how to do the next stage. You’ll need two people. One holds the cat. The other wears disposable rubber gloves. Lift the tail straight up with one hand and place the forefinger and thumb of the other hand at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions on either side of the anus. Squeeze ‘firmly but gently up and towards you with your fingers ending up at 3 and 9 o’clock’. The illustration above helps in visualising the procedure.

That’s it. If you are successful the contents will be ‘disgusting’ to use Dr Fogle’s description. And it goes without saying that great care needs to be taken. If in doubt abort and see a vet instead.

The fact that these distinguished and well-known vets provide instructions to cat owners indicates that it is doable. You just have to know your limitations and be realistic.

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